Gestures of Romance You Won't Find at a Royal Wedding

Because of the inconveniently early hours my offspring keep I was awake in time to watch the Royal Wedding as it aired live this past Saturday. Only I forgot that it was happening, so I didn't see it. By the time I remembered to tune in the nuptials were complete and the new Duke and Duchess were negotiating a sixteen foot train into a horse-drawn carriage. I spent a few minutes watching the live coverage of the two "love birds" parading through the throngs of well-wishers before caving to the demands of my children for some Peppa Pig. (Also British, so still fitting for the day.)

But before I clicked over to Peppa I was struck by a few pieces of commentary offered by the news anchors. That this was a "fairy tale come to life." That you could "see the love in their faces." And, what a "true gesture of romance" it was that Prince Harry actually handpicked some of the flowers in his beloved's bouquet.

I love a good royal wedding. I loved William and Kate's, and loved this one as well. I definitely checked in with the Instagram account of the Royal Family throughout the day. I loved the fashions and formalities of the occasion. I loved seeing my feeds fill up with everyone's wedding pictures in honor of the occasion, and even posted a couple pictures from my own wedding.

After all, we should be celebrating marriage.

My only concern is, if we hold up a royal wedding as the standard of true love and romance, we're likely to end up disappointed when our own middle-class, Midwestern marriages seem to pale in romantic comparison.

After all, I don't know that meeting at a bakery counts as a "fairy tale come to life." And if you were to drop in at our house on a given day I'm not sure you would see the same looks of smitten admiration on my husband's and my faces as Harry and Megan were wearing on their wedding day. And I don't mean to throw anyone under the bus, but it's been a while since I've been given flowers, much less flowers hand picked from a castle garden.

Does that mean the romance in our marriage is dead? No! Far from it! But it has taken on a different appearance over the last 9 years. I don't require the same gallant displays of affection that characterized our dating, engaged, and newlywed years. My husband has found other ways of showing me that he loves me and cares about me. Theses things probably seem boring to the outsider, but to me they are a sign that I am deeply known and loved.

Every night my husband packs Johnny's lunch for school the next day and gets the coffee ready in the coffee maker. He happily does these things because he knows that after a long day of preparing three meals, doing multiple loads of dishes, and repeatedly wiping counters and sweeping the floor, I just can't be in the kitchen for one more minute. And it means the world to me.

We quickly realized after having kids that one of the truest gestures of romance we could make to each other is letting the other sleep in in the morning. In the past we would take turns on the weekends getting up with the kids. But throughout this pregnancy Alex has gotten up with them nearly every morning, allowing me to get a couple extra hours of much needed sleep.

We're just as happy to have some ice cream at home after our kids go to bed as we would be to get dressed up and go out on a fancy date.

Remember the coffee that Alex prepares and programs every night? Every morning he brings a cup of it upstairs for me before I'm out of bed and we have a time of morning prayer together.

Deciding to turn off the TV and just sit and talk. Taking turns changing diapers and fielding tantrums. Texting each other during the day just to check in. Telling me I look beautiful when I know I look like a hot mess. These are gestures of romance that don't require a horse drawn carriage.

All this doesn't mean we shouldn't make time to go out together, or that there's no need to ever give a gift, or write a special note. But it does mean that at the end of a day that was by all appearances perfectly mundane, we know that we've got something really good going here. It's these hundreds of little "true gestures of romance" that show that we are in this for the long haul.

It's easy to be in love when life is idyllic. But what about when it's not? What about when life is monotonous, when work hours are long, when kids are difficult, when appliances are breaking down? What about when crisis strikes, health problems, job transitions, financial difficulties? All marriages will go through these things, but I would argue that's when the real "true gestures of romance" get to shine.

I hope that some day Megan gets the stomach flu and that Prince Harry can hold her hair back for her while she vomits into the toilet. That's a "true gesture of romance" that she will never forget.

Why We Started Waking Up Before Our Kids

6:00 am Monday morning the alarm goes off. Alex hits snooze. 9 minutes later the alarm goes off again. This time he slowly rolls out of bed and into some sweatpants. I reluctantly follow, shivering in the dark until I locate my bathrobe. By the time I've made it to the family room Alex is already there with the lamp on, holding two cups of coffee. He passes one to me and we sit down to do something we have been wanting to do since we got married 7 years ago.

We're starting our day in prayer.

I have always known that starting the day in prayer is something I should do. Reading the Word of God and offering your day to Him, first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the rest of the day. Every day of my childhood I witnessed my parents praying together in the morning, and I've seen the fruit of that prayer in their marriage and in our family. This is something I've always wanted to incorporate into my marriage, but we've never been able to make it happen. Until now.

So why now? What's changed in the seven years since our wedding day that we're finally doing this thing that we've always talked about doing?

Well, there have been two big changes. Their names are Johnny and Trixie. We love them and they make our lives so rich and full. But they also make it really hard to have a prayer life.

Before we had kids, if we didn't pray together first thing in the morning it was ok, because we could pray together while we ate breakfast, or we could sit on the porch together after work for some prayer time, or we could pray before bed because we knew we would be getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Now, Alex is in the middle of rotations and puts in pretty long days. I teach piano lessons up to and sometimes after dinner. Meals are a whirlwind of trying to get small people to stay in their chairs and eat their food, while scarfing our own food down as fast as possible so that we can pick up this, wipe off that, and carry those up to the bathtub to begin the marathon that is our bedtime routine. By the time both of our children are asleep we barely have the energy to talk to each other, let alone pray or read scripture together.

We realized that we were going the entire day without tending to our marriage and tending to our spiritual lives. We want our marriage to be rooted in Christ, but aside from Sunday Mass we weren't doing a whole lot to make that happen. And since getting out on a date is really hard right now, we were barely even getting time to check in with each other. So now we get up before our kids. That is our time to talk to each other without being interrupted, to discuss the day ahead, we read the scripture readings for the day, and then pray for each other and our children, and commit our day to the Lord.

Photo credit goes to our talented friends Kristen and Jameson

It's not easy getting up this early, but it's also not impossible. Three months ago it would have been nearly impossible, all because of my favorite topic: baby sleep.

Oh, baby sleep. The thing that can make or break a day. The thing that can leave you feeling like a real person, or like an empty shell of a sub-human species. Depending on how much sleep you're getting at night, you may be able to rise before your offspring to catch some quiet time. But if your kids' sleep patterns are like ours, you need every minute of sleep you can get to be able to carry out your duties at home or at work.

Our first child was a terrible sleeper and didn't sleep through the night until he was almost two and I was pregnant with our second. By then the discomfort of pregnancy was setting in, keeping me up with hip pain or sending me to the bathroom every few hours. Then Trixie was born and I was back to nursing a baby all night long. As much as I would have liked having a little quiet time before my kids got up, I knew that in order to be a good mother, I needed every minute of sleep I could get. Prayer time happened in snippets while the kids ate breakfast, or if they happened to nap at the same time. It wasn't ideal, but that was the season I was in.

Now our second is one and a half and sleeping through the night. For the first time in almost four years Alex and I are getting a full night of sleep. Getting up early to pray no longer seems like an impossible feat.

There is one other thing that has helped us get up early. It was a decision to shelf our Chemex  (used to make the fancy pour-over coffee that I love) and go back to our regular electric coffee maker.

I love my Chemex. And I think it is worth the 30 minutes it takes to make a snobbish cup of coffee. But I am not a morning person. If I'm going to get up at 6:00 am, I need a cup of coffee at 6:00 am. My husband loves me a lot, but getting up at 5:30 am to make me some coffee with the Chemex is not something he's willing to do. So we brought the old coffee maker up from the basement and programmed it for 6:00 am.

Now at night we load the dishwasher, pack lunches, and get the coffee ready. And when the alarm goes off the next morning I know that that liquid gold is waiting for me, and I can drag my sorry self out of bed. It sounds silly, but it's what I need! If there's a simple thing, albeit a silly thing, that can help you better your prayer habits, then why not go for it?

It's been two months since we started this routine. Now that I know what it feels like to have that space for prayer in the morning, I can't imagine ever going back. I look forward to the time with just my husband. I know that praying together is strengthening our marriage and making us better spouses and parents. I know that, even though it always hurts to get out of bed, there is grace to be found at that early hour. I always feel better equipped to carry out my duties for the day, when we start the day in prayer.

Marriage is Awesome, Even When it's Not Awesome

Today is our 7 year anniversary. And it's probably one of the most mundane anniversaries we have had yet. Alex woke up at 6:00 for his first day of rotations. I got up at 6:45 to get Johnny ready for school. As I was getting ready to load the kids in the car I got a text from Alex saying he left his wallet at home. So after school drop-off I spent 20 cruising around the hospital parking ramps looking for his car. I will teach lessons this afternoon. We may go out to dinner tonight, depending on when he gets home. We may just go out for a drink. Who knows! Life keeps ticking along at a pretty rapid pace, and isn't really going to afford us the time to stop and celebrate.

I think this has been a year of paradoxes for our marriage. It's been a really hard year, with grad school, adding a second child. financial stresses, but there have been so many good things happening at the same time.

At first glance it may seem like we don't have as much fun as we used to. We don't go out on dates, we don't go see movies, we don't travel, we don't workout together  at all, our house is messy, there are crayon markings all over the walls, we're sleep deprived, and we seem to be crabby a lot of the time. But somehow, we have so much fun together, and with our kids. We make jokes about everything, we laugh all time. Sometimes I feel like I have to either laugh or cry, so I'm going to laugh. We're also learning to have new kinds of fun. It's not glamorous fun. It's frozen pizza, wooden train tracks, and babies in the the bathtub fun. And I'll take it.

Our time together is very limited, but we have so much meaningful time together. We've learned how to make it count, because we've had to. Alex is gone all day, he studies all even and most of the weekends.  Dinner time is race to eat as fast as possible while keeping a baby happy and a toddler in his seat. So when we do get a few quiet minutes to just talk, we make it count. we talk about our day, our goals for tomorrow, our beautiful children who, even though we breath a sigh of relief every night when we get them to bed, we can ever seem to stop talking about. And we pray together. Not as much as we should, but we do it. And when things get really hard it's always our first line of defense.

I have been challenged more than ever before in what it means to die to self. And at the same time I have never felt more strongly that I can stand by this man through anything. I believe so firmly that when the storms of life come (that is when, not if, because if there's one thing you can count on in life, it's that storms will come) you can either let them tear you down, or you lean into the storm and come out stronger on the other side. We have been through other storms together, infertility, miscarriage, health complications with our first born, and I know they have made our marriage stronger. So much so that when I think back on favorite moments in our marriage I don't think of the time we spent Paris, (although that was great) I think of the time we spent sleeping on a foldout couch together in our son's NICU room. That was the hard stuff, the real stuff, but it was also the good stuff.

So, here we go, year 8 of marriage. Bring on the good stuff.

// 7 Q U I C K T A K E S v o l 1 2: the anniversary edition //

linking up with Jen for some quick takes


Today Alex and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. And I thought I would salute our marriage by dedicating a quick takes to some of the most memorable moments from these last 5 years of marriage.


In 2010, for our first anniversary, we went to France and Italy. It had been a very warm October here in Minnesota, and so the thought had never crossed my mind that it might be different in Europe.  Well, it was about 40 degrees everyday in France, we hadn't packed nearly enough warm clothes, and we were freezing the entire time we were there. The day of our anniversary we were leaving Paris by train to go to Dijon, but that was also the day the entire country was on strike. Our train was canceled, and we had to wait in a partially outdoor train station in the freezing cold for a train to become available. We asked everyone and even looked into renting a car. 

Finally, after hours of sitting in the freezing train station we were able to get a couple seats on a train and get out of Paris.  When we got to Dijon it was cold, dark and rainy.  We dumped our stuff at our hotel, went in search of a restaurant, and had the most amazing meal of our entire lives. Boeuf bourguignon, magret de canard, oysters, and escargot, which I did not think I would like but thought I should try because it's so cultural.  Turns out, I love snails! Maybe the food just tasted so good because we had been cold and starving all day long, or maybe it was really a fantastic restaurant  Either way, it was delish and I will never forget it.

Snails! they look great, don't they?


Planting our garden is something we look forward to every year. Every spring we brainstorm about what veggies we want to grow.  And then about mid May, when the danger of frost is (or better darn well be) over we spend a morning at the St. Paul farmers market picking out our plants. Then we come home, get on our hands and knees, and put the garden in.

The first summer we were in our house we bought a raspberry plant.  Just one little shoot. We planted it and didn't get a single berry for the first two years.  But little by little it has grown and bears a little more fruit each year. (good metaphor for our marriage, right?) This year it was so fun to see Johnny enjoy the garden. He loves eating fresh raspberries straight of the bushes. 


Alex and I have experienced a lot of negative pregnancy tests together. Getting up early, Alex setting a 2 minute timer on his phone, waiting breathlessly, and then crawling back into bed totally crushed by disappointment. All that disappointment has only made the two positive pregnancy tests we've had all more amazing. The first one was absolute elation after trying for 6 months.  The second one, over a year after our miscarriage, was more somber.  We were excited, and scared, and immediately sought the Lord in prayer. It's been hard and it's been good, and we've been through it all together.


Opposites attract, right? Well, I wouldn't call Alex and myself opposites. We have quite a bit in common. But there are a few things that we are dead opposites about.  

1. I love mornings in the spring and summer when, just as the sun is beginning to rise, the birds start to sing. We sleep with our windows open whenever the weather allows for it, and I love hearing the birds sing during those early hours, they make the perfect soundtrack to snoozing.  Alex, on the other hand, hates it. He will close the windows, no matter how stuffy it makes our room and turns all the fans on high to try to drown them out. It's so sad. 

2. Alex is super fastidious about his hands being clean.  Anytime he eats anything even remotely sticky- jam, honey, ice cream, maple syrup is the worst offender- he can't rest until he was gotten rid of all the stickiness.  But that stuff doesn't bother me.  I confess, that sometimes after eating, say, pancakes with maple syrup, I will just lick my fingers and go on with my day. I know, it's gross and childish, but it's the truth.  And it makes Alex a little crazy. 

3. I have theory that every couple has a spender and a saver, to balance each other out.  The saver keeps the spender from sending them to the poor house, and the spender keeps the saver from becoming a miser.  

Alex is the saver, and I'm the spender. He will always buy off brands, he will always buy the cheapest thing (that has good reviews) and he will wait as long as he can to replace an item that has broken/worn out/no longer fits.  I will always choose the brand names,  if I find out something is expensive that makes me like it better, and I will take any and all excuses to go buy something. Yeah, I'd say we need each other. 


Getting married is hard (on many levels) because you don't just have this new person you're sharing your life with.  You have all their family and friends that you're sharing your life with too! The number of holiday gatherings to attend is instantly doubled, as is the number of friends you need to try to keep up with.  For some people this can be a real stresser, but I am have been fortunate enough to marry into family and friends that I really like. We do double duty on almost every holiday, and while we end up eating way too much food, it's super fun! And Alex's friends are no longer his friends, they're our friends. And I often see them without him. It's been a pretty huge blessing. 

These girls all went to high school with Alex, and now I do girls night out with them!


We spent 8 days in the NICU after Johnny was born.  Those were by far the worst days of my life. But a lot of really special things happened there. I learned to breastfeed in the NICU, we had so much encouragement coming in everyday through Facebook and emails. Alex and I clung to each other and relied on our families more than we've ever had to before. 

The first night Johnny was in the NICU I slept at my parents house because I needed rest and we all thought I would sleep better there. Wrong.  I was up almost the entire night crying and worrying about my two-day-old baby. So after that I slept at the NICU with Alex.  We shared a tiny little pull-out couch/bed that was not much bigger than a twin. Every night we would unfold our scratchy hospital blankets, and squeeze onto our little bed. I was still sore and weak from giving birth, and nurses were in and out of our room almost every hour to check on Johnny, but that's where I wanted to be. We both wanted to be there. I will never forget what it was like to spend our first week of parenthood in such an intense setting. Because of that week we know we can handle anything together. 


By far this little guy has been the biggest highlight of our marriage.  During the time that it was just us we got to sleep a lot more, and go on more dates, and do a lot of fun things, like travel the world together,  But at the end of the day when Alex gets home from work and Johnny's running around naked after his bath, well, that's when we know that we've really got it good now.


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10. cup of coffee in bed //


One of the things my parents have taught me about marriage is that you don't have to be 100% the same to be happy together. My parents have a lot of things in common, but there are a few things in which they differ greatly. One being that my mom is a night owl and my dad is an early bird. My dad always goes to bed first and has learned to sleep with the lamp on while my mom stays up into the wee small hours of the morning reading. In the mornings my dad has no trouble getting up and at it, but my mom has to wake up slowly (which meant a later start for our home school!) Every morning, for the vast majority of their marriage, my dad has brought my mom a cup of coffee in bed to help her wake up and ease her way into a new day. (This is something I've pointed out to Alex maaaany times.) My dad has no trouble waking up, but my mom does, and he helps her out with that.

My dad likes the house to be tidy.  My mom definitely appreciates a clean house, but I don't think a cluttered kitchen and a sink full of dishes bothers her the same way it does my dad.  So she always made an effort to get things picked up before he got home from work.  I remember many evenings growing up, mom rallying us and hurrying us to clean up our toys, load the dishwasher, and clear our school work off the table, because dad was on his way home. We of course would complain and grumble and ask why we had to. She would say because dad likes a clean house. 

Loving, respecting, and serving each other. That's what they've taught me. 


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//9. dancing in the kitchen//


This was a common scene from my childhood: dinner was finished, we were in kitchen helping to clean up the dishes, or helping ourselves to some ice cream from the freezer.  Everyone was chattering, the dog was running around, and my parents would start dancing, right in the middle of the kitchen. Some times the radio would be on the jazz station. But more often there was no music at all, they would just start dancing.

"Dancing in the kitchen is good for your marriage." They would say. 

Sometimes my little brother or sister would try to get in on the dancing by squeezing between their legs. Or the dog would start barking at them. They just kept dancing. 

Alex and I like to dance in the kitchen, too.  There's usually not any music playing.  We just start dancing. And I get it now. It's good to do something romantic, even when there's nothing else romantic going on. It's good to take a few moments out of the dishes and the kids and the everyday-all-the-same to remember that you're married and you're in love. Dancing in the kitchen is good for your marriage. 

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Four Years

Four years ago was the day my life began.
And since then we have filled all our days with love and grace and friendship.
We have laughed and we have had silence.
We've dreamed together and grieved together.
We have been stretched and have grown because of trials.
And we know our marriage is worth any sacrifice.
The boundaries of my heart expand with each day.