Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Amazing 25th

I have no idea how time can pass by so quickly! Many days with young children seem to go on forever, but the years truly fly by.

Twenty five years ago today I married my best friend. I have no idea how it's even possible that 25 years has gone by! That's a quarter of a century! Just amazing!

I've learned a lot from being a wife over the last 25 years! Here are 25 tidbits that have stood out the most....

1. Men don't think the same way as women. 
While this probably isn't a surprise to anyone, it can be a real challenge to adjust to. Honestly, it's something that still pops up every now and then. It just doesn't surprise us like it used to! 
When we had Michael very early in our marriage, we were both going to school and still adjusting to being a married couple. Jay was still used to operating as a single guy and, because I didn't say that I was lonely, spent a chunk of his free time socializing/exercising with friends. Until one day, as he headed out the door to weight lift with a friend, I burst into tears and asked him if he still loved me. Jay was a deer caught in the head lights of his wife's hormonal outburst. Of course he loved me...and he didn't realize that I needed more time with him. After that afternoon, he adjusted his routine to make sure we had more time together. 
Which leads to my next tidbit....
#2 Men can't read women's minds
As convenient as that would be, it just won't happen. Men don't read minds and they don't multitask! What seems perfectly obvious in our heads is not even on the radar in their minds. If you want your man to know something, you need to tell him! Which leads to my next suggestion...

#3 Honey Do Lists are a good thing 
 If it's multiple things he needs to know, make a list! It might take a while to get through the lists, but most men work best with a visual reminder. Again, most men are not multi-taskers. :)

#4 My way doesn't always have to be the only way
Because women multitask so well, I think we have struggle (occasionally;) with being a little too controlling of things. The more things we try and juggle, the tighter we tend to hold things. Even when our honey offers to help, we(I) may try to micromanage instead of just let go. Even though he might not handle the task the same way I would, the task gets done. In the words of Elsa, "Let it go!"

#5 How to work through a crisis
While the day we exchange "I do's" might feel blissful, the reality of life is that there will be lots of hills and valleys. Learning to support each other and protect the emotional health of your family in difficult times is a very important skill. Jay calls these times "circling the wagons". As a family, you only do what is absolutely necessary to get by until the crisis passes.

#6 Men and women grieve in different ways
Grief happens. It might be the death of a grandparent, a parent, or, in our case, the death of a child. Loving each other and giving each other the support needed through the season of grief looks different for everyone. Sometimes it's a shared grief and other times it's giving your spouse some space to work through their feelings. Sometimes having outside help, whether it's a close friend, pastor, or a therapist, is needed. Knowing it's ok not to be "ok" is important, and asking for help can help each other heal more quickly and make your relationship even stronger for going through hard times together. 

#7 How to talk about emotional needs
This kind of goes along with #1 and #2! It's important for both spouses to be honest about what's going on inside their heads and hearts.We need to make ourselves vulnerable and work as a team to meet our emotional needs as a couple and individuals.

#8 Don't sweat the small stuff
I'm sure each couple has little annoyances that drive each other crazy. These are great opportunities to 'offer it up' and gain a little extra grace for ourselves and our spouse. (Or get annoyed and add on Purgatory time! Which is probably what happens to me way too often!)

I saw a great little sign this weekend!   It said "Changing the toilet paper roll does NOT cause brain damage!" It made me laugh out loud. We have lots of people that live in this house and I frequently enter the bathroom to find an empty roll. Or, perhaps more annoying, an empty roll on the holder with a full roll on the top of the toilet tank! It was definitely a pet peeve of mine! Until I changed my perceptive. Instead of getting annoyed, I looked at changing the roll as an opportunity to serve my family. It is a privilege to get this extra grace! Sounds silly, but it really works.  (Works in other ways, too! I could tell you about the tea bags...)

#9 Sometimes "Just Because" gifts are important
I'm not talking about anything crazy...diamond bracelets or a new truck with a bow will never be appearing in my driveway! If you see something that makes you think of your spouse, though, consider surprising them. Maybe you drove by a favorite restaurant and run in for their favorite cup of soup or dessert...their favorite color flowers...their favorite candy bar...a funny card..a text message with a link to their favorite song. It doesn't have to be much, but knowing your spouse was thinking of you during the day makes you feel extra love. Who can't use extra love in their day?

#10 The way to a man's heart really is through his stomach
Seriously, this is totally true for Jay! If he's had a tough day, nothing makes him feel better than one of his favorite comfort foods served for dinner. Jay's favorite meal that I made is chicken pie. A close second is Guiness shepherds pie. Given the choice, Jay will have seconds for dinner and skip dessert. Although apple crisp is a favorite of his as well.

#11 Knowing your spouse's love language
It's really helpful to know how to make your spouse feel most loved. Jay is more of an auditory person...he likes to hear me say "I love you" and to verbalize when I appreciate something that he's done. I feel more loved when he spends time with me.

#12 Knowing when to ask for help
Life is not always easy. It's ok to ask for help. Sometimes close friends, a pastor, or a therapist can help work through issues that are too tough to get through alone. Asking for help is humbling, but in the end, it will help strengthen your marriage. This might sound redundant from earlier, but it's really important.

#13 Learn from other couples
If something that works for other married couples in your family or friend circle, or facebook post, seems interesting, give it a try. It's always good to be growing and changing in little ways. Why recreate the wheel when you can learn from others?

#14 Knowing when to say "when" in the sleep deprivation years
When children are young and needy and sleep is a luxury, something has to give. You don't want that "something" to be your sanity. I am the primary night time caretaker because I nursed most of our children. When we went through a rough night time patch, I learned that housework got put on hold, sometimes we ordered pizza for dinner, and the most important goal of my day was to get a nap in. Even when I couldn't leave the baby for long periods of time, a half hour walk by myself when Jay got home or Saturday morning Mass and some adoration time by myself did wonders! 

#15 Learn to adapt
Knowing that some days you will be on Plan E by breakfast, and learning to let go and trust that it will all work out, is important. 

#16 Children are gifts
Not everyone feels called, or is able, to have a large family. I can't imagine our lives any other way.

#17 Men and women complement each other in parenting
I am definitely more of the softy in our parenting styles and Jay is a firmer disciplinarian. There are times when the kids need me to be tougher and there are times when the kids need Jay to be a little more lenient. We help each other to have a better balance to, hopefully, raise children that are emotionally healthy and have good character. (At least most of the time!)

#18 Always have a united front
This goes along with #17. There are times when I think Jay is being a little too hard on one of the kids or times when he thinks I'm going to easy. If one of us has made a discipline decision that errs in either extreme, we take time to talk about it together and make a decision as a couple. Then we adjust whatever punishment was doled out for the offending child. It's very important that kids don't use their parents conflicting thoughts to manipulate. That drives a wedge between spouses...and marriage is the relationship we need to work on the most! 

#19 Be generous when you are able
When time and/or money are tight...we've rarely had the "or" scenario...it can be challenging to be generous. If God puts it on my heart or Jay's heart to make a financial contribution or a time contribution that the other isn't sure about, we always try to take time to pray about it. Most of the time, it's an opportunity for God to grow and stretch us. One of my favorite sayings is, "God can never be outdone in generosity." (I'm not sure who said it originally, but St. Jose Maria Escriva comes up in the Google search.)

#20 Two plus two doesn't always equal four
There have been COUNTLESS times throughout the years when there was just no way that we could break even at the end of the month. Yet, somehow, all the bills managed to get paid and we had what we needed. The more we try to trust in God, the more He blesses our efforts. Over the years, I've seen it time and again. Sometimes it came in the form of a new job opportunity, sometimes in an unexpected gift, sometimes I found money I forgot I had squirreled away for a rainy day...but always it ends up working out. Yet, after 25 years, I still struggle to look at Jesus instead of sinking when a financial storm starts brewing. Thankfully, God gives me lots of chances to have a right response.

#21 Making time for fun is important
Sometimes life gets really monotonous. Work, kids, laundry, dishes, sleep, repeat. Taking time for family fun and making memories is important. Waiting until you have the right amount of money for that perfect family vacation in your head isn't the best focus. I am ALL for big family vacations, and they are a total blessing when they happen.(Even when the stomach bug takes out members of  your family like a sniper...and a magical day turns not so magical. But that's for another post!)
Simple things like pumpkin carving, taking a walk on a local trail, trying out a different school playground on a weekend, or going out for ice cream can be a welcome treat that gives everyone a little break to the usual routine.

#22 Making time for friends is important
Good couple friendships are really important. It's good to have couple friends to laugh with, commiserate with, and get new ideas from. It's important to talk with other adults that are walking a similar walk. Sometimes it's nice to get together as families...and sometimes is nice to get out and have a double date night. We have been blessed with several close couple friends. Even though our lives are all crazy, making the time to put a date on the calendar to get together is always rewarding!

#23 The graces of a praying husband
I am an incredibly blessed woman and my children are incredibly blessed because I have a husband and they have a father who prays and has a relationship with God. Jay will argue that he is far from perfect and, well, toilet paper and tea bags...but seriously, Jay is our rock. Jay gives and gives of himself all the time. It's not easy having to carry a family of ten on his shoulders, yet every day he does it. He goes to work for us, spends time with us, and loves his family without a thought for himself. Luke's requests of "play with me, Daddy" are met despite how tired Jay is and how much he was looking forward to just sitting down and watching whatever Boston team was playing at the moment. He has done countless breakfasts, lunches, and ice cream rides with the older boys who needed some "Dad time", and has spent many a night watching a chick flick or the Hallmark Channel because his older girls needed some "Daddy time" of their own. And Kate...all she has to do is look at Jay with her big beautiful eyes and he will be on the floor playing dollies just because she asked him. Jay's  ability to give is directly related to how he prays and relies on God to help him live the life he was given.  For this, I am eternally grateful!

#24 The importance of carving out couple time
This is one area that Jay and I still need to work on. Having a bunch of kids, including one with severe special needs, and not a lot of money isn't super conducive to couple time. We've had to alter our expectations and come up with ideas that allowed us the connection we needed but fit into whatever season of life we were in at the moment. When the older boys were all little and went to bed early, our date nights consisted of cooking fajitas together, eating on the coffee table in the living room, and snuggling together on the couch as we watched Dr. Quinn Medicine Women. Our anniversary dinners out generally involved a nursing infant as a side kick. 
Our 20th Anniversary was shared with a 10 month old Kate :)
As the kids got older, Jay would take a day off from work and we would have a date day while the kids were in school. My parents would watch Luke or Kate once they weren't nursing and we had some time to ourselves. Our kids have almost all been terrible sleepers, so overnights weren't really a possibility. Until this year! This past weekend Jay and I spent two nights in the Berkshires. The weather was beautiful and we did a lot of relaxing. Highlights were spending time at the Divine Mercy Shrine and going to Yankee Candle Village. Just having that uninterrupted time together was amazing...and the little kids had a great time with my parents. Our goal is to now do a little getaway weekend once a year, and, God Willing, a bigger trip every five years. I will let you know how our long term plan goes in 2022!
out to dinner

One of the beautiful views from the weekend

#25 God is part of our marriage 
Staying connected in prayer individually and as a couple is key. Inviting God into our marriage is the only thing that could have kept us together with the difficulties we have faced as a couple. Going through the death of our first daughter when we were only 24 with 3 young boys to care for was devastating. Having a child diagnosed with severe special needs with 6 kids 10 and under was life changing and completely overwhelming. The statistics for divorce for couples facing either of these crosses is incredibly high...and we dealt with both by the time we were 30. I know that it was only our faith and the graces given to us that have allowed us the opportunity to grow closer to each other despite the incredible difficulties. It has been an adventurous 25 years!

Happy 25th to my amazing husband! I love you with all my heart! Hoping and praying that the next 25 years will be even better! 

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"So if there is anything that will move you, any incentive of love, any fellowship in the Spirit, and warmth or sympathy-I appeal to you, 
make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart, and one in mind,
~Philippians 2:1-2