For a Christmas/birthday present this year Hub gave me tickets to see Wicked in New York City!  We went last month, had a total blast, and I am just now getting around to posting about it.  Sorry, but when you have a blended family with seven very busy kids, blogging often times gets put on the back burner.

Here, in a totally random order, are some ways we’ve found over the years to enjoy a trip together without the kids (and not feel guilty about it!):

*Be flexible! In order to save money (and SkyMiles) Hub booked us on a red-eye flight to NYC.  A representative at the hotel had told him that if the hotel wasn’t completely booked we would be able to get into a room as soon as we arrived in the early morning hours, even thought check-in wasn’t until noon.  We hoped it would work out for us so that we could sleep for a few hours in a bed after arriving, but as luck would have it, the hotel was booked and we had six hours to kill before we could check-in.  We didn’t have a rental car, we were pretty tired after the over-night flight, and we had luggage, but no room.  So what did we do?

The hotel staff, being used to such situations, let us leave our luggage in a secure room near the lobby.  We relaxed in the hotel dining area and watched the morning news programs while eating the free breakfast provided by the hotel.  Once we were full, we decided to kill some time by visiting the Empire State Building.  Apparently the morning hours in February are a good time to do so because we didn’t wait in line at all to go to the top.

And the view?

Breathtaking!

*Pictures! Take pictures for memories.  Send pictures to your kids.  Camera phones are perfect for this!  We sent a couple of the pictures from the Empire State Building to our kids with the message, “Good-morning from the Empire State Building!”  It was the first text message of the day for all of them.  And yes, they responded enthusiastically once they woke up for the day and saw the picture texts.

All during our trip we sent occasional pictures to let the kids know what we were doing in real time.  Some of the photos that got the most response:

And after returning home and posting the pictures on our family website and on Facebook the kids had even more comments.  Our kids seem to get a kick out of odd-ball photo ops such as the signs in this previous post and these pictures:

King Kong cookie sold in the gift shop at the top of the Empire State Building

Street scene--count the taxis!

Window display with balloons

McDonald's in China Town

New York City cops standing on the corner

And there was the artwork:

*Be a tourist! Since neither of us had ever been to New York City before, and since we have no idea when, or if, we will ever return, we made sure to see the common tourist sites:

The museum of Natural History

Times Square

A broadway Musical--the reason we were there!

Memorial in Central Park for John Lennon

New Tower being built at Ground Zero

*Get off the beaten path! Although we made sure to hit all the tourist spots–and they were exciting–we also enjoyed looking for experiences that had personal meaning to us.  For instance, the fire station that has a tribute painted on its door to the firefighters from that location that lost their lives on 9/11 has meaning to me as the daughter of a retired fire chief.

Finding the Manhattan Temple of our church had special meaning to us.

I loved taking pictures of street scenes.

And one of my favorite “off the beaten path” moments was when Hub and I found a lower level Italian restaurant on a side street that had food to die for at a great price (a much better price than the Brazilian Barbecue that we went to the next evening).  I wish I had thought to take a picture of the quaint entrance and the decor inside.  We enjoyed that meal and the walk back to our hotel afterward.

*Be a couple! Hold hands.  Have others take your pictures together in front of favorite sites.  Shop together for souvenirs.  Celebrate your relationship.  One of my favorite memories from our trip is the night we returned to our hotel after exploring the main streets of Manhattan.  We were chilly and ready to relax in our room.  Before getting on the elevator we each grabbed a cup of free cocoa offered in our hotel lobby.  We sipped the cocoa while cuddling and watching a movie in our room.  It was simple, yet nice to just be us.

Our last evening there we took a walk to Rockefeller Center and went to the ” Top of the Rock” for some final pictures.  Some nice couple time!

The trip was fantastic!  We talk of taking our kids to New York some day.  We know they would enjoy it.  But, we also talk of our next trip together…just the two of us.

Whenever I come across great ideas I like to share them.  Read this recent post over at Morocco’s Bazaar…and apply it!

Make it a great day!

Hub and I are standing in the airport waiting for a commuter flight to St. George, Utah to go look at a condo we are thinking of buying.  The flight is going to save us from an eight-hour round-trip drive.  What a smart hubby I have!  Taking the commuter flight is going to save us so much time!

I look at Hub and say, “This is a great idea.  And we’ll even be home in time to feed the kids dinner!”

Hub flashes a sheepish grin and says, “Um, actually, I made arrangements for us to spend the night in St. George.”

“What?!”

“We will be spending the night in St. George.”

“But what about my morning crossing?”

“Our morning flight will get us home in time for you to still do your morning crossing.”

Slight panic sets in.  I say, “There are flight delays all the time.  What if our flight is delayed?  There will be no one at the crossing for the kids.  Someone could get hurt.  I could lose my job!”

Hub reaches up and brushes my cheek with his hand.  “Relax.  We will get home on time.”

I wasn’t about ready to relax.  “What about clothes?  All I have is this–”  I wave my arm in front of my body.  “Am I supposed to sleep in this and then get up and wear it again all day tomorrow?  What about my toothbrush?  I don’t have my toothbrush!”

A look of consternation flashes across my sweet husband’s face.

I continue, “What about make-up?  I don’t have my make-up, or a brush, or my hair straightener, or feminine hygiene products!”

Poor Hub.  But I don’t care that I am making him feel bad.  I am angry that I hadn’t been included in his grandiose scheme to keep me over night in St. George, Utah!

“Hmmmph!”  I sit down on a chair not caring that fellow passengers are staring at me.  “Well, at least I now have something to post about on my blog!”

And then…

…I woke up.

*********************************

I told Hub about my dream this morning.  He laughed.  I told him that if we were ever to take a commuter flight to Saint George, Utah it would be a great idea to save us time.  He said, “Okay, I’ll take credit for the flight, but I’m not taking credit for the rest of it!”

And since I was too busy to post anything yesterday, and since I didn’t have any ideas on what to post anyway, I decided to follow the dream and post…

…the dream.

Enjoy your day!

🙂

Carol at Writeathome tagged me in a bloggy activity last week.  I decided to participate because it seemed fun.  Here is the activity:

1.  Pick up the  closest book to you.

2.  Open to page 50.

3.  Go to the second paragraph.

4.  Type in the first 4 lines.

5.  Tag 5 people.

The closest book to me at the  time was “Married for Better, Not Worse” by Gary and Joy Lundberg.  The first four lines of paragraph 2 on page 50 read as follows:  “Sometimes when spouses enjoy different kinds of activities, it may require some compromising, just for the sake of being together and pleasing your spouse.  Connie and Kevin, who have had a devoted and happy marriage relationship for many years, are very good at this kind of compromising.”

That little blurb from the book got me thinking about ways my husband and I compromise in our marriage.   I think it is important to be friends with your spouse, and one way to be friends is to compromise.  Instead of tagging 5 people, I am going to share 5 ways that Hub and I compromise.  

1.  We compromise on choosing restaurants.  Hub loves Asian food.  When we go out to eat, his number 1 choice is to go to a Japanese steakhouse.  If he has tired of Japanese (which is rare) then he chooses Thai, Vietnamese, or Indian food.  The compromise on my part is allowing him to enjoy his Asian foods.  But, every once in a while, I decide that I simply cannot have another bite of Asian food and I request something different, such as Mexican or Italian, or even a nice juicy steak.  Hub compromises and drives us to whatever type of restaurant I am craving.

2.  We compromise on movies.  Hub loves sci-fi.  I like a good romantic comedy.  We both enjoy some action films.  When we decide to go to a movie we pull up all of the choices online, talk about what looks good, and then make a choice.  It seems to balance out quite equally when we choose movies.  Sometimes it is something he really wants to see, sometimes it is a movie of my choice.  Choosing movies has never been a problem for us.

3.  We have compromised on the garden.  Before we married each other we each had a great vegetable garden.  It was a no-brainer that we would have a big garden when we got married.  The problem is that we both like to garden so much that it is easy to “take over” the garden.  The first two years we were married I had to put my foot down and insist that there be a his and hers side to the garden, otherwise Hub would have planted the entire thing without any help or input from me.  By year three, when Hub had once again begun to encroach upon “my” side of the garden, I proposed a compromise of him planting most of the garden, but allowing me some space to plant the corn, squash, and cucumbers that I wanted.  And if he wanted 14 tomato plants, then so be it.  It has worked well for us.

4.  Money matters.  I don’t know if it could be considered compromising, but Hub and I always discuss what to do with any extra money that comes our way.  There are always several choices.  Save it.  Invest it.  Pay something off.  Use it to fix something up.  Break it up into several categories.  We never take action on what to do until we have both come to an agreement.

5.  We compromise on vacations.  I’m all for going to the beach or seeing and doing something I’ve never had the chance to do before.  Hub would rather go to our condo in Moab and do some jeeping.  We’ve done both.  We handle it the same way we do our money matters.  We discuss it, propose different ideas, discuss it some more, look at all options, and then we come to a decision together.  Most of the time we are able to do a little of both types of vacation.

Compromise!  It makes for a happy home life.

A quick post for a busy day:

*Cooper, the cute puppy, has a new home.  We were firm with the kids about only having one dog.  Mack solved the problem by posting information about the dog in the online classifieds section of a local tv station and sold the puppy the very same day–at a $60.00 profit!  I guess if she couldn’t keep the puppy, extra money was the next best thing.  She went shopping the next day and came home with a new skirt, new tights, and new boots.  I just hope she doesn’t start buying and selling puppies on a regular basis!

*Game recommendation:  “Blink” by Mattel.  Two to four people can play it.  Each round lasts 2 minutes or less.  You simply match cards as quickly as possible using color, number, or shape.  It’s quick, makes us laugh, and is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Yawlin and I played it yesterday after church and kept tying each other.   After awhile I decided to snooze by the fire (my favorite place to nap this time of year) and Yawlin and Hoob played the game together.  Buy it if you can find it, your family will love it!

*A great quote I recently found:  “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”  –Mignon McLaughlin

Enjoy!

A little while ago I was listening to one of the local radio morning shows and decided to jot down what I was hearing.  The guest on the show was a family therapist and the topic was strengthening marriage.  The therapist offered three simple tips to help keep a marriage relationship strong.  These tips could also apply to a parent/child relationship if adapted.

1 – Express your love.  Express it verbally by looking for the good in your spouse and pointing it out.  Tell your husband what you love about him.  Point out the things your wife did during the day that pleased you.  Notice your spouse’s focus and ask them about it.  Say, “I love you.”  Express your love physically.  Hold hands.  Cuddle.  Hug.  Rub his/her back.  Kiss each other when departing for the day and then again when you return in the evening.

2 – Spend time together.  Have a weekly date night.  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  Cook a meal together.  Go for a ride to look at the view.  Once or twice a year take a weekend get-a-way.  Make your spouse your top priority.

3 – Talk.  During “relationship time” don’t talk about the stressful things in your life, save that for “problem solving time.”  Talk about your dreams and goals, and ask your spouse about his/hers.  Chat about the little things.  Share a funny story you heard.  Make up a marriage “bucket list.”  Share things from your childhood.  Offer to help your spouse with a task that needs to be done, no strings attached.  Talk about your dream vacation. 

Express your love.  Spend time together.  Talk.  

1,2,3…get to it!

Thursday night is our date night.  It is the night all of the kids are with their “other” parents for a little while, so it’s a great time for Hub and I to have some “couple” time.  This week Hub suggested we stay in on Thursday “since we have been going to dinner a lot and should probably cut down on that.”  I was fine with staying home and just cuddling in front of the t.v. or fixing a meal together and eating it on the patio.  I even suggested to Hub that we take a walk along one of the local trails.  He seemed to like that idea.

Then I got a phone call on my lunch break from Hub.  “What are you doing tonight?”

“Um, spending it with you.”

“You don’t have anything planned?”

“Nope.  Just our date night.”

“Okay.  I have a surprise for you.  We’re going to go somewhere.  Be ready by 6:45.”

Cool.  My husband had a surprise for me.  With the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend, I figured he’d come up with something that he or the kids could give me for Mother’s Day and he wanted to make sure I liked it before he bought it.  At home later in the day I asked Hub if I was supposed to dress up for wherever we were going.  He stopped what he was doing and got a thoughtful look on his face.  “I suppose we could dress up.  But, no not this time.  We’ll keep it casual.”

“Okay.  Can I eat now or do I have to wait?  I’m starving.”

“No, you can go ahead and eat here.”

Hmmmm, I could eat at home, which meant we weren’t going to dinner anywhere.  Maybe I was right about it being a preview of a Mother’s Day gift.

At 6:45 on the dot we said good-bye to my kids who were still waiting for their dad to pick them up and we drove away.  As we drove Hub asked me if I had any ideas on where we might be going.  Looking around I asked, “Is it to Engh Gardens?  They were having a flower show a couple of weekends back that I wanted to go to.”

Hub grinned and said,”Yup, that’s where we’re going.”

But, at the intersection, instead of continuing north towards Engh Gardens, Hub turned west.  Hub was smiling from ear to ear.  I found myself thinking, West?  What’s down this street?  The theaters are down this street.  Ah ha!  “We’re going to Star Trek!”  I blurted out. 

Hub laughed out loud and I knew I was right. 

I am married to the biggest sci-fi nerd on the planet.  I have endured many sci-fi movies being married to this man.  He even made me go with him to see  The Clone Wars (that animated Star Wars turkey of a film), in the theater, instead of waiting until we could just rent it.  When we sat down in our seats to watch The Clone Wars I said, “You owe me a chick flick for this.”  Hub readily accepted the debt.

Halfway through that movie Hub leaned over and whispered, “I owe you two chick flicks for this.”  Three quarters of the way through the movie he leaned over and I heard, “Okay, three chick flicks.”  And, believe me, I made him pay up!

Thursday was opening night in select theaters for the new Star Trek movie.  Hub just couldn’t resist seeing it on opening night.  The man was downright giddy.  Sometimes Hub will use Netflix to watch the old Star Trek t.v. series.  Whenever he does that, the rest of the family slowly sneaks out of the room until he is all alone watching his show.  Sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start, I couldn’t help but laugh about the sneaky way Hub had gotten me to the show.  I reached over and grabbed his hand.  The important thing is that we were on a date together.

And now I’ll just say that I was pleasantly surprised about the movie.  I was entertained throughout.  I was a little lost when all of the Trekkies in the theater would laugh at certain things that were said, obviously things that were a part of the original series, but not knowing the history didn’t keep me from enjoying the movie.  I won’t hesitate to recommend the movie to others.  It was pretty darn good!

As we left the theater we saw some people dressed up like Spock.  Hub said, “Now can you see what I meant when I said we could dress up, but wouldn’t this time?”  I just shook my head and laughed.  I’m glad he didn’t make me “dress up.”

Date night.  It was his activity of choice.  We held hands.  We were entertained.  It was perfect.

And so, as the world’s favorite Vulcan would say, “Live long and prosper!”

In our “Marriage and Family Relations” class at church a few weeks ago the topic was “Forgiveness in Marriage.”  Both sides of forgiveness were discussed.  It is important to seek forgiveness from our spouse, to apologize when we recognize when we have done something wrong or see our part in a problem.  It is equally important to forgive our spouse when they come seeking forgiveness for something they have done.

Apologizing and not holding grudges–both an important part of a healthy marriage. 

One of the men in our class shared the way he seeks forgiveness from his wife.  When he recognizes that he has done something that has angered her or hurt her feelings or that has caused her difficulty, he comes to her and asks, “May I have a do-over?”  He seeks a second chance.  His message to her is that he sees that he did something inconsiderate but he values the relationship enough to want to still keep trying.  She always gives him the “do-over.”

I love that question.  “May I have a do-over?”  It might work in other situations as well.

With kids:  “Hey, I’m sorry I got impatient with you last night, may I have a do-over?”

                  “I’m sorry I forgot to pick you up from practice, may I have a do-over?”

                  “May I have a do-over?  I wasn’t at my parenting best a few minutes ago.”

In the workplace:  “I was a complete idiot.  May I have a do-over?”

In the neighborhood:  “My kids didn’t realize that throwing snails over the fence into your garden would annoy you.  May we have a do-over to show you that we are good neighbors?  They would like to sweep your walks for you.”

With a friend:  “My comment was thoughtless.  I should have been more considerate.  May I have a do-over as your friend?”

Of course, if we are seeking do-overs, we also need to be willing to give do-overs when they are requested of us.  Rather than holding a grudge it would be healthier to accept the apology and bequeath the do-over to the wrong-doer, and to keep things light-hearted, why not milk it a little bit?  I’m waiting for a future chance to say something like this to Hub, “Thank you for apologizing for —feel in the blank here–it makes me feel better when you apologize.  Yes, you may have a do-over as my beloved spouse.  And to make sure that I really feel better, I’m thinkin’ a thirty minute massage will feel really good right about now!” 

A do-over.  It works both ways.

My kids don’t have school today so I am taking them with me on my monthly visit to play games with my grandpa.  As I opened our game closet to choose a couple of games to take with us I spotted a small yellow box with blue polka dots.  The words on the box say, “Rate your Mate.”  

“Oh yeah,” I said aloud as I grabbed the box.  I opened the box and started shuffling through some of the cards inside.  That was when I decided to post about “Rate your Mate.”

I found the little yellow box with blue polka dots at a yard sale.  The instructions for the game were missing but that didn’t prevent me from plunking down two bucks for it.  The box is full of cards, each with one question on it.  Each card also has a point value of 1, 2, or 3 printed on it.  Hub and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of the game.  Since there are no instructions we have made up ways to use it.  Most of the time we just spend an evening taking turns choosing a card, reading it, and seeing if we can guess the answer we would each say.  Sometimes we keep track of the points with the “loser” owing the winner something desirable such as a massage, foot rub, completion of a hated chore, etc.  Once we used the game on the long drive to our condo in Moab as a way to kill the time.  On that drive we simply read the cards and then answered them, we didn’t try guessing or keep score.  Hey, we paid two bucks for it, we can play it anyway we want!

In case there are any who want to try a “Rate your Mate” activity with their spouse or significant other I am going to type a few of the questions as examples.  Once the brain juices start flowing I am sure it will be easy to think up many of your own questions.

1 point questions:  

Who is more spontaneous, you or your mate?

What is your mate’s favorite type of house?

In any given situation, would your mate prefer to “shake things up” or “calm things down?”

When was the first time you cried in front of your mate?

What is your mate’s favorite breakfast?

2 point questions:

When it comes to “shoulds,” my mate puts this one at the top of his/her list:  a. Exercise   b. Spending more time with my mate   c. Catch up on some work   d. Clean the house   e. Hide the remote control

Which best describes your mate’s ability to direct his/her anger?   a. Never takes it out on you   b. Sometimes takes it out on you   c. It’s always your fault

You and your mate are shopping at a mall.  Which of the following best describes the scenario?   a. Shop ’til you drop   b. My mate only looks for specific items on his/her list   c. My mate gets a “mall headache”   d. My mate wouldn’t be caught dead in a mall

In a group discussion, does your mate generally agree with the consensus, or become the devil’s advocate?

If a song were composed to describe your relationship, which type of music would be used?   a. Country   b. Heavy metal   c. Classical   d. Rock and Roll

3 point questions:

What outfit does your mate wear too often?

On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your first date?

Where did you and your mate make the strongest public display of affection?

With whom did your mate have the most significant romantic relationship before you?

What annoying habit does your mate have in the morning?

**Play around with it.  Make it fun.  And enjoy getting to know your mate all over again!

My husband and I have decided to participate in the “Marriage and Family Relations” class in our ward.  It is the third and final session for 2008 and will go for 16 weeks.  The Bishop wants each married couple to participate in the 16 week class at least once.  Because of our crazy schedule we have been unable to take the class until now.  The class is going to be good and gives us a lot to think about.

Today the topic was “Unity in Marriage.”  Toward the end of the discussion a question was asked that I found interesting.  The instructor asked us, “which is more important in marriage, love or commitment?”  

I didn’t speak my thoughts, but my initial thought was, love, of course.  A marriage won’t work if love isn’t there.  Then others from the class offered their thoughts.  It was suggested that love grows because of the commitment and that if commitment isn’t there the love will die.

It made me think about our blended family.  Marriage is work, hard work sometimes.  And blending a family can make it even harder, or at least more challenging.  Because Hub and I each experienced a painful divorce before we met each other we are very committed to making this marriage work.  The love is there, of course, but I think the commitment to make this second marriage work is what keeps us going.  If the commitment is there you look for the good in the other person instead of dwelling on perceived faults and you try harder to keep the relationship strong. 

I’ve noticed that my commitment to the marriage is what has helped my love for my step children grow.  If I wasn’t committed to the marriage it would be easy to write them off simply as extra baggage belonging to the person I happen to be married to.  And if the commitment weren’t there it would be easy to give up and move on when challenging times come.   

It is my commitment to their father that has helped me work extra hard in developing a positive relationship with each of my step kids.  And developing those relationships is what has made my love for them grow.  The commitment to the marriage is making the love stronger, as a couple and as a family.

It was an interesting question, one that I am still thinking about.  

I would love to read the thoughts of others on this topic (hint), please feel free to comment.