Life between magic and mess

We were recently given some free airline tickets that needed to be used by July.  So my parents graciously (bravely) offered to watch the oldest three kids so we could get away for a couple of days to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  It always takes a lot of effort and energy to go anywhere and was a bit (a lot) nerve wracking for me to leave the kids more than a few hours, I haven’t been away from them that long in, well, 6 1/2 years.

I knew we needed some time together, time to just enjoy being with one another, time without plans, expectations or obligations.   But sometimes when you get the time you need, you’ve been so long overdue that it is strange to be together and for it to be quiet and you almost forget how to just ‘be’.  There has been so much survival mode and not enough replenishing that it is possible to spend the time we do get alone miscommunicating or misunderstanding each other to the point that it is really frustrating.  Anyone know what I mean?

Despite knowing from experience that things don’t often go as planned,  I had high hopes for a weekend of peace, rest, laughter, smiles, fun and love for each other.

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My cheeks hurt when we came home.  All my cheeks.  I think I smiled for three days straight.  Not on purpose but just because I was so thrilled to have the one my heart loves all to myself for such a long time.  As for the other cheeks, may I explain?  We were up early on Saturday and found ourselves at Fisherman’s Wharf before any of San Francisco was awake.  We very spontaneously decided to rent bicycles and bike (10 miles!) up the waterfront and across the Golden Gate bridge.  We hadn’t even planned to SEE the bridge, let alone cross it.  We had no car, just walked and trollied our way around town.

4 hours and one very sore bum later, we had enjoyed the most amazing bike ride of our lives and loved every minute of it.

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I am amazed at how therapeutic it is to not clean, not cook, really not do a stitch of ‘work’ for a couple of days.  We have existed (as many parents of many small children do) in survival mode a lot for the past 6 + years.  Our patience and our tenderness  for each other, even our willingness to give grace has been stretched thin.

I recently corresponded with a seasoned, amazing mother, Colleen.  She wrote many profound things to me that I’ve been pondering, but the one I’ve thought most about is this:

Do not lose sight of one another in the business of children….Those little ones are with you but for a brief moment.  One of their greatest needs is to see parents who love one another, who disagree and make up, who use the words “I am sorry.  I was wrong.”  And who make the marriage the priority…not the parenting.   I know it doesn’t seem so, but when the marriage is the priority I believe the parenting will fall into place.

I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking about this.  The more I do, the more it rings true for me.  In our ‘survival’, we can’t forget us.  We daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute, put our own needs and wishes aside for those of our children.  This is, I believe, one of the incredible ways parenting makes us better people.  More selfless people who aren’t afraid to give and love in a radical way.  It is also how, I can imagine, people give up on marriage after little kids come along as so many do-after all the average marriage in the U.S. only lasts 8 years.

The sassy disrespect I am working hard to combat in my daughter is merely a reflection of the way she sees me treat her dad on my less-than-wonderful days.

Ouch.  That stings a little.  A lot.

Instead of trying to deal with it in her, heeding the wisdom of my friend, I think I need to invest my focus on myself.  If I truly worked on modeling respecting my husband and holding him in the highest esteem, I have more than a hunch that her behavior would slowly change.  Why talk about it here?  Because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this.  And because I want (need) the accountability that comes from writing about it.

I really believe that time invested in loving Chris more extravagantly, more intentionally will reap great rewards.  Not that we don’t need to stay in the parenting trenches and keep striving in that department.  But there is a balance that we’re still (after 10 years) not close to figuring out.

For today, it just looked like me being genuinely, super excited with him that he gets to climb Mt Rainier on Friday, instead of commenting about how it will be a tough stretch for me and the kids without him.   Last night, it meant snuggling on the couch together instead of on separate sides and then offering to help put the bikes away for the night at midnight instead of expecting him to do it alone.  I think it might be pretty simple if I just stop to think first before I act/talk.

Quite a concept.  Revolutionary, I know (smile).

What happened in a weekend of doing little more than simply loving, laughing, smiling, resting, walking, biking, eating and kissing?  We remembered.  We remembered what it felt like to hold hands and smile at each other every single chance we got.  We remembered what it felt like to have slept a whole night and not wake up exhausted.  We remembered the things we love about each other.

It’s not like we’d really forgotten but that it’s easy to lose sight of them in the midst of real life.  So stepping out of real life for a short spell was, for us, magical.  Of course we missed our kids.  Of course we spent more money eating out breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It’s not a practical place to stay, I just can so see the reward from it.

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And it is good.  Really good.

What now?  Working on finding a place to abide that is somewhere in the middle of magical and messy…



Can I have a tissue please? I understand completely as this rings a bell for us too. We’ve had some great friends take Morgan for a few hours the last 3 weeks so we can get him ready for daycare, and the first day without baby was strange. We didn’t know what to do will all the extra time! Our date days turned out to be better each time — we rediscovered parts of our relationship that’s been buried since Morgan was born. Looking forward to more dates with the hubby and learning to balance it all a bit better.


Sounds like a fabulous weekend and a fabulous perspective! So glad you made the investment in each other. Many blessings to you both!


How cute are you! What wonderful photos. And loving every single word, of course–what a powerful reminder to us all to treasure the one in our family we loved first. ps–glad you are home 🙂


Oh, Karissa, what a special time! My parents have been modeling the “marriage first” thing for years, and preaching it to us kids. It is sooo hard to live out though and I loved hearing you write about it because I have been needing to work on it as well. Oh, my, and the attitude in my children modeling that of mine towards my husband? Yes, let’s be accountable because it has long been on my heart to work on. OK, and it was really special to see you on a bike on the Golden Gate Bridge because Tom and I did that when we were dating while staying with my brother & sister-in-law. I had forgotten about that fun fun memory. Thanks for sharing yours and making me remember ours. 🙂


Wow. You never cease to amaze me, sweet sister. Thank you for being so vulnerable, honest, and open. I love you so very much.