Did I ever tell you I was my husband’s first girlfriend?!
Poor fella, Valentine’s Day fell only about 3 weeks after we officially started dating, and I’m sure he felt the pressure to do it up well.
He just didn’t realize how to-a-fault practical I was (and still am, moreso yet) and how picky I am about my chocolate.
I still regret not just saying, “Thank you, it’s all lovely!” when he proudly presented me with a classic box of chocolates and a teddy bear holding a heart.
I hurt his feelings by being honest, and it was one of our first (of many) lessons in communication, openness and how to think more of the other person than of yourself.
It can be a tricky balance.
Our first date!
But 16 (gulp) years later, I think we’re doing a pretty good job at…continuing to learn about each other.
And I love him more than ever in the midst of our busy house full of four children.
Big News at the Kimball House
Before I get to the romantic part, let me tell you the juicy scoop:
My husband quit his job.
Because of me.
Because of all of you, really!
For over a year now, we’ve been discussing the viability of making Kitchen Stewardship more than just my online soapbox, but a true family business.
My husband is a computer programmer and had the skills (but not the time) to do more technical stuff on the backend, and he also had a great idea for a product of his own (software for bloggers) that he had started to develop but couldn’t really focus on.
We’re slow like turtles to make big decisions, but we hope that in the end, we’ll win the race on this one.
He’s been full time at home for almost three weeks now, and we are learning communication and balance at radically new levels, daily. But it’s going really well overall!
Most of our friends and co-workers (former!) in real life shake their heads when they hear what we’re doing, saying something to the effect of, “I could never handle working with my spouse. We’d kill each other by day three!”
Men often explain how desperately they’re ready to get back to work to get away from the home after a weekend of family time, all together in the house.
We have never felt that way…so hopefully that will work out in our favor.
Those of you who have watched the man you love become a father and pour out his love and devotion upon tiny creatures you created together with the Triune God will know exactly what I mean when I say that children made me love my husband more than ever before.
The “birth,” so to speak, of this business, of this totally new lifestyle for us, has been a similar experience – not without bumps and challenges, but definitely an opportunity for growth and deepening our love and commitment to each other.
We specifically focused on sustaining and building our marriage – here’s a small snapshot of how:
1. Date Night and Making our Relationship a Priority
This post is sponsored by Melt: Massage for Couples.
When we were re-hashing our week’s evening schedule, we had to fit my husband’s hockey game, Skype video game night with his friends, his weekly “man-date” with local guys to work out and grab dinner, “Katie time” when I get a night off from putting the kids to bed (mine varies whereas his is set with his buddies), my monthly book club and monthly Mom’s Night Out with my church ladies, and our “date night.”
We’ve kept a weekly “date night” since we had kids, I think – it’s not a date out, but rather usually just a date in. The rules simply say that no one gets on the computer or does “work” from any sort of to-do list after the kids are tucked in and the dishes done.
Our date night has been Tuesday nights for as long as I can remember, but it makes sense that with hockey on Tuesdays, my husband just meet up with his friends afterward on Skype. That meant that date night would rotate with “man-date” from Wednesdays to Thursdays, depending on people’s schedules.
Some weeks, it might be tricky to fit in at all.
To my surprise (and pleasure), my husband stated emphatically: “Date night is the priority of our week, so that goes in before man-date.”
That pretty much says it all – if you want your marriage to thrive, prioritize your marriage.
The last two weeks, we’ve had date nights with Denis Merkas (even an extra one after “man-date” last Thursday!).
And my husband quipped, “I can’t believe you’re making me work and it’s almost midnight! I don’t know about this job…”
No, we didn’t break any of our date night rules.
We were reviewing a couples massage course called Melt, taught by masseur Denis Merkas via videos.
Yes, I work that husband so hard! It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
We had to do it ASAP (oh, twist my arm!) because the video series package is on a super sale through Thursday, February 12 at noon EST, and I wanted to make sure I had checked it out before writing about it.
Let me be up front and say that hubby was super skeptical about it when he heard it costs more than ten bucks.
In just two dates, Denis has completely won him over – and I don’t think it was the Australian accent, although hearing him say “MAA-sage” (/a/ like “apple”) doesn’t hurt!
The format of Melt is like no other. He surprised us by starting out with “the bed is a bad place for a massage.”
We’ve been doing that wrong for 15 years?
You get good advice when you learn from a professional.
We’ve done the first series and part of the second, and I have to say – it’s worth it.
Here’s a little description of the video series from Melt:
- The Basic Series This series starts with correcting some of the most common massage mistakes and showing you the foundations of your massage with long, sweeping strokes. You watch the short videos with a technique or tip in each, and it ends with a 5 minute follow-along massage routine.
- The Highlights Series This is where things start to get really good! You learn to look for the sore spots on each other’s bodies and how to work them. The neck, shoulders, lower back, arms, head… you’ll find places you didn’t even know that were sore! After you learn the 9 techniques from this series, there’s a 15-minute massage routine to follow along to. Hands still don’t hurt!
- The Deep Tissue Series So many people, myself included, love Deep Tissue stuff but it shouldn’t be over-emphasized. These tips are left to the very end for good reason, but they are such good techniques. It ends with an epic 30-minute massage follow along massage routine.
The Kimball Review
You know I’m always uber honest in my reviews, right? My husband is even tougher to please.
Here’s what we loved about Melt:
- Good excuse for a “real” in home date night (not just watching TV)
- No babysitter needed! Paying a babysitter for a date “out” can run $30-50. We have free grandparent care sometimes, but it’s not very convenient anymore for an evening date – we can’t leave school aged kids sleeping at their house.
- The pause button – with a baby in the house, this is a necessity.
- It’s not just massage – it’s massage for couples. Everything about the video series is designed for a man and woman to gift each other with a lovely massage. It’s sensual and very classy.
- Such a unique set up, very intimate, very romantic, perfect for couples (married couple, IMO – I think it would be too tempting for a chaste, unmarried couple)
- But there’s no nudity at all in the videos, just back and shoulders like the photo above.
- Haven’t used oil for a massage since the year we got married – that alone takes massage to another level!
- It’s really easy – we bought a massage book for $10 years back and never used it after the first attempt because it was just too dense. We didn’t know where to start. This is totally geared for amateurs, and it’s just perfect. Hubby emphasizes that the video part, seeing it all, it great.
- We both agree the Australian accent is just fun stuff, and Denis’s personality and humor are excellent too.
- Can be played on any device.
- You can earn points to get other videos – you could just refer one friend and get the head, hand or foot massage for free (because you get 50 points just for registering and 50 for each friend who purchases). I want the head and foot massage so badly!
And because we’re always all about the balance here at KS, the negatives we found:
- The Melt site says you could even watch the videos to learn with kids in the room, but one of them does mention condoms (he’s talking about appropriate oil to use, not sex). I’d skip the few minutes about oil if you don’t want to hear that. We didn’t have the recommended almond oil but used some jojoba oil that I bought to make a homemade facial product and never used. Worked out fine!
- The 3-month-old. He totally sabotaged our first planned Melt date night by being utterly and totally awake the entire time. Massage for 3? No thanks!
- It’s definitely harder for a smaller woman to massage a taller man with the Melt setup. But then again, since men are very visual when it comes to attraction and women likely appreciate a great massage and might need the relaxation to turn off their brains more than a man…this might work out just perfectly for the average couple!
- The cost. This is the only negative my husband could come up with, and we have a solution for that – through Feb. 12th at noon EST, Melt is on sale for Valentine’s Day for less than what we would spend on a fancy dinner with drinks + babysitter.
Visit this special page for the discount deal on the 3-part video series, and surprise your spouse with perhaps your most romantic Valentine’s Day – or just a Tuesday – ever.
Kids at the grandparents, all the better.
Note: The in-person 2-hour training workshops are $199 per couple — plus airfare to Australia of course! – just to give you a little price comparison.
Working together at home has definitely increased the need for good communication and thinking about the other person.
We’ve already had some “oopses” on the homefront, like, “When were the neighbors supposed to go home?” (That one was totally my fault – who trusts the kids to admit their friends are supposed to go home when the grandparents arrived for dinner?)
But overall, we knew what we were getting into.
We’ve had the blessing (I have, at least) of watching from afar those who have gone before us in similar ventures: Stephanie and Ryan Langford of Entrefamily, the Harmons of GNOWFGLINS, and Renee and Jonathan Harris of MadeOn Hard Lotion.
And we’ve taken an entire year to talk about “what it would be like” to work together at home.
Right away, I recommended we use Amy Lynn Andrews’ system of “time boxing,” basically setting a large chunk of time (9a-noon for example) for one thing: one parent to work, the other to parent, household chores, meetings, whatever.
It’s about setting a routine for the week, but not one that is planned down to the (impossible) minute.
It’s also about knowing who is responsible for what.
Hubs was resistant at first, thinking it sounded tooooo structured and routinized, but the more we talked about what things might actually feel like, the more he realized that it would be important to know who has to go get the baby waking up from nap if we’re both working, who is the point person for a meal, who has to change the dirty diaper, etc.
If you’re in the “parent” block, that’s all you. As I’m typing this, I just handed off the poopy 3-month-old to him and didn’t have to feel guilty like I should leave my work to go take care of it. I’ll be on parenting duty soon enough!
We have regular meetings where we talk about work stuff, including a daily “stand up” for about 5 minutes. The goal of a stand-up, which is taken from the Agile method of software development (of which my husband is a huge fan), is to share what you worked on the day before, what you’re hoping to hit that day and any roadblocks you hit or expect.
It’s awesome, and we usually do it while we’re cleaning up after breakfast in our 45-minute “buffer” time between when the big kids leave for school and the 9-noon timebox starts.
We also meet twice a week and consult our joint to-do list and discuss what needs to be delegated (for work) back and forth, and we meet at least once on the homefront and tackle another joint list. We’re still working on nailing the habit for that last one, but all the work stuff is flowing smoothly.
The success we’ve felt so far in working together is amazing, and I love, honor and respect him all the more for jumping into this crazy unknown with me – and being willing to communicate hundreds of times more than we’re used to.
3. Sharing All of Life
Here’s where it really gets juicy – the bathroom.
The very first week, my husband asked me to show him which cleaners and rags to use to clean bathrooms, and I could hear him including our 3-year-old in the process of cleaning all three bathrooms in one day.
He made it a game, complete with floors flowing with lava that John had to avoid, and let me tell you – THAT is the definition of sexyness right there, ladies. Cleaning bathrooms and being a great parent at the same time.
Not to mention that all 3 bathrooms haven’t been clean at the same time in…um…when did we move here?
And my method of including kids in cleaning bathrooms sounds a little like this:
“Here, you squirt the bottle right here. No, that’s enough, stop now, stop…take the rag…wipe back and forth – no, let me help you, bigger swipes, let’s not take all day here – you know what? Why don’t you go play by yourself and I’ll do this real quick and then join you?
It turns out I’m not alone in finding chores both sexy and integral to a relationship – a 2007 Pew Research Center survey found that “sharing household chores” is third out of nine when American adults were asked what the essentials to a happy marriage were.
I’m still doing almost all of the cooking, but he’s covered more than his fair share of breakfasts since Gabe has been born in general, and he gets saddled with a LOT of dishes (which are much more tolerable at 1 in the afternoon than 10 at night, he reports).
The first week, I would check in with him often to see how he was doing, how he was handling the change. I often thought, and sometimes said, “Welcome to my world.”
The day-to-day of parenting all day long and the house quickly getting messy no matter what you do can be so frustrating…but now we both experience it and can commiserate together.
I love that I get to share all of life with the person I love most in the world.
We’ve found ourselves having a stand-up while drawing snowmen with our 3-year-old after breakfast on a weekday morning.
Daddy got to go to our first grader’s concert at school yesterday, a first for him.
And we’re scheduling special dates for each child at regular times throughout the year as part of having a routine and being intentional about life, at home and at work.
My friends already tell me I sound more joyful…which was the goal in the first place.
We feel very blessed, and I’m so grateful to all of you for being a part of making it possible, by interacting in the KS community, shopping Amazon through my links, sharing content with your friends, and buying my eBooks.
It’s my hope that you can prioritize your marriage this month too – not that we should need a holiday like Valentine’s Day to do so, but it’s a good reminder.
And if a little massage would open doors to great communication and awesome date nights like it did for us…well, I know where you should go before February 12th.
What do you do to make your marriage at the center of your focus? What do you love about watching your husband be a father?