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What sounds better than a fun, fulfilling marriage? Nothing!!

If you’re married, you know keeping things interesting takes a little effort, but what things in life worth having don’t? You’ve signed up for a lifelong pursuit of your spouse and to fall in love with them over and over again. Having fun together helps naturally draw you closer and rekindle the flame.

1. Add elements of surprise!

  • Text your spouse something spicy during the workday. Make it out of the blue and with no business attached, (aka, no talk about what’s for dinner or what needs to get done) just some good flirtatious banter.
  • Surprise your spouse by wearing their favorite outfit or favorite outfit under your outfit (if you catch my drift) and suggest an impromptu date night.
  • Send them something at work—could be something as small as a coffee or as grandiose as an edible arrangement.
  • Pick something up for them while you’re out running errands just because.

2. Play together!

  • Play is essential to having fun in marriage. There are not only relationship benefits to playing together but health benefits! The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes (and has the research to back it up) that play can dramatically transform our personal health and our relationships. It can be board games, video games, a puzzle, a Minute To Win It challenge, Dominos, cards, tag around the house, strip poker, or whatever your favorite way to spark some healthy competition is.

Play generates optimism, novelty makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. Additionally, it gives your immune system a bounce, fosters empathy, and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these by-products is an index of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.

3. Don’t shy away from passion!

  • Light the candles, turn on some music, turn down the bed or change up the location, and enjoy the intimacy. Take time to be curious about your spouse, compliment them, cuddle up close, and turn off the phones. Alone time can be so beneficial and adventurous. It can reignite the passion and give you lovely serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin boosts (aka, the happy chemicals in your brain).

BONUS: Free date nights!

  • Surely you’ve heard it before, so you’ll hear it again: Date your spouse. The romance doesn’t need to go down as the anniversaries go up. Try new places, carve out quality time, cultivate intimacy, and enjoy being one on one. There are tons of date night ideas, free virtual date nights, and date night DIYs right here on our site free to you!

It’s easy to have fun in your marriage when you realize having fun means creating fun! Enjoy laughing together, kissing one another, and everything in between. 

Some more blogs you may be interested in:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

You’re getting ready to marry the love of your life, and you’ve been reading card after card wishing you a marriage full of love and adventure. With that comes the hope of fulfillment in each other and the desire to have fun, because who wants a boring marriage?! No one…

Here are 3 easy things you can put into place NOW to keep the fun in your marriage relationship forever:

1. Add elements of surprise when you’re married!

  • Text your spouse something spicy during the workday. Make it out of the blue and with no business attached, (aka no talk about what’s for dinner or what needs to get done) just some good flirtatious banter.
  • Surprise your spouse by wearing their favorite outfit and suggest an impromptu date night.
  • Send them something at work—could be something as small as a coffee or and grandiose as an edible arrangement.
  • Pick something up for them while you’re out running errands, just because.

2. Play together!

  • Play is essential to having fun in marriage. There are not only relationship benefits to playing together, but health benefits, too! The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes (and has research to back it up) that play can dramatically transform our personal health and our relationships. It can be board games, video games, a puzzle, Minute To Win It challenges, Dominos, cards, or whatever your favorite way to spark some healthy competition is.

Play generates optimism, novelty, makes perseverance fun, and leads to growth. Bonus feature: it gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy, and promotes a sense of belonging and community. 

3. Don’t shy away from romance!

  • Light the candles, turn on some music, and enjoy cultivating intimacy. You have lots to look forward to as you step into married life together. Take the time to be curious about your spouse, compliment them, cuddle up close, and tune in to each other. Alone time can be so beneficial and continually draw you closer to each other. 

BONUS: Free date nights for a more fun marriage!

  • Surely you’ve heard it before, so you’ll hear it again: Date your spouse. The romance doesn’t need to go down as the anniversaries go up. Try new places, carve out quality time, cultivate intimacy, and enjoy being one on one. There are tons of date night ideas, free virtual date nights, and date night DIYs right here on our site—free to you!

It’s easy to have fun in your marriage when you embrace that to have fun means to create fun! Enjoy laughing together, kissing one another, and everything in between. ; )

Some more blogs you may be interested in:

When it comes to family, every member of your tribe brings something unique to the team. Teaching them early and often how important it is to build teamwork will not only benefit your family; it’ll teach your child the value of working with others to accomplish a goal. 

Talk with any human resource officer and they’ll tell you—being able to effectively function as a team member is a valued skill. They look for it when hiring new team members, along with other essential skills like communication, conflict management and problem-solving.

There are lots of fun ways you can build teamwork into your family’s daily living.

Here are a few examples:

  • Share chores. Since you aren’t running a hotel, it takes everybody contributing something to keep everything going. From feeding the dog, picking up clothes and making beds to clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming, packing lunches and folding laundry, even the youngest family member plays an important role. Talk about the difference it makes when everybody works together to get it all done.
  • Cook together. Deciding on a menu, buying all the ingredients, prepping ahead of time and preparing the meal allows for lots of teamwork. Then sit down and eat the meal together to celebrate what you accomplished!
  • Play games as a family that require teamwork. Whether it’s going to an escape room and figuring it out together, playing Minute to Win it or Jenga together, or creating an obstacle course in your yard, these games teach the concept of working together to accomplish a goal and it’s fun in the process.
  • Volunteer. Giving back to others as a family teaches your child many lessons, not the least of which is the value of serving and exposing them to worlds they may not realize exist. Helping to build a hiking trail at a park, pick up trash along the river or in your neighborhood, serve food at a community kitchen, or mow and rake an elderly neighbor’s yard instills self-confidence in your child. It also encourages problem solving, teaches them their presence and voice matters and lets them experience the impact you can have working together as a team.
  • Plan a trip or a staycation. As you prepare for your next trip or even a staycation, add some fun to the mix! Instead of planning it all yourself, divide up the responsibilities such as: when and where will you stop to eat, what sights should you plan to see along the way, what’s the best route to take and how much gas will it take to get there, among family members. Oh, and be sure you have someone in charge of fun—as in elements of surprise that only you and the “fun person” know about! Give the ones working on food a budget to work with. And, share any cool sights that you know of as a jumping off point for the sightseeing planners.

It’s worth it!

Getting the whole crew involved might be a bit more time consuming, but the teamwork opportunities and lessons are endless. Not to mention you’re making family memories, especially when unexpected things happen like a flat tire, a detour or foul weather, requiring the team to make a quick pivot. 

While you’re trying to build teamwork, your kids might not be super appreciative. However, over time it’s pretty likely the benefits of working together will pay off. Things like: realizing that as a family, we can do tough things together and get to the other side. Having different personalities, likes and dislikes actually makes us strong together. We’re depending on each other to help carry the load. We can disagree or not do something right and still love each other. There’s more than one way to get a job done. 

Here’s what’s really awesome: your goal is to get your family to work together as a team. In the process of doing that, you’re teaching your children a life skill that will work for them forever. That’s a good and powerful thing.  

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

Do you feel overwhelmed in your life?

Can you remember the last time that you had a huge, belly laugh?

When was the last time you stopped and had some fun?

You may have heard the saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I submit that desperate times call for FUN MEASURES. When our life gets hectic and busy we often forgo fun and play. The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, and the education we provide our children. 

Additionally, the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness. The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

Here are 5 ways to have more fun in your life…

  1. Make it a priority. When something is a priority, we make room for it in our lives. We place it on the calendar. If it has to be rescheduled, we quickly do so. Fun should be one of those things. It brings emotional, physical, and relational benefits to your life which include boosting the immune system, fostering empathy and promoting a sense of belonging and community. 
  2. Discover what you enjoy doing, even if others don’t feel the same way about it. That’s ok! This time is about enhancing your life, not a time to keep up with Joneses. If you like trivia, find a live trivia game. If you like puzzles, get the biggest one and go for it.
  3. Be creative and adventurous. Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Try something that you have always wanted to do like going paddleboarding or kayaking with a group of friends. Start an herb garden for your window. 
  4. Share fun with friends and family. Once you have found what you enjoy doing, then it’s easy to find what you can enjoy with friends and family. It could be taking a family hike in a park, having breakfast for dinner with friends or making cookies for first responders. Whatever it is, do what you find fun—and it may even bring joy to others.
  5. Become a Fun Ambassador. Now that you and your family have recognized the power of fun, pass it on to others. Sharing the positive impact of spending time with friends and family encourages others to do the same—it’s CONTAGIOUS

★ Having fun is not a one-time endeavor. It is an attitude and opportunity for enjoyment to flow through all aspects of your life. Get out your planner now. Schedule some playtime for the next week—a minimum of 15 minutes per day.

Image from Pexels.com

Chattanooga is home to a ton of fun events, activities, and experiences for kids of all ages!! Explore the rich history of the city, enjoy all the animals (from penguins to the average house cat), get your creative juices flowing, and more with these unique, Chattanooga local mother-daughter date ideas!

BONUS: Want to download this list of Chattanooga mother-daughter dates? Click HERE!

Local Chattanooga:

  • Polly Claire’s Tea Room This quaint, historic tea room is the perfect place for your next mother-daughter experience! Enjoy a cup of tea and your daughters company for an experience she won’t forget.
  • Pottery Painting (The Pottery Place or River City Pottery) Grab a brush, some paint, a pice of pottery, and create a masterpiece! Your daughter will love this creative experience.
  • ArtsyU Painting Studio Similar to painting pottery, why not take a painting class together? You and your daughter can create a beautiful piece of art while being instructed by a professional.
  • Chattanooga Zoo Experience wild peacocks, exotic animals, fun events, more at the Chattanooga Zoo! You can even book a wild encounter to get a behind-the-scenes look at the animals, how to care for them, and why they’re at the zoo!
  • TN Aquarium Who doesn’t love river otters, penguins, butterflies, lemurs, stingrays… the list just keeps going! Be sure to reserve a full day to get the most of all the aquarium has to offer.
  • High Point Climbing Center Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb the wall with her if you don’t want to! She’ll have a great time feeling strong and capable while getting some of that energy out!
  • Naughty Cat Cafe Any cat lovers in the room? Take a trip to Chattanooga’s first and only Cat Cafe! Enjoy a complimentary drink and snack while cuddling with kitties!
  • Chattanooga Lookouts You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a night with The Lookouts! Their season typically ranges from April to September.

Under $20 or Free:

  • Coolidge Park The next sunny day, be sure to stop by Coolidge Park for a great time with your daughter! From riding the carousel (only $1!) to having a picnic by the water.
  • Creative Discovery Museum (Second Thursday of Every Month) Family Night at The Creative Discovery Museum is fun for kids of all ages! Plus, it’s free!
  • International Towing & Recovery Museum Okay, this one might not sound as exciting, but it’s still a ton of fun! Explore a piece of Chattanooga history with your daughter while learning something new!
  • Chattanooga Market You don’t even have to buy anything (although popcorn is a plus!) to enjoy The Chattanooga Market. Typical season is from April through December.
  • Visit an animal shelter (McKamey or Humane Society) If you can have enough will-power to keep from adopting all the adorable dogs and cats, the animal shelter is a fun place for both you and your daughter!

Near Chattanooga:

  • Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater Although this movie theater only runs during the warm months of the year, she’ll never forget the experience she had! Plus, it’s only 20 minutes from downtown! Bring cash though, they don’t accept cards!
  • Lake Winepesaukah Also best during the summer months, this local amusement point is a great choice for a full day of fun! From roller coasters to water slides, Lake Winnie is one of Chattanooga’s best attractions!
  • See Rock City If you’ve ever driven on I-24, you’ve seen the signs, the barns, and the billboards. But have you seen Rock City? Your daughter will love a full day exploring the beauty of Lookout Mountain and beyond!
  • Raccoon Mountain Caverns Take an adventure like never before and explore the caverns of Raccoon Mountain together! This guided tour will teach your daughter all about caves, the creatures that live in them, and how she can help protect their beauty!
  • White Water Rafting on The Ocoee River This activity is not for the faint of heart! If your daughter loves daring adventures, she’ll love the experience of racing through the rapids!
  • Hidden Hills Farm & Saddle Club Take a trail ride on a horse together or enjoy one of the many events on the farm at one of Chattanooga’s hidden gems! Be sure to schedule your ride in advance (and wear your best cowgirl outfit!)

Outdoor Adventures:

  • Chester Frost Park Want a trip to the beach but don’t have time to hop over to Florida? This man-made beach on Dallas Bay has great playgrounds, picnic areas, and so much more!
  • Enterprise South Nature Park Not your average park! Follow these walking trails for an up-close look at part of Chattanooga history: the location of ammunition bunkers for World War II. Although they’re empty now, it’s still a neat sight to see!
  • Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center Book a guided canoe trip, do some birdwatching, or enjoy a peaceful walk on one of their many trails! You’ll both feel reenergized and reconnected with nature by the end of your trip!
  • TN Riverpark From the Chickamauga Dam, through Downtown, and on to Historic Saint Elmo, this 10-mile paved trail has plenty of opportunity for a bike ride, a picnic, or a fun time by the Tennessee River!
  • Sculpture Fields at Montague Park One of Chattanooga’s most recent additions, Sculpture Fields features 33 acres full of sculptures from around the world!
  • Warner Park Pool and Spray and Play For $2-$3 (depending on age), you and your daughter can enjoy a full day by the poolside! This public pool is close to downtown and open to the public for some summer fun!
  • Chickamauga Dam Recreation Area Featuring one of Chattanooga’s best playgrounds, this beautiful recreation area has enough for a full day of fun! Enjoy a splash in the water, grill some lunch, and explore the walking trails!

Want more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

With all of the expectations around the holidays, things can get kind of crazy. The very time that’s supposed to bring families closer together is often filled with extra stress, fighting kids, awkward extended family dynamics, and sometimes marital tension.

Sometimes the craziness gets the best of us and family members start to feel disconnected. This leads to all kinds of holiday drama—the very thing we all want to avoid.

Want to help make sure the holidays are a time where family members feel connected and close? Here are some things you can do at home, in the car, during meals, and out in the community that not only will create conversation, but also laughter, insight, memories, and you guessed it, CONNECTION!

IF YOU’RE TRAVELING…

Instead of automatically plugging into technology, what about giving your kids a limited amount of time with tech stuff? Don’t be intimidated by the pushback and don’t expect them to thank you any time soon. Get creative and offer some motivation for participation. For example, for every 30 minutes you play the game you get X number of minutes with your screen. During the downtimes, interact with each other by playing some of these games:

  • Categories:  Pick a category (Disney movies, popular songs, flavors of soda) and take turns naming something in that category until someone is stumped. (This person loses and the winner picks the next category.)
  • Going on a Picnic: This is a memory game for all ages! The first person starts a story with, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…” and then lists an item. The next person says, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…” and then lists the first person’s item PLUS a new item. As the story grows and grows, each person repeats the list and adds a new item. The first person to incorrectly list all the items is out! You can keep playing until only one person remains.
  • License Plate Game: Interpret the letters in each license plate you pass. For instance, TMK could stand for “Toasty Miniature Kangaroo.”
  • People-watching: Watch a vehicle traveling on the road near you for a few minutes. Make up a story about the people in the car. Answer questions like: What are their names? Where did they come from? Where are they going? Why are they going there? What are they going to do when they get there? The sillier and more detailed the story is, the better!

IF YOU’RE STAYING AT HOME AS A FAMILY

  • Plan a walk and play “I Spy.” When you exercise together, your brain releases endorphins that create “feel-good memories” you can all enjoy for years to come. Walk around the yard, neighborhood, park, or find a local hiking trail, but encourage the whole family to come! To keep the kids engaged for the walk (and to keep things playful for the adults), play as many rounds of “I Spy” as you can. Then keep track of who wins the most “I Spy” rounds and award them with a special treat when you get home, like hot chocolate, a cookie, or maybe watching the movie or show of their choice.
  • Make something special. Baking goodies for the ones you love is fun, but baking goodies for someone in need, or someone who doesn’t expect it is even more fun. It also teaches the littlest ones in the family that holidays aren’t just about receiving, but giving! Choose one or two people, families, or organizations you’d like to delight this holiday season. Then, gather together in to bake something yummy together and share. Consider giving to an elderly neighbor, a family friend, the staff of a local nonprofit your family supports, etc.

IF YOU’RE SHARING A MEAL WITH OTHERS…

To avoid awkward silence at the dinner table with relatives or friends you may not see very often, try a few of these conversation starters:

  • What is one way you have helped another person this year?
  • Who is someone in your life you’re thankful for and why?
  • If you could have dinner with anyone (past or present), who would it be and why?
  • If you could have a superpower what would it be and how would you use it?
  • What is the most beautiful place you have ever seen?
  • What is the hardest thing about being your current age?

It’s possible to be in a room or a car full of people who are not interacting fully with each other, especially when routines get thrown to the side and people are tired and cranky. When people feel disconnected and schedules are upside down, chaos reigns. Instead of chaos, plan for what you know is coming, whether it is boredom, difficult conversations or unwanted silence. During the busiest season of the year, these tips may help lessen the drama and help you make memories with family and friends.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 30, 2019.

Image from Unsplash.com

Celebrating Earth Day usually never crossed my mind because – I’m just going to say it – I kill plants.

Unintentionally, of course. But I’ll admit: my dad’s green thumb had not NOT passed down to me. So it’s no surprise that about 4 years ago, there was a pot full of soil sitting out on my back deck, the sad remnants of where a beautiful plant used to… ahem… barely survive. I had neglected it terribly and the empty pot was a constant reminder of how I was unable to provide the appropriate care and attention required for horticulture.

Then one fine day, I saw a tiny green bud poking out of the barren soil. The next day, I saw another bud and a stem sprouting up. By day three, there were three little green plants growing in the pot. A couple of helicopter seedlings from our large Maple tree had found their way to their new home. There was soil and some rainy days that allowed these little seeds to sprout!

I was pregnant with my first child at the time and saw this as a miraculous sign of the life also growing within me.

I was convinced that this was our “Family Tree” and when the little plant continued to thrive… my belief was confirmed. So, once our little girl was born and the baby tree was large enough to survive in the ground – we planted it, as a brand new family, on Earth Day.

Having a family tree planted in our backyard has provided the opportunity to talk with our daughter about our environment and how to take care of it. It melts my heart to see her innocent tenderness toward our family tree as they grow together! This Earth Day, why not teach your children how they can enjoy and nurture mother nature?

Here are 5 fun ways to celebrate Earth Day with your family!

1. Plant (and/or tend to) a garden:

Get your garden gloves on and your watering can out! Planting a garden can be a neat experience for any age. Younger kids can help water the garden or create colorful plant markers using craft supplies. Older kids can help plant seeds and pull weeds. When the fruits and veggies are ripe, everyone can pick them together! Working together to establish a garden can open up a bigger conversation about responsibility (for specific gardening tasks and for the environment as a whole).

2. Take a hike (or just a walk):

It seems like a no-brainer, but being out in nature is a sure-fire way to appreciate the beauty of our planet! Whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, a local park or a more scenic mountain trek, your family can enjoy the scenery, as well as each others’ company!

3. Make the switch to reusable water bottles:

If you haven’t already ditched the plastic, now’s the time to grab a glass or BPA-free plastic water bottle to refill and reuse daily! A simple change like this can have a huge impact, not only on the environment but also your wallet: On average, Americans spend about $5 a week on bottled water which means you could save $260 per person, per year, by switching to a reusable water bottle. (For a family of four, that’s $1,040 in savings!)

4. Eat plant-based meals for the day:

Eating your fruits and veggies is not just good for your health; it’s good for Earth’s health, too. Even if it’s only for one day of the week (hello #meatlessmonday), skipping the meat and animal byproducts can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, conserve water. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to product a single pound of meat! This frees up our land and resources. 30% of Earth’s land mass is used to raise animals to eat. Despite the fear of the unknown, cooking a meal without meat or dairy is extremely easy! There are so many recipes out there that even the pickiest of eaters will still enjoy, we promise!

5. Make some resolutions:

Just like New Year’s Eve, this holiday is the perfect time to set some goals for the rest of the year. Write a list of practical ways your family can conserve, recycle and reuse every day! Post your list somewhere prominent (like your refrigerator) as a reminder to keep the momentum going! Every change, whether big or small, will make an impact.

Spending some extra special time with your family, no matter what you’re celebrating, doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive or extravagant. The memories you make are priceless and will last a lifetime! Happy Earth Day!

Looking for more family resources? Click here!

“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing…”

Sound familiar? Ever wonder what they’re really thinking about? Well, today, we’re going to find out. Usually, that “nothing,” actually means “nothing important,” and that can actually be a really fun place in their mind for you to see! It’s all about meaningless conversations!

Ask any couple, anywhere, at any time, what the key to a good marriage is, and there’s a near 100% guarantee they will mention communication in some way, shape, or form. Are they wrong? Not at all! Communication really is key to working your way through a whole lot of issues! But when communication is always focused on bettering the relationship, you’re missing out on a lot of fun, too.

Now, let me clarify this before we get too far into it. I am in NO way saying that the meaningful convos aren’t helpful. They are completely necessary to a fully-functioning, healthy relationship.

But hear me out on this: How many times have you looked at your partner and asked yourself, “We’ve been together for (fill in the blank) years now, so why don’t I feel like I know you as well as I used to?” Or maybe you have done an awesome job of having intentional, deep and meaningful conversations with your love, but something feels like it’s missing.

Well, good news for you. You might have stumbled upon the answer!! It just might be meaningLESS conversations: conversations that have nothing to do with the two of you (or anything else for that matter). They’re moments full of silliness, laughter, and fun where you and your partner truly connect. You get to learn more about your partner, you get to be goofy together, you find out things you’d never know otherwise, AND, most importantly, you both get a break from all the to-dos, the heavy topics, and the day-to-day crazies. You get a chance to fully enjoy your partner’s personality and company.

Still don’t get what I’m talking about? Here are a few questions you can ask your partner to get started. If you’re not used to asking questions like this, it might seem dumb at first. But I promise. It’s worth it.

  • If you were given $100,000 (totally tax-free and no strings attached) and had to spend it ALL this week (no investments or saving funds!) what would you buy?
  • If you could be any historical figure from the 15th century, who would you be and why?
  • What is your favorite scent? Does it have any memories attached to it? Would it make a good candle or not?
  • If you could instantly make one invention completely disappear from this world, what would it be and why?
  • If you could tell one thing to your great, great, great-grandson/daughter when they turn 16, what would it be?
  • Would you rather always have perfect hair or never run out of toilet paper?
  • What’s one thing your parents said to you that you will never forget?

Even though these types of questions have nothing to do with your relationship directly, you just might be surprised at how much a meaningless conversation here and there can do for the love you have for your honey.

Take some time today to let go of the heaviness of all the meaningful & important conversations. Instead, just sit and enjoy what your spouse has to say about the “nothings” of life!

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

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Your bride gives you the news: This Friday night I’m having a girls night out, so you’re on dad duty. Good luck! Great. Now what?!?

First of all, CHILL! This is your chance to be the hero, to show the full potential of your dad skills, and to give both your kids and your partner a memorable night.

Here are three dad-hacks for when Mom’s at girls night out and Dad’s in charge:

1. Make memories!

Dads have a special way of giving their children memories that will stay with them well into adulthood. I still remember the fun I had playing laser tag in the house with my dad one evening with all the lights off – something I’m sure Mom wouldn’t be caught dead in the middle of.

Give your kids an experience that’s not part of their typical routine.

  • Have a Nerf gun war.
  • Heat up some pizza rolls, turn the lights out and watch a (kid-appropriate) scary movie (the Goosebumps movies are a favorite in my house).
  • Go for a night walk around the neighborhood. Or better yet, if there are woods nearby, take a night hike.
  • Roast hot dogs or marshmallows in the backyard. (Marshmallows over the stove are good if there’s no backyard.)
  • Have a talent show.
  • Let your kiddos dress you up and have a fashion show.
  • Set up a WWE wrestling ring in the living room with couch pillows and… well, you know the rest.

This is your chance to be the dad-hero to your kids for turning what could be a boring night (without Mom) into an amazing memory!

2. …But, don’t step outside what you and your partner value as parents.

What I mean here is, don’t violate the boundaries of what you’ve established together as important to your family just because Mom is gone. If weekend bedtimes are important because there’s an early morning soccer game, be sure to wrap up the fashion show or wrestling match on time. If you don’t normally allow scary movies in the house, opt for a Disney movie – or even better, one that you grew up with – which the kids haven’t seen (think Old Yeller, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Hook, etc.,).

The idea is to avoid compromising what you’ve both decided is important to your family just because Mom is not there to say no. It may make Dad look like the hero, but if it makes Mom out to be the bad guy (now or later), it’s not worth the risk. Trust me on this one.

3. Celebrate Mom coming home.

Making memories with Dad while Mom is away can have the potential to dishonor Mom.

Think about it: Mom finally gets a night out with the girls to unwind, comes home and finds half-eaten pizza rolls on the coffee table, couch cushions scattered on the floor and Nerf darts in every corner and cranny of the room – not to mention it’s midnight and the kids are still up watching Interview With a Vampire while Dad is asleep on the couch. So much for unwinding.

Instead, teach your children how to honor Mom while she’s away. Try to clean the house better than before she left. Print out pictures of your fashion show (yes, even the one of you with your new hair-do) and have the kids put them in cards they make for Mom telling her how special she is. Have the kids pick some flowers on your night hike to give to Mom when she comes come. Just one simple gesture like that can let Mom know you missed her while she was out.

If Mom comes home early before your festivities are over, prep the kids to greet her with hugs and kisses at the door. And if she’s up to it, bring her into the mix – invite her to watch the rest of the movie on the couch, fix her a s’more, or have her be the guest of honor at a special encore presentation of the talent show.

And then let her relax and go to bed while you and the kids clean up!

Allowing your partner to relax and unwind at home after she’s gone out with friends makes you a hero to the kids, AND to her, too!

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Oh, Valentine’s Day – the one day a year it’s okay to wear pink and red together, tell total strangers you love them, and spend way too much money on chocolate.

And don’t forget about celebrating your overwhelming, joyous love for your partner! Right?

For so many couples, Valentine’s Day is more of a routine than a holiday. Get the flowers? Check. Go out for dinner? Check. Eat (all) the chocolate? Check. Then… go back to the norm the next day. But why has the “day of love” turned into one day of over-the-top, mushy-gushy effort to prove our love to our partner?

It doesn’t have to be that way. You may have heard that couples should “treat every day like it’s Valentine’s Day,” and this is not a bad idea! Now, it doesn’t have to mean that you get flowers for your spouse every day or have a fancy meal each night. It does mean that you and your partner choose to express and celebrate your love for each other every day of the year.

It will look a little different for each couple. But here are a few great ways you and your spouse can celebrate Valentine’s Day every day!

  • COMMIT TO SERVE. The humility it takes to serve one another is a great foundation in any relationship. Commit to serving your partner in their needs and wants. Maybe they need some alone time, or they want to try out a new restaurant. Be aware of ways that you can give to your partner and go for it!
  • ALWAYS FORGIVE. This is easier said than done, of course! But try letting go of previous pains or arguments and focusing on the conflict as the problem. It’s a great way to start the process of forgiveness!
  • CELEBRATE THE GOOD. Every couple is guilty of forgetting to do this. Even something as simple as writing a thank-you note to your partner is a great way to bond!
  • BE GENEROUS. This is not financial generosity, but generosity with who you are, the energy you have, and what you give to your love. A balanced relationship is not where each is giving 50%, but where both are giving 100%.
  • ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. This may not happen as frequently as most couples wish, but a “thank you,” “I’m proud of you,” or “You were great when…” can totally transform a relationship.

Don’t let Valentine’s Day be the one day a year you think through how you can love your spouse the best. Choose to do at least one thing every day to put a smile on your partner’s face, and see just how far it will take you!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***