Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Date Night In (no tomatoes, please!)

Every night, after the last big boy is tucked away in bed, my husband and I, we stay up way too long, playing board games (top two: Scrabble and Dominion!), watching shows or a movie, talking, reading... but once a month, I really like to make it more special.

And having no options for a Date Night Out in our sweet, tiny (pop. 177) town, our Date Nights In have become precious to us.

It all starts the day before...

When I write our menus for the month, I always include a special dinner for Date Night In. And so the day before, I'm making one last check to be sure I have all the ingredients together and ready. Sometimes I choose a new recipe, but not one that has ANYthing at all that my husband won't like- tomatoes? Nope. (I know! So sad.) A meal is chosen for it's ease as well as it's deliciousness- January was grilled hot pepper and sharp cheddar sandwiches on sourdough, quinoa salad, and canned peaches. This month, I needed to keep the cost down and wanted to try to use what I have, so I searched the cupboards to pull together the meal. I totally scored- I had all the ingredients for Cheddar Potatoes and Sausage. My husband's childhood favorite! Okay, they're called Potato Boats. But somehow, when I was printing up my menu with pretty pink ink and a new font, Potato Boats under *Date Night In* didn't look as romantic and attractive as Cheddar Potatoes and Sausage. (Recipe: Hot dogs, cut in half the long way and laid flat on your plate, a huge scoop of mashed potatoes, and shredded cheese on top. I know. I know.)

But it's my best friend I'm preparing this night for, and he loves them, and they're so easy to make! All of those reasons are a necessary part of choosing the meal for Date Night In.

So, ingredients are together for our meal, and then I plan for the children's meal. We learned long ago that rushing the kids through a simple dinner and hurrying them off to bed did not make for an uninterrupted Date Night. Their love cups are running empty, they sense the rushing has something to do with us not wanting them around, and they do not sleep well. So, not only is Date Night In interrupted with tears and rubbing of the eyes and sad, legs-wrapped-around-our-waist hugs, but we've only achieved a little bit of time alone at the expense of our children's security.

It didn't take me long to come up with a plan of attack: keep a slow, normal pace to the day, prepare a warm meal with love and care from our regular menu (or buy take and bake pizza from the town ten mountain highway miles north of us), play a family game, and keep the bedtime routine the same; tidy rooms, brush teeth, read a story, sing and pray, taking our sweet time doing so. This almost assuredly results in smiling, tousle-haired little ones falling asleep quickly and staying there.

All of this preparation is so worth it to me- in loving my children through extra kindnesses, even when I am working towards preparing another meal and hoping to enjoy enough quality time with my husband while I'm still wide-awake, I am blessing him as well. His heart is open to me. He sees my patience and diligence in preparing a special night for his children as well as him, and he assures me there's almost nothing more attractive to him than watching me mother our children well. (Whew- that could burden me or encourage me- I'll let it encourage!)

Throughout the day I've prepared what I can (the quinoa salad is better when it sits anyway), and the rest of the meal is so simple it comes together quickly. (Believe me- simple is key! You can make it yummy and fancy- but it must not take hours and it must not stress you out! That's not a fun date for anyone. Just prepare in advance.) Now- hurry and change out of my sweats and dab on some lip gloss at least! This, too, goes a long way in making my husband feel loved- remember that girl? How I never wanted him to see me without my makeup and I always adjusted my clothes so they lay just right before I knocked on his door? I find her. At least a little piece of her.

A lit candle or two, a bottle of sparkling cider or wine, our chairs pulled as close together as possible while still being able to gaze into one another's eyes... *sigh*. My favorite part.

(It's a terrible picture, but I didn't want to waste any precious time clicking away when there was such a handsome man to talk to and such yummy food to eat!)

Dinner sets the mood, and the rest of the evening just flows right after it. Conditions are perfect. Perfect.

We've been married for almost fifteen years, and I'm still learning how to love my man. How to really love him. How to think of his interests before my own, even if it means making two meals in an evening and giving up tomatoes for one night. ~grin~ How to show him that I'm not only content with where we live and how we're limited, but how I can make it beautiful and exciting and romantic... just like the girl he met long ago. The Lord has been working so gently with me in this area for years now, and I just wanted to share one of the ways we've discovered to keep our relationship and romance strong, using what we have and being all the more blessed by it. I hope it blesses you, too, kind friends!

13 fellow travelers shared:

Linda said...

Can I just say you have one of the dearest hearts I know? You absolutely do.

Kristin said...

Love how we both posted about date nights today! And love your ideas, too. It is so much fun to share a meal-for-two every once in a while, isn't it, even if it is simple and easy?

Clare said...

Such a lovely ritual Elise :) Thank you for sharing it. You have not only inspired me to make our evenings together special in their simplicity, but you have also spoken to my heart about caring for my children just that little bit extra (master 4 is having the anticipated testosterone surge and is having terrible trouble sleeping, like he has with all growth spurts, but worse (!!) and your words have really minstered to my tired heart tonight to just keep loving and trying and God is right there with me)
Sorry for the extra long comment!! but God so often uses your words to reach my heart. Bless you :)

Joy @gracefullmama said...

Of course for conditions to be truly perfect it HAS to be a Wednesday night. :) I love that you linked to Business Time. Yeah. You just made my day. I mean, I knew I liked you and that we were kindred, but well, you just sealed the deal my friend. :)
We do date night this way too.....on Monday tho, so conditions are completely perfect. :)

Anna said...

Hi Elise!

Thank you for sharing your in-home date night - it looks so special.

Dan and I have the same kind of "date" every couple of months and run into the same issue you do with your children. I've never connected the unsettled children with my "hurriedness" before. Thank you for the insight!

I think I may try for once a month, too. My friends feel sorry for me because Dan RARELY takes me out on "real" dates, but they don't know how much more special these nights can be.

The planning part is so much fun, too, as we think about how special we can make our husbands feel with personalized food/drinks/music, etc. :)


emily said...

i absolutely love this ... love it. i love your precious heart to serve and bless your man; i love the way that you have embraced your circumstances and determined to thrive within them; i love all of it!
thanks for sharing ..

Clare said...

Tee hee, I just noticed the 'Business Time' link :) I'm from NZ, it's like a national requirement to like flight of the conchords :)

Anonymous said...

Elise, I love all your insights :-) Mary Brooke

Hoopster said...

I am so thankful for you! Not only do you make your love known to me by making our "dates" special, but you do the same with our little ones in the preparation. Love you!

Anonymous said...

Your husband must feel so blessed to be married to a woman with such a lovely heart.

Sarah said...

love this idea Elise!

pattie said...

That is such great insight about not making your kids feel rushed--I think it's great wisdom for any time you might be preparing to be away from the kids. No good can come from them feeling hurried and not wanted!
My husband and I are so blessed to have date night every other Friday--thanks to dear sis-in-law!--but I've never before thought about an in-home date...you've got my wheels turning! Thanks so much for sharing.

Dayle said...

I have an empty nest now but so recall the busy years of trying to fit it all in. I think you've discovered a great secret and that is there is no need to rush through the days and nights of parenting, not even for date night. Believe me when I say the years will pass all too quickly. You blink a few times and the house is quiet. And empty.

Wonderful post.

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