Valentine's Day is around the corner, and although I'm not huge into Valentine's Day, I know a lot of people are! Also, our anniversary is at the end of the month. And while we typically try and do a weekend getaway for our anniversary, sometimes we like to do a date night that's a little different, too. And because we like to get out of town, we don't want to spend tons of cash on a fancy dinner.
So I've rounded up a couple of ideas for dates you can enjoy that won't break the bank! We have done most of these at one time or another. Some are really simple, others require a little more research, but they're all fun and can all be done for way under $100!
A couple of years ago, on Valentine's Day, we decided we didn't want to go to crowded restaurants anymore. So we decided to go to an area of Miami where you could park your car right up in front of the water, and we had ourselves a picnic. We picked up stone crabs (one of our faves), brought some wine, and some prepared sides from the grocery store deli. I brought a couple of candles and we had a moonlit & candlelit picnic on the water, looking at Miami's skyline. It's probably one of my favorite Valentine's Day memories.
A Drive-In Movie
There isn't a drive in theater in every city, but if you have one near you and you've never been to one, it's pretty fun! It transports you to another time, and you can bring your own snacks and food.
A Dance Class
I know, there are some places where dance classes can cost an arm and a leg. I'm not talking about that. In Miami at least, there are half a dozen salsa studios where you can go and take basic salsa lessons for $15. It's a big group setting, and after they teach you the basics for that course, they do open floor dancing. I took these classes in middle school and I loved them.
Check Groupon for this! Some tastings can run a pretty penny, but in our area for example, Groupon typically has a special for a local winery where you can have wine tasting for two including two souvenir glasses, for about $35.
Find yourself an old school lounge or bar where they play live music. Grab a drink at the bar, and enjoy the sounds. I love to listen to live jazz music, and there are a couple of hotels where they have that regularly. Just do a quick search and I'm sure you'll find some in your area! (Maybe you can even put those dance lessons to good use!)
So get planning! Would love to hear some of your favorite inexpensive date night ideas!
I can hardly believe that today is your second birthday. It feels like just yesterday we found out we were expecting you, our perfect little creation. But lo and behold, two whole years have gone by since I first held you in my arms.
Watching you grow has been nothing short of miraculous. I see your personality coming through all the time, and your sense of humor is already leaps and bounds ahead of what I ever thought it would be. You have an uncanny ability to make me laugh and smile even on my worst days. You are, as you say, "fummy."
Your second year of life has brought so much adventure and energy with it. I am learning along with you, and to quote you, "my goodness!" How much I have to learn! Every day is an adventure, a learning experience, a load of fun. You have definite likes and dislikes. You love raisins, cheese, cookies, and all kinds of food, really. You don't like being dirty and you love the bath. You love Mickey and Cookie Monster and you love to explore. Just yesterday you searched all over the front yard and down the street for "Hook."
They say that the twos are terrible. We've seen a few snippets of the behavior that causes people to call them terrible, but I'm so excited to see you learn and grow even more. Two is going to be an amazing year for you and for us! I'm going to try to not let your twos be remembered as terrible. I'm going to try to remember that you are still growing and learning and that the big world is a tough place to navigate and you can get overwhelmed by it all. I may slip up, and we may have some rough moments, but I will do my very best!
We are going to fill your next year up with even more adventures and fun. You're going to keep growing, and learning so much. After all, this will be the year you start school! We are so excited to embark on the next year with you. While I know that memories fade, I will try to document as much as I can for you, while still being present and enjoying the moments we experience together. I always want to remember your smirk, and your funny grin, and the way you say, "Bye! Soon! Love You!" I want to remember how you push my face and Dad's together so you can see us kiss each other. I want to remember how you hook your arms around my neck and nuzzle into my hair. I want to remember how you look when you are napping with your Daddy. I want to remember how you call out "MOM!" every so often, just to make sure I'm still around.
Every day my love for you grows. Some days it's all I can do to keep from smothering you with hugs and kisses. Yes, your mom - the non-snuggler - has a hard time not snuggling with you. I also have a hard time disciplining you, but I know it's necessary. But I certainly do not have a hard time loving you.
But I can hardly believe how quickly the time is going. The saying is true, "time stops for no one." So I am going to make the days count. I'm going to make the hours and the minutes count. And I'm sure next year, I will come to this day and ask myself the same question I have asked myself for the last 2 years, "Where did the year go?"
And I know that one year from now, I will be even more amazed by you, and even more in love with you than I am today. Because you, little guy, are pretty amazing.
Cheers to two, and everything that comes with it.
I love you.
This is the busiest time of the year, right? So I'm crazy for telling you to stop, breathe, and enjoy the moment. But I'm not. As a matter of fact, even though I have things to do, I felt compelled to sit down and tap this out for you. Because if I don't tell you, will anyone?
Last week, I was like you... make lists and checking them twice. Finishing Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, editing photo sessions, preparing for a vacation with two legs on opposite sides of the country. Forgetting. Forgetting what Christmas is all about. I was being swallowed up by Christmas. I was bickering and I was not spending enough time with my son and my husband.
And then God, in his infinite wisdom, sent me a sign that said, "SLOW DOWN." What might that sign be, you ask? Caleb and I both got sick. The most convenient way of slowing down? Definitely not. But it gave me a chance to pause. It gave me a chance to think about what I was giving importance to this season. And I wasn't giving importance to the right things.
But getting sick made me stop. It made me spend time with Caleb. Real, quality time that I had been neglecting. As much as it pains me to say it, I had been letting him run amok and then freaking out because I had to pick up after him a thousand times a day and correct his behavior BECAUSE I WASN'T PAYING ATTENTION TO HIM.
So I napped with him. We sat on the couch and colored together (relax, they were Ultra Washable markers). I watched Frozen with him and we made commentary on the movie together (yes, Frozen fever is currently happening in my house). I sat and ate lunch with him and talked to him through the meal.
And while he still had a few moments of toddler rambunctiousness (if that's even a word), overall, his behavior was so much better, even though he was sick. And I realized, I've been a terrible mom lately. I've been so busy and I allowed the busyness of the season to catch up with me.
Last night, after nearly coughing up my lung, I decided to take a steamy bath, and while I was sitting in there, I realized that getting sick had been my biggest blessing in disguise this Christmas season. So I prayed, and I gave thanks, and this morning I woke up with a renewed sense of thankfulness and joy. Joy to last me through Christmas and far beyond. Because really, while we pile all these unnecessary things on ourselves, we are forgetting the meaning of Christmas. And whether that meaning for you is the birth of a Savior, or the closeness of family and loved ones, I'm pretty sure it's not about being busy. And let's be real - I still have a to-do list. But I'm a lot less stressed about getting it done. Because at the end of the day, it always gets done - because you're pretty amazing.
So in the next few days, mama, take a break. Enjoy your kids. Make a mess with them. Take a bubble bath. Snuggle up on the couch with your significant other. Watch your favorite Christmas movie - together, without thinking of the 75,000 things on your to-do list. There will be time to check things off your list tomorrow. And if the gifts don't get wrapped? Tell them Santa ran out of wrapping paper. ;)
A long time ago, Eddie and I made a promise to one another. After hearing about several friends' relationships ending, we talked about what some of the things were that drove a wedge between those couples. When relationships end, it's not usually one factor - there are typically many reasons that make a relationship reach its final stages.
One thing that we kept coming back to was the fact that many of these couples didn't go to bed together every night, despite living in the same house and not being away from one another for long periods. Not that the husband was out until all hours of the night, not that the wife stayed late at the office. They just didn't go to bed together most nights. Why? One stayed up late watching TV in the living room while the husband went to bed. Another worked on his computer until 3 am while his wife slept. Still another stayed up late doing Pinterest projects while her husband stayed in bed waiting for her.
Yesterday morning, I got a text message from my dad. He explained that my mom wouldn't be home until late and if we wanted a last minute date night, that he was available to watch Caleb for us. Naturally, we jumped at the chance, because duh, free babysitting. We decided on a movie (Jason Bourne, so good!) and dinner. Since we were doing something a little more low key, I figured I would keep it casual.
Okay, I'm going to come out and say it. I'm not thin. I'm actually on the heavier side. And you know what? At this point in my life, I don't care.
I have never been extraordinarily thin. Not in my entire life. Even in elementary/middle school - I was never overweight, but I always felt like I was just a little bit bigger than the other girls. I danced ballet most of my childhood, and I always felt like I was the biggest girl in class. Call it what you will, but I have always been self-conscious. My parents are both on the thin side, not because it is naturally occurring but because they have always been extra careful with what they eat.
This past weekend, my hubby and I went out for a day date. While we were out, he said something like, "If I were single, I'd be living in a sick apartment in Brickell."
My reply, of course, was, "But aren't you glad you're not single?"
His response? Pretty much sums up marriage.
"Eighty percent of the time, being married is amazing. I love you, you know that. But ten percent of the time I don't want to talk to you, and the other ten percent of the time I want to throw you into the bay."
Well, gee, thanks, I think? I guess 80/20 is a decent ratio.
We've been married for six and a half years. Not a lifetime by any means, but long enough to see marriages shorter than ours not make it. We didn't get pregnant until four and a half years after we were married (we waited a few years before we started trying and then it took a little while for it to happen), and we survived major construction on our house while also surviving pregnancy.
There were bound to be rough moments. And there are bound to be many more rough moments. He's not perfect, and neither am I, by any means.
I read an article a while back that talked about Generation Y and how we are such a paradoxical generation. We are capable, educated, socially conscious, multi-talented multi-taskers, and we have big ideas. But when those big ideas don't work out exactly the way we have planned, we jump to the next one.
And I feel like that is what is wrong with the way many people nowadays view marriage. If we can't put a Band-Aid on it or if it doesn't make us feel good, we toss it. And on to the next. But marriage isn't easy. Nothing ever worth it is easy.
The best advice I ever heard about marriage was at a friend's wedding. The priest said, "Love is not a feeling. Love is a decision. You don't always wake up in the morning feeling good and happy and in love. The same way you sometimes don't feel like going in to work every day, but you get up, put your pants (or skirt) on, and do it. That's marriage." Make a conscious effort. If you feel happy more often than you don't, then it's worth the fight.
Because love isn't just a feeling. Love is most certainly a choice. Feelings are fickle, and so are humans. And we are humans, aren't we? So every morning, I wake up and I make the decision to love my husband, no matter how bad the day before was. And I have to say, my husband makes that choice daily, as well. Every day for us starts off as a clean slate. And when you make the choice to love, love continues to grow. It makes the percentages my husband was talking about, that 80/20, get a little closer to 100/0. It might never reach 100/0, but 80/20 isn't half bad. It's definitely better than 20/80 or even 50/50.
So what am I trying to say? The work is worth it. If you can make it through the hard times, you'll come out so much better on the other side. And look for the love in every day.
It's worth it.
P.S. I am not telling you to stick it out if you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. There are some situations that love can't fix or take care of.
In light of recent events, I've been thinking a lot, as I know we all have. I refuse to turn this into a political discussion with anyone. I feel as if that is disrespectful to those innocent men and women who lost their lives this past week. And however you may feel, whatever your opinions are, now is not the time to begin politicizing this tragedy or the reasons behind it.
The shooter was a sick man, with serious issues, and that's all we need to know. He was a monster.
As a teacher in middle school, I saw my fair share of "bad apples." Like the FBI, I always tried to give those bad apples a fair chance, and unfortunately, many times they proved that their moniker of bad apple was true. (I am not comparing any former students to this shooter... I have a point, just bear with me.) Sometimes they ended up pulling stunts that got the whole group into trouble, and that always made me so upset. Because there was always good going on around the troublemakers. But the ones misbehaving were the ones getting the most attention. After some time I decided that I was not going to give the misbehaving students the attention. I praised the ones who were doing good deeds, who were completing their work, who were being the good in the room. And the misbehaving ones, I started to ignore and would pull aside after class. They would lose privileges, no doubt, but they were no longer the center of attention in my class. Eventually, the bad behaviors would decrease because they wanted the praise the other students were getting.
Now, having a son my own, this tragedy has hit me in a way that is totally different. I keep thinking, "How am I going to bring my son up in a world like this?" And the more I think about it, the more I know what the answer is: I will bring him up the same way as I would any other time.
I will raise him to do good. Like the stories of people who ran back into Pulse to save a friend. Like the man who rode in the back of a police car to help control the bleeding of a man he did not know to keep him alive. Like the hundreds upon hundreds of people who lined up in the Florida sun to donate blood. Like those who could not donate blood but handed out water and supplies instead. Like the stewardesses on the JetBlue flight who had the passengers write notes of condolence written for the grandmother of one of the victims on her flight to Orlando. For those passengers, who each stopped to offer their condolences, or a hug, or handshake to this woman, never complaining that the deplaning process was taking too long.
I will raise him to recognize that bad people should not capture our attention. Like the news anchors refusing to say his name during a broadcast. Like my friends on social media refusing to use his name on their timelines.
I will raise him to know that love is love is love is love is love. Whether it is the way you live your life or not. Whether you agree with it or not. Whether you know someone who loves differently than you do or not. I'll say it again. LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE. That's it. And in the end, love, in all its forms and manners, will be what gives our lives meaning. Nobody's life deserves less meaning than yours because of who they love.
I will raise him to know that all humans are worthy of dignity and respect and love and life. Skin color doesn't matter. Sexual preference doesn't matter. Life choices don't matter. Your religion doesn't matter. (Side note: If your religion teaches you to hate anyone, it's probably not a good religion.) If you believe in God, then you believe that each and every single person was put on this earth by Him. The Bible tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31) It doesn't say, "Love your fellow Christian as you love yourself," or "love only those who believe in the same things as you as you love yourself." Your neighbor. That means everyone around you.
These are the things I will teach my son. This is the message I will teach him each and every day. I will not teach him to live in fear. I will not teach him to foster evil, or egg it on. I will teach him to nurture love in everyone around him, by his words and by his actions.
That in spite of all the ugly in the world, there is so much beauty. As Anne Frank wrote, "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."
Let's be the change, let's be the light.
Let's be the good.
Do you ever feel like you're living life for the next big thing? I never realized it more than when I had a child. I remember now, looking back, at always having a countdown for something: 52 days until summer vacation, 75 days until my birthday, 365 days until my wedding... You get the point. But I feel like, after having a baby, that was magnified by a thousand. I was constantly checking every app I owned, and saying, "I can't wait until he starts talking," or "It will be so nice when he can feed himself."
I don't even know how or when this realization hit me, but somewhere along the line, I felt like I was rushing things with this precious little human and that I wasn't living in the moment - I was living for the next moment. And that wasn't fair to me or to Caleb. Why should I be rushing him along?
I remember analyzing every bullet point in the "This Month Your Baby Should Be Doing..." sections of every app. Some things were silly, some were big and important. And every app had a notation that read something like: "The skills noted in this section are listed at the earliest age that they should be occurring. All children are different and most will not complete all of the items within this age range."
Being a former Type A personality (more on that some other time), I was determined that MY kid would meet all of those skills. When he crawled at 6 months, I was ecstatic! He's going to be an early walker, this is amazing, he's going to be so advanced. Caleb then proceeded to laugh at his mother's enthusiasm and say, I'm gonna take this real slow. He cruised pretty quickly, somewhere around 8 months, and then decided he was quite comfortable with hanging on to something at all times. For nearly four months, he refused to let go and take steps on his own. And you know what? That's perfectly fine, and completely NORMAL.
But I was not having it. I was freaking out. Why isn't he walking more quickly? Is he delayed? Did his development stall? Not fair. Not fair to me. Not fair to him. His pediatrician never had any concerns and assured me he was a "typically" developing child.
It must have been somewhere around this time when it hit me. He's not going to be little forever. Every single person I know who has children that are grown has told me that. "They won't be little forever." And you know what? I'm realizing it. It's not just something they say. Time really is whizzing by. That super cliche saying - "They days are long but the years are short" - never rang truer than a couple weeks ago, when I realized it had been two years since I had found out I was pregnant.
It truly jolted me. Some days I feel like nighttime will never come. Like he will never fall asleep and I will not have time for a hot shower that day. But it always comes. Night always falls and today becomes tomorrow faster than we can enjoy every second.
So I'm slowing down. I'm savoring everything. From the trips to the grocery store, to the diaper changes, even to the moments when I don't think I can take the whimpering and the tantrums anymore. Because it will be tomorrow before I know it. And I can't live today again.
I read an article recently on Stephen and Ayesha Curry (he's an NBA basketball player whose daughter gained some fame for prancing around and grabbing his attention during a press conference after a basketball game). They have matching tattoos of two arrows pointing to one another. One arrow represents the past, the other represents the future. And the space in the middle is now - it's a reminder to them to always live for the present.
Live for today mommas, enjoy the moment. Now I'm going to go snuggle on my baby boy, who won't be a baby for much longer.
Thank you for making me a mom. You are the best parts of your daddy and I, rolled up into one tiny human being. A human being who shows me that my purpose here on earth is far greater than any purpose I had ever imagined for myself. You are my living proof that God creates miracles every day, and that he allows us to have a glimpse into the love that He has for us. You are perfect. From your thick, long eyelashes, to your sensitive skin, you are the most perfect manifestation of the love your daddy and I share.
I've been reflecting on being a mother on the days leading up to Mother's Day. Being a mother is something that is truly indescribable. When I was pregnant, people used to tell me, "Get ready to know that your heart is walking around outside of your body." And that might be the best way to explain it, but it's still no explanation. No explanation is great enough or sincere enough to make anyone understand the depth of emotions that come along with being a mom.
To be a mother means to be living in a constant state of paradox.
To fear the world we live in and your place in it, but also to have more hope in the good that you can possibly achieve than I ever have hoped for anything.
To feel pride in the perfect creation that you are, while also feeling wholly unworthy of being charged with your care.
To simultaneously want to protect you from every harm that can come your way but also want you to experience life and learn your own lessons.
To desire so deeply to make sure that your every want is ever met, but to also know that telling you "no" is one of the best lessons I can teach you.
To wonder how I can ever divide the love I have for you with another child, but to know that the bond of siblings is one of the greatest gifts I will be able to gift to you.
To despair at the injustices of the world, but to rejoice in your innocence.
To feel awe at every moment, and disbelief at every second.
But being your mother, that is the best gift I have ever received. And with all of its insecurity, and paradox, and the trepidation in my heart, it is the most incredible legacy I could think to leave on this world.
So thank you, little one. Thank you for allowing me to release my heart out into the world, and for giving me the perfect vessel to do so.
I love you.
Photos by Karla Garcia Costa
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.