a year of date nights.

a year of dates-1After you have a baby, the general idea of "date night" changes, and I mean that (nicely) in every way possible. Date nights used to be spontaneous, affordable, and revolve around conversations that didn't include Thomas the train and questions like, "On a scale from 1-10, exactly how runny was the poop?" Things are different now, and it's okay that they're different, but let me be clear: THEY ARE DIFFERENT. 2013 was our first full year as parents, and with that year came a lot of change, a lot of shifts, a lot of readjusting our priorities and expectations.

Last year I learned that it's incredibly easy to let your marriage sink down to the bottom of the priority list when you have a needy toddler in tow.

It was, to be quite frank, not the best year our marriage has seen.

But that's the beautiful thing about hope and a new year, right? You take what didn't work in 2013, and you fix it in 2014. For us, that was date night. Last year we could go weeks on end, months even, without a single date night. There were always a hundred excuses: we were tired, our babysitter wasn't available, we couldn't agree on what night or what restaurant, we were still tired, we didn't really feel like it, the month was too busy, blah blah blah.

I was determined to change this in 2014---for the betterment of our marriage, for the betterment of our parenting, and for the general betterment of our individual selves.

Because I believe in date nights.

I believe in setting aside time to focus on each other without a baby in the room. I believe in making time for baby-free conversations, for red lipstick, for dinners that don't involve grilled cheese and sippy cups. I believe in making room for dreaming together, for laughing together, for telling secrets and holding hands. I believe in showing your children that your marriage is important and a force to be reckoned with.

I want Everett to see us go on dates, to see us kiss and wrap our arms around each other. I want him to see us get dressed up and leave the house together with smiles on our faces. I want him to witness our marriage as a separate entity from him.

I want Everett to know that as much as we love him, we loved each other first.

Because of this, because of All These Feelings, I decided to make a year-long commitment to date night. For Christmas, I gifted Brett with A Year of Dates -- one planned date night per month in 2014. We're going to take a painting class and go to a basketball game and see movies and go bowling and learn how to swing dance and go rock climbing and eat corndogs at the state fair. WE'RE DOING IT. ALL OF IT. In 2014.

We are taking back date night.

It's not too late to join us. We're only ten days into January and there is plenty of time to plan your year of dates. Can't afford a babysitter? Ask grandparents or trade babysitting with friends. Can't afford fancy dates? Plan non-fancy ones instead. Whatever your excuse is, I can assure you: making time for your marriage is always energy (and money) well spent.

Here's to quality time, a little bit of romance, and maybe even some good ole fashioned making out in 2014!