Friday, January 27, 2017

Start At Home // Date Night

“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in a ballroom or a church or a synagogue.  It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is in the way you treat your husband or your wife.”   

Of all the goals I set for 2017, my relationship with Beau was at the forefront.  For most of last year, I was watering many relationships in my life.  I was acting on the call to grow in my relationship with Christ, inviting people into our home, investing in new friendships and reconnecting with old ones.  This quest was filling my cup in many ways, although I often felt as though I was coming up short on investing in the very person I shared my life with.  Often times at the end of the day, after working and talking with people, then coming home to give our rest to the Cruz and Mila, we’d get them to bed, then escape to separate rooms of the house for an episode of Fixer Upper or an hour playing guitar.  We just didn’t have anything left to give!  Arguments ensued more than either of us liked, and we often felt like we were sharing a house, but not a whole lot else.  We still loved each other the same, but we were drifting and needed to plant some seeds of intention in order to get us back in gear. 

We decided we would start with a weekly date night.  Knowing that Monday nights are typically filled with routines that transition us into the week, Tuesdays Beau has a networking group that meets together at night, and our weekends tend to fill up with social things, we officially picked Thursdays as “date night.”  Beau blocked Thursday nights off for night appointments, and we committed to prioritizing this just like we would a work meeting or Sunday morning church.  Sometimes, we would invest in a babysitter and go out for a real date, but most of the time date nights would occur after we put the kids to bed around 8 or 8:30.  

We are just three weeks in and have already discovered many things.  First off, we both love date nights.  They are the highlight of our week.  Thursdays has been the perfect night for us, as we have both commented that we look forward to it all week long, and it’s such a nice way to reconnect after the rush of a work week.  We also discovered that it’s nice to have a plan (go figure), something to keep us focused, along with a few details to make things special.  Our first week, we made whiskey drinks and outlined our financial goals for the year, revisiting our monthly budget, setting up an envelope and “commission” system for our kids, and making some big steps in our financial giving.  Because we set some goals for the night, we stayed focused and were able to achieve a win/win in my book – connecting over content that mattered to the health and purpose of our relationship and family, AND having fun together.  We even decided to start the same book around a similar topic (more on this one later), so we could continue to water conversations around important areas that have a big impact on our family.  

Our second date night was a lot more light-hearted.  Obviously, talking about our monthly budget every Thursday night would likely lose its novelty after a few weeks, so we decided to just spend time together.  I picked up a few makings for a charcuterie board after work, and as soon as the kids went to bed, we put on some Ray Lamontagne, got out the cribbage board, and dined on good wine and prosciutto.  

After two very different date nights, we spent our third date night reflecting on what worked well and what we’d like to see more of in the year ahead.  It made my heart swell to hear Beau say he looked forward all week to our time together, and that he felt it was important to have some plans in mind to keep our dates new and creative.  Soon enough, as we curled up together on the couch in front of the fire, I had my notebook out and we had started a list of date night ideas for our year.  To hear the things Beau suggested surprised me and I felt myself falling a little more in love with this man, reminded of why I married him in the first place.  We tend to lose sight of those small traits and quirks of the people closest in our lives through the ordinariness and sometimes weariness of this life.  This simple act of brainstorming date nights made me feel like I was twenty again, when the world was our oyster and we invested in having fun together.  I love our list so much, and hope some of the ideas inspire you.

We also loved the focused conversations around important matters for our relationship and family, and are planning to do some work together in these areas.  Instead of reading the Wife/Husband After God series as a 30 day devotional, we are going to read and respond to these little by little.  I'm also looking forward to reading The 5 Love Languages this year and think this will strengthen our understanding of and communication with each other. 

Our brainstormed list of date nights "at home": 

1. Order take-out after the kids go to bed: Order something the kids won't eat, like Indian food or sushi.  Eat on a blanket in front of the fire.
2. Beer tasting and Wii night: You can make-your-own-six-pack at Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits.  A flute of sample beers and a little Super Mario sounds just right. :)
3. Dinner around the world: Early in the week, get the globe out, close your eyes, and point to a country.  Research that country a little, then make a dinner inspired by their cuisine.  
4. Write 10-15 memories of our last decade together and read them to each other.
5. Play a board game together.
6. Plan a trip together.  Whether we go or not isn't really the point. :)
7. Get out our workbooks and notes from marriage counseling.  Laugh at how young we were and see how much we've grown.
8. Dream together: Think about five, ten, fifteen years from now 
9. Get a bottle of champagne and watch our wedding video
10. Pick up fancy desserts from somewhere downtown
11. Do a simple DIY craft together in the garage 
12. Cocktails and vinyls on the Crosley
13. Make a big plate of nachos and watch Game 7 of the World Series
14. Create our family's "micro" adventure bucket list.  Adventures to be had in our own backyard. 
15. Italian night - spaghetti, a bottle of red, and an episode (or four) of The Sopranos.   

List of date nights "out": 

1. Three course progressive dinner - appetizers and drinks, main course, and dessert, at three different places.
2. Hit some balls at the driving range
3. Pack a picnic dinner and watch a sunset
4. Find some live music
5. Go fishing
6. Dinner in "the library" at the Waterloo Brown Bottle - write a love note in one of the books
7. Sneak in some candy and go see a movie
8. Ride bikes around town and stop for drinks and appetizers along the trail
9. Go for a drive with the windows down.  Stop in a small town for dinner or a drink at their townie bar
10. Late night coffee drinks and card games in the back corner of a coffee shop.           


  1. Love this Ashley! I read Rachel Cruz's book 2 years ago and we are 2 years strong on a commission chart. Our boys love it and we love it. Our 9 year-old appreciates his new ipod so much more since he bought it with his own money. Jeremy and I have Sunday morning breakfast dates while we review our weekly budget. We're big Dave Ramsey fans. ;) ~Stacy Merrill

    1. Love the Sunday morning breakfast dates to review! Great idea!

  2. Ashley, I love this post! We just went to Brown Bottle Thursday night to celebrate our anniversary and sat in the "library" - love that place. Thanks for sharing so many great ideas & insights of your lives. With so much negativity all around us, especially on social media lately, it's nice to have something good to read that gives others hope and that is what I find in a lot of your posts. Happy weekend!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Lindsey. And happy anniversary! I am so happy for you - you guys make such a cute couple. :)

      Did you write a love note in a book at the Brown Bottle? Beau's assistant used to work there and she said couples come and write notes in "their book." She said some of the notes are decades old!

    2. Thank you! You are too sweet. :) We did not know about the love notes but will definitely check that out next time! That sounds so fun & will be neat to read. I shared with Josh and he was so surprised!



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