I met Josh just a couple weeks after I graduated from high school but I didn’t tell him that! He was 22, and at 18, I was SO EXCITED to finally be “older.”
He had completely won me over after our first date. We got married when I was 19, and he was 23. I think the first five years everyone was wondering how it would all shake out, you know… if in a couple of years we would say, “We knew nothing about life! There is no way we could have anticipated all of this.” That’s actually all true. There’s no way to know all of the bends and turns that life will take… or even who you will grow to be, or who they will grow to be. But amazingly, 14 years in, after so much I couldn’t have imagined, we somehow still fit. And I’m so grateful.
Here are some of our favorites memories and ways to connect through the years.
The Competitive Date Night
One of our first times alone together was a coffee + Monopoly date. He didn’t go easy on me at all. No mercy. For real he beat me in a square 30 minutes. You would think he would maybe take it easy on a girl he liked? Nope. He would take every single property and dollar from me, then generously give me a couple single bills as a tip to “buy myself something nice.” I actually loved it. He’s obviously so smart if he’s that good at Monopoly.
Competing against each other actually became an enjoyable theme in our relationship. IF you can keep your pride in check, I think facing off with your spouse can be so fun and flirty — some eye contact, smack talk, and definitely a really good wager. Here are some of our favorites:
Settlers of Catan: We have literally logged hundreds of hours. We used to have a running tally sheet on the fridge with 100+ games on it.
Spades: When we were newly married there was another couple that loved games too. We would have dinner together about three nights a week and then play two hours of Spades.
Mini-Golf at Geyser Park (or real golf): Eh, neither one of us actually play golf, but mini-golf is a super fun outing + competition. The wager is an essential part of this. We usually gamble a full hour back massage. It has to be at least a tiny bit painful for the loser to make it real.
The Outdoors Date
When we were dating, we hiked together probably once a week. I think getting outside together is one of the best dates that works for all seasons! My parents recently became empty-nesters, and they just got into bike marathons and cycling tours. How fun! Recently, they did Tour of the Moon in Grand Junction and celebrated their anniversary on a 5-day bike tour through Vermont. We’re currently more tethered to home, but still love an evening walk around the neighborhood with strollers, scooters, and swivel cars. Fresh air and chatting with the neighbors often ends up being a highlight of the day.
The Late Night Date for Lovers
The rims. Gotta throw that in there! We actually met and dated in Colorado Springs, but I still have super special memories here in Billings. After 1 month together, Josh wanted to take me back here to meet his family. On the first night back he took me up on the rims, serenaded me with a song he wrote for me, and told me he loved me for the first time. The best! After that, we would still come back often. Our go-to? 10pm, get some pies + fries from McDonald’s, maybe some decaf coffee, walk and enjoy the view, talk and pray over our lives together and our city, and naturally wrap up the night with some making out.
The Young and Free with No Money Date
When we first moved back to Billings, we would spend almost every Friday night during the summer at the Amusement Park Drive-In movies in Laurel. We are late nighters, so we would get there for the first movie at around 9pm and stay for the double feature that wouldn’t end until around 1:30am. The best part — you need to get a pickup truck, park it backward, and load up the truck bed with sleeping bags, blankets, tons of cushions, and a cooler full for your favorites. We would usually end up dozing under the stars after way too many rounds of popcorn, Twizzlers, sodas, and Peanut M&Ms.
The Get in the Car + Drive Date
I think some of our best conversations are during drive time. In younger years, we would throw some things in the car and just go — head for the hills. One time we went on a quest to visit all of the natural hot springs within a couple hours of Billings (there’s a lot). A lot of times we’ll just drive to Red Lodge or Bozeman, get some good food, and come back. There’s something about seeing your life in the rear view mirror that makes everything a little more clear. We love listening to podcasts together and then discussing them. Last little tip — we take turns “hosting the conversation.” We alternate posing a question or topic that has been on the heart or mind, and then we both give a thoughtful response.
The Ideal Mom Date
Now we are in the little kid season. Let’s be honest, neither of us has enough energy or brain capacity left to do a bunch of the things we used to do, and we usually need to stay close to home. Now my ideal mom date includes:
Li’s Massage Therapy & Foot Soak: They have a deal on the “Foot Soak” that is good for 2 people, full hour, full body massage + foot soak for $50 total. If we get any breaks from the kids, we usually start with this. Afterward, both of us are in a great mood and ready to connect.
Asian Sea Grill: We are both more health conscious now. Asian, Thai, or Indian food often has lots of naturally dairy-free and gluten-free options. And you can’t do much better than hibachi steak and green curry chicken.
Target or Costco: Because we always need something and it feels luxurious to stroll the aisles together at a slow pace without the typical kid fiascoes.
The Overnight Date with a Newborn
My mom came out to visit when we had a couple-months-old baby. She is so thoughtful and offered to watch the big kids for a night so we could get away….but let’s be honest…
- We’re tired. 2. You have to pack everything + the kitchen sink to bring the baby. 3. What’s better than sleeping in your own bed? 4. Netflix is not as fun on a computer screen.
So, we paid for a night at the Big Horn Resort and Hotel for my mom and big kids to have a sleepover + swim at the Reef. Basically, we were super excited to order takeout, Netflix (and actually chill), and sleep in our own bed.
The Take Out at the Park Date
In this season of life, restaurants are sometimes a whole lot of exhaustion and embarrassment with minimal amounts of actual eating. Take out at the park? Yes, please! It takes the shame right out of all the usual suspects… somehow everyone forgot shoes, inability to stay seated in a chair, at least one drink spilled, yelling about sibling rivalry, fists preferred to silverware, diaper change while eating, nipple revealed while trying to breastfeed…
At the park, at least I get to eat in peace while they play. The rest? The other parents know what’s up. Just wave and smile.
The “We Have Too Many Kids for 1 Babysitter” Date
Now we have four kids. You can’t just leave your baby, a toddler, and two kids with someone — it’s not easy! And it takes a whole lot of coordinating to break our daily routines. Instead, we stick to our regular schedules and just take some time off of work for a day date while the big kids are at school. We just need to get someone to watch the little guys, and we are good to go! Lunch date for the win!
The Family Date with Friends
When you don’t have a babysitter, but it’s still Saturday night…When this happens, we call our friends, and all go out to dinner together. We get a table for just the kids, so they have their own date and get a separate table for just the adults. We let the kids indulge in all the stuff we usually say ‘no’ to — you know soda, money for games, etc. so we can get maybe 15 minutes of conversation. Places that can work especially well for this: Olive Garden has great kids activity packs, Fuddruckers has kids games + ducks, Ciao Mambo; Your Pie and Cafe Rio will give your kids dough. It can still feel like a fun date night.
featured photo by Miranda Murdock Photography
about the author…Jenna Jones is a local mompreneur. She is a mom to four little ones! She is also a web developer and owner of Jenna Jones Design. In her writing, you will find Jenna getting honest about the hard stuff, and in all of it, finding some humor and some hope.
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2019 issue.
Check out the digital edition, here!