A few weeks ago, I signed us up for a date night at a local parish. They were hosting a Theology of Dance date night (complete with dinner, a mini retreat, childcare, and dance lessons) all for just $45! A steal, right?!
Michael and I rarely go out, and finding someone to babysit is part of that. Well…paying a babysitter is the real problem. Instead, we try as much as we can to do babysitting trading. Why pay each other if we can just take turns going out? Except we have four kids, and the couple we did this with the most had only one until recently! Not exactly a fair trade!
So we don’t go out all that much. But this opportunity was perfect! (Not only that, but it was to be our second date in the space of a week!)
So, we had the perfect recipe for a romantic evening! Some learnin’, some dancin’, and some eatin’ (with no kids)!
Fast forward to today. Last night the boys played “musical boys.” They just took turns rotating in and out of our bed all night. So I was exhausted! I ended up sleeping until 10 (Michael was up at 9 – a reversal of our Saturday roles). This was not so good because I had planned on making some salsa and sauce with all the tomatoes I bought on Thursday night. By the time brunch was finished and cleaned up, it was almost noon! I got right to work.
We also had to clean up the garage (it was getting a little disorganized), and take some pictures of the couches we want to sell. Between that and the tomatoes, all of the sudden it was 2:45 and we had to be to the church at 3:45…and it was 30 minutes away. Michael took a quick shower and I got changed, the kids dressed, a diaper bag packed, and got my things switched over to my “going out” purse. It was 3:30, but we were just about ready to go.
Then Michael comes in the house and says we can’t go. What!? Why!? The van won’t start! It has a dead battery. (Dead because one of the kids turned a light on in the back seat several days earlier.) After searching high and low for our jumper cables, we concluded that we must have left them in our old car when we sold it. So we borrowed some from the neighbors, got it jumped and were finally on our way. Leaving at 4:00 We’d be late, but at least we’d be there!
So along the way, the van started doing it’s normal “stutter” thing. It struggles along when you try to accelerate. But that’s our normal. So I thought nothing of it. Except it seemed a little different. We decided maybe sometime we should take it in again to get looked at.
So we’re happily following our GPS, and as commonly happens, we follow it until it says we’ve arrived. only there’s no church. Just corn fields!
So while I’m trying desperately to find the correct address via e-mail or their website, Penny suddenly whines from the back seat: “I have to throw up.” I looked back, and sure enough, she looked pale. Michael quickly pulled off the side of the rode and I dove into the back seat as fast as I could in a little black dress.
I grabbed an empty grocery bag and got to the back seat just in time to catch it. Ugh. Before it went everywhere. Ugh. For once I was glad for all the random crap in the back of the van.
Well, that was that. No more date. So we turned the van around, and started to head for home.
I quickly typed an e-mail to the event coordinator to let her know why we couldn’t be there. The e-mail bounced back. I guess her e-mail was not working?
That’s when Michael sighed and said, “That’s it.”
When I asked what, he said the engine light had come on. It was blinking (translation: really bad news). Seriously!? Our kid is puking and the back seat and now our car decides to quit? It didn’t really quit. It just limped along. Something was clearly wrong. And smart phones…well, they are not so smart. I kept asking for mechanics near me and it kept giving me truck stops in Columbus, OH. Not near me. Not mechanics. Oh well.
We had to look for a place the old fashioned way: with our eyes!
We finally found a few places all clustered at one intersection. Each one the news was the same: no one could look until Monday (today was Saturday) and we were welcome to leave the van ther until then.
Penny started crying in the back seat because she had to use the bathroom. I could tell it was an emergency. So we went into one place to use the bathroom. Clearly, she was really sick. Although, as soon as she was finished in the bathroom, she asked if we could go to McDonalds for dinner.
Back in the car, all of the kids picked up the request for McDonalds and reminded us over and over how hungry they were. Um….your sister just puked in the car….
Anyway, we decided to just drive slowly and carefully home. At the advice of a friend, we stopped at an Autozone on the way home and they were able to hook up a computer reader to the car for a little diagnostic. And as we suspected and feared, it was a spark plug misfiring. Number 5 spark plug to be exact.
We know from past experience that cylinders 1, 2 & 3 are the good ones. They’re in front and easy access. Cheap to fix. Cylinders 4, 5, & 6 are the bad ones. They are behind the engine. And in a minivan, they are not easily accessed, and last time we had this, it was almost $500 mostly because of the man hours involved. Ho hum.
We did make it home. We decided to at least dance one dance before we changed out of our fancy clothes. I suggested we dance to “our song.” ….now what was the name of it again? Oh, right! Unforgettable! Michael always rolls his eyes at me when I can’t remember. Who could blame him?
He tried to pull it up on his phone. The wifi wasn’t working, so in the end, we sang our own very poorly executed, badly remembered version while we swayed in the hallway with JB crying in between us.
And that, my friends, is how to have a truly romantic evening. Sure there are sick kids, and the car is broken, and we didn’t get to have the evening we planned. But we are in this together. And as Michael said, he was resolved not to get upset because, “That’s just the kind of day we are having.”
We don’t have to have a perfect evening out to enjoy each other. I mentioned earlier that we don’t go on many dates. So many times I have heard people say that to keep your marriage strong you need regular date nights. And I agree. But for us, a normal date night is snuggled on the couch with a treat or a cocktail and our favorite show. Or getting fancy at home with dinner. Sometimes we feed the kids early and then we enjoy our own dinner after they have gone to bed.
In college, our dating experience consisted mostly of study dates at the library. We learned early on to enjoy each other’s company even in the everyday events of our lives. We don’t need a special restaurant or a few hours out of the house without kids to keep the spark alive in this marriage. Yes, those things are fun. But more essential is that we have time that we have set aside to spend together, whether it’s at home or out on the town.
And this time…it just happened to be in a broke down car with all four of our kids (one puking into the bag in my hand).
Love you, honey!
Wedding photos by Irish Artistry.