Marriage in Vacation Mode

Well, we’ve officially reached the end of Phase 2 of vacation. Phase 1 ended when we came home from our two week trip, and I suppose Phase 3 will end when Cameron goes to school in September. (How long did that phase last? Since my maternity leave began in January? 5 years ago when Cameron was born?)

This second phase of vacation has been a period of transition for us. We’ve all been home but Dan’s head has slowly started to migrate back to work.  Bags have been (slowly, too slowly) unpacked. Our days have been quieter than they were when we were away but they have still been family days. On Friday, Dan went back to work.

I’m going to miss him.


Many stay-at-home parents will agree the vacation doesn’t usually feel like a vacation. You just move your parenting duties somewhere else and possibly throw in a few more responsibilities like packing and unpacking and dealing with fussy children who are out of routine. I have definitely experienced this. But I didn’t really experience it on this vacation. Perhaps it is because I have a couple of kids who are old enough to fend for themselves and who don’t have much of a routine to break. Plus, for the first half of vacation they had cousins to play with and there were grandparents to dote on them throughout. Most importantly, my husband has been very hands-on with our kids during this vacation. I think being very busy at work for the past year meant that he really cherished all the available time he had with them.


It has absolutely felt like a vacation to me. Every part of it: The memories made; the break from certain responsibilities; the time together.

As a stay-at-home mom, I often feel like I am spending most of my time with my family. However, that time is pretty much limited to the kids while it seems like Dan and I do not get to spend a lot of time together. The time we do get to spend is often influenced by how the rest of our days has gone – stress from work; over-touched from children; exhaustion from all of it. We rarely have time for one another and certainly don’t have our best-selves to offer during those times.


Once, as a high schooler, I heard a pastor give dating advice. He told us not to marry anyone before we had spent every season together. While his general point about being deliberate and taking time to pick your mate seemed valid to me, the one year (or four seasons) timeline seemed rather arbitrary to me. Now though, I appreciate his use of the word “seasons”. Marriages have seasons. The newlywed, honeymoon phase is one. Pregnancy is another. Post-partum, yet another. Parenting young children is one too… And my marriage has more or less been stuck in the pregnancy/post-partum/parenting-young-children cycle for a while. Over five years, actually.

This season hasn’t necessarily been easy for us. Being a parent in general isn’t the issue. Being a parent is a lot of things – it is hard and beautiful and full of wonder and new life and it is really amazing season to be it. But specifically, it is hard on a marriage. For one thing, it is exhausting. At least from my perspective, my identity has changed from that of a woman (and my husband’s wife) to one that also includes a mother. I have shared my body with babies. I still am using my body to nurture one. This actually takes a big toll on a woman’s (or, at least my) sense of self. I know I am a Mom. I hear it daily, often in a very whiney voice. I hear it when my kids are hungry and tired. I hear it in the cries in the middle of the night. I hear it when I’m needed. I hear it in life or death (real or perceived) situations. I hear it so much that those other identities struggle to be recalled.

Wife. Woman. Sexual person. Friend.


But, my primary relationship isn’t to my kids. Not really. That would be detrimental to them. They would grow up with a Mom who wouldn’t know how to let go. They would get married to people that I wasn’t willing to share them with. I would be stuck forcing myself onto them when they are ready to be adults and live their own lives. At that point they won’t need a Mom who is overbearing and wanting to be involved in every aspect of their lives. They’ll need a Mom who is there to love them and watch their lives progress while welcoming all the new people into the family that they bring with them – daughters(-in-law) and grandchildren!

There is only one person whom I promised that I would be by their side until death. I didn’t promise this to my children. That would be problematic. I did promise this to my husband though. And while our need for each other doesn’t seem as immediate as the grumpy, teething baby, it is just as real.


The thing that meant the most to me on this vacation – more than the time with extended family, more than the memories made with my kids, more than the awesome shopping deals at outlet stores – is the time my Dan and I had to be together – even with kids surrounding us. We drove over 4000 km together! We spent every day together, together. We were a team. We had no reason to go our separate ways. We were with extended family for most of the trip, but still we felt our togetherness as a nuclear family. It was good. It was needed. It was wonderful.


I love him. I still do. Seven years, three kids, many seasons later and he’s still the one I love most. He’s absolutely my best friend. He’s the one I want to do long car drives with even though he super-duper hates them. He’s mine and I couldn’t be happier about it.


This vacation really brought us to a place that we needed to get back to. And so, as Dan goes back to work, I’m feeling a bit sad. I’m missing the man that I’ve spent every day with for the better part of three weeks. I’m missing my friend. But I’m glad to know that he’s still my guy when he’s at work and when he walks through that door in the evening. I knew it all along, but it sure was nice to take the time to be reminded.

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When Kids Need Adventure

(This is a Netflix StreamTeam post but it mostly talks about adventure and the vacation we are currently on. Please continue reading.)

I’m sitting in my Mother-in-law’s house writing this, at least a few days late. We’re in the middle of our family vacation and this is our first real taste of normal living with some semblance of downtime in the last few weeks (because, as you can imagine, the time leading up to a vacation isn’t necessarily normal – especially when you need to prepare for cross-border travel).

  

Going on a vacation with my family – specifically my husband and kids – has been a priority for me. But we haven’t really gone on one until just now. Over the years since Cameron has been born, we’ve travelled to see parents on holidays or taken a couple of weeks out of our work schedules to make a longer stay. But visiting family isn’t really the kind of memory-making vacation I was desiring. It is incredibly important to have extended family involved in our lives and the lives of my children, which is why this vacation included a stop at my Mother-in-law’s in Toronto. But there is something to be said for doing things together that do not involve navigating family dynamics and instead just focuses on pure, unadulterated fun and adventure. Memories are obviously made at grandma’s house, but I don’t want to miss out on those family-only adventure memories that come from long road trips and wrong turns and discovering new places, together.

  

My three-year-old, Gavin, gets homesick when we are away from home for more than a night. And, well, we’ve been away from home for more than a few nights so far. We’ve had to comfort tears more than once this trip to remind him that we will be going home in a little while but right now, we’re enjoying our adventure together. And if we were home, we wouldn’t have been able to see Santa or go on a log flume ride or play mini golf near dinosaurs or see Niagara Falls or see the best ice cream ever being made or…

  

My husband and I joked that I was really the only one who was excited for this trip. He definitely doesn’t like long drives in the car. Even a two hour trip would be considered “long” in his estimation. So far we’ve had five driving days on this trip, each lasting anywhere between two and seven hours of driving. And we have yet to come home, which means we still have over 16 hours of driving ahead of us. Needless to say, the children don’t long those long car rides either. Do any children? Our last jaunt between Niagara Falls, Ontario to Markham included about 1 hour and 20 minutes of crying children. Two of them to be exact. We asked Cameron why he wasn’t crying because obviously it was the going thing for O’Rourke children.

  

Of course the driving is going to suck, I assured my husband. My excitement for the trip didn’t mean I was naive to how tough that part of it would be. But, memories will be made on these types of road trips, I insisted.

  

I didn’t go on an airplane until grade 7 when I went on a trip to England with a choir. That’s not to say I didn’t travel before that. My parent took us on countless car trips and driving vacations. We drove to New England and Ottawa yearly (at least). One year we drove and camped our way across Canada and back through the northern states. That took six weeks. Another year we drove down the Eastern coast to Florida to go to Disney for the first time. Our family often says that my Dad’s idea of a good time is just getting into a car and “taking a drive”, and I actually kind of get that.

  

There’s something about being confined in a vehicle with people we love – but with whom we maybe don’t normally take the time to connect with – and just be together for some time. To me, this sounds almost cozy. Plus, driving places leaves room for sight-seeing and adventure. All of this is a recipe for memories. There may be tears and whining now, but years from now, our boys will remember these trips just like I remember those from my childhood.

  

We’re over halfway through our trip and I’m so happy with the amount of adventure we’ve been able to share together with a tentative husband and three boys five and under. We drove through mountains, we went to theme parks. We spent time with extended family. We puked in a restaurant. We ate amazing ice cream. We drove and drove and drove and when we got to where we were going we experienced and experienced and experienced.

  

I’m all for adventure.

  

Sometimes it is hard to extend that spirit of adventure to the long repetitive days at home though, when vacation is over or before it even begins. My days are essentially filled with putting the baby to sleep, making sure (often in vain) that the older boys don’t wake up that sleeping baby, and constantly fielding hunger complaints from my growing boys, often making them food in response. When these simple tasks fill my day, it can be hard to build in those moments of every day, close to home, adventure.

  

Last month, we received a giant box at our door. Being part of the StreamTeam, Netflix sometimes sends us boxes of goodies but this one was unparalleled: A map to dragon islands. Sidewalk chalk. Dragon food. A cape. Or wings. Or even just maybe a blanket for when tired dragon riders need to take a break and watch a show. A toy. Masks. An inflatable sword. It was all there. Just enough to light the spark of imagination and set my boys in motion.

  

Within an hour, my driveway was covered in dragons. The map was layed out on the ground. They were running around acting out stories and games and adventure. Toy dragons were strewn about. There was a cape and a sword involved. They were outside. They were entertained. They were active. They were imagining. They were on an adventure.

  

My children had already watched the new Netflix original series based on the How to Train Your Dragon movie called Dragons: Race to the Edge. The goodies package from Netflix didn’t send my children running to the television. Instead it set their imaginations loose. That is, until it was time for dragon food and then they turned on Dragons and snuggled under the fleece blanket that once was a cape. (Thank heavens they did too, because Logan needed to sleep so I needed the house quiet!)

  

I’m kind of big on adventure. We still have so much in store for the last few days of our vacation. But when we get home, I’m thirlled to know the adventure and imagination doesn’t need to stop.

  

I am part of the Netflix Stream Team which means I am compensated with free Netflix for the year and get some other goodies along the way. All my stories and memories and retell info of events are original and not purchased. 

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My Way or the FroYo Highway

I’m kind of particular. I’m that person in our marriage who knows how to load the dishwasher (the right way), for instance. But over the last seven years of being married and then being a co-parent, I’ve learned how important it is to not be picky.

My husband is the tidy-freak. He hates clutter. He wants to constantly purge our stuff (but he also likes to buy as soon as he wants something (again).) I am the clean-freak. There’s a difference, definitely. I want the floor swept, the counters wiped down. I don’t mind organized chaos – conscious piles of things (“clutter”?) that have a rhyme and a reason, though I’m probably the only person who understands what it is. It took us a while – like a few years – to realize that this clash in cleanliness could actually be a point of strength instead of contention. Instead of arguing about the dishwasher and the counters and the beard hair around the bathroom sink, I should be grateful that my husband is keeping our house from looking like a hoarder’s house, full of piles.

Of course, we had to go through that clash of personalities again when we became parents. I always joke that dads do something wrong the first time so that they’ll never be asked to do it again. But that’s not really it, is it? Dads and moms – or any two individual people, really – will undoubtedly have different styles and both need time and practice to learn how to do each parenting task. Just because my husband didn’t pull out the leg skirts or point the you-know-what in the right direction the first time around doesn’t mean I should have pulled him from newborn diaper duty forever… but that seems to be what I did. And that’s probably on me, and my first months of motherhood immaturity.

It is hard though, when Mom is used to be the primary caregiver, to give the reigns over to Dad. Everything will happen differently. It is undeniable. But that isn’t bad. Having two different people raising children together means that the kids get a range of personalities and parenting styles. This is a good thing. Can you imagine if my kids had a clone of me raising them beside me? They would not have all of the fun dad goofiness that Dan brings and they’d have two parents with the exact same level of patience (or lack thereof). My kids definitely would be worse off.

Accepting that your partner is different isn’t always easy. It means picking battles sometimes. It means ignoring pet-peeves. And yes, it means taming that rolling eye (I’m still working on this). But the household, the kids, and the entire family are better off having two different people with two different personalities leading the helm.

I must say I get a little crazy particular when we go to get frozen yogurt. The first time I ever went, I got all the things that looked good to me and it wasn’t that awesome. The next time I went, I realized how amazing the perfect combination of flavours can be. I decide my toppings based on my yogurt flavour. And I tend to choose sweet but light flavour yogurts with fruitier toppings.

Meanwhile my children? Want ALL THE THINGS.

We went to Menchie’s on Barrington Street earlier this week. We’re in the middle of CRAZY VACATION PREP! and I thought we needed a little treat after walking to the Passport Office to pick up (the cutest ever) little boy passports. I helped my kids get their creations first, and I found myself saying “But that won’t taste good together!” a lot. Juicy watermelon sorbet, raspberry lemonade sorbet AND nutella? Are you sure? Not nutella? Red velvet cake? Well… okay(?). (Also, why do they insist on putting gummies on their froyo and then complain when they get hard? I tell them it will happen every time!)

#MenchiesMyWay Giveaway at Mommy-Miracles.com

But that’s the thing about Menchie’s. I don’t really need to freak out about what my kids want to eat. That’s exactly why they love it there. They can be creative with their flavours and eat treats that they might not always get to eat. And that’s okay. Cameron can have his mostly-fruity yogurt covered in gummies and topped with strawberry sauce. Gavin and have his mostly-chocolate yogurt covered with chocolates and topped with chocolate sauce. It is theirs. Their preferences. Their creation. And that makes them smile.

#MenchiesMyWay Giveaway at Mommy-Miracles.com

#MenchiesMyWay Giveaway at Mommy-Miracles.com

As for me? Ever since I first tried froyo at a Menchie’s in Markham long before Halifax had even been hit with the froyo bug, I’ve wanted to try the green tea frozen yogurt. And on this trip, Menchie’s had it flowing again! I topped my green tea froyo with coconut, yogurt chips, butterscotch chips, honeydew mochi, strawberry boba and yogurt boba. It was a great combo and it was exactly what I wanted. I was in a place where I could be picky and particular. Because apparently, I can be a very particular person.

Along with the newest Oreo cookie frozen yogurt flavour, there are over 150 flavours available at Menchie’s, which means you can be as particular as you want when it comes to creating your very own froyo cup. Menchie’s is the largest growing frozen yogurt franchise in Canada with 116 locations across Canada (and there will be 9 more by the end of the year!) That means, hopefully all of my Canadian readers will be able to participate IN THIS GIVEAWAY that I’m hosting in collaboration with Menchie’s Canada!

#MenchiesMyWay Giveaway at Mommy-Miracles.com

Here’s how to enter!

Go to your local Menchie’s (shout-out to my Halifax Menchie’s!) and design a yogurt creation that is perfect for YOU! Then tweet or share an image of your Menchie’s creation with all of the following:

  • This hashtag: #MenchiesMyWay
  • The name of your creation. BE CREATIVE!
  • Tag these accounts: @Menchies_CA and either @LauraORourke (on twitter) or @LauraLORourke (on Instagram)
  • If you’re posting on Twitter make sure you are following @Menchies_Ca and @LauraORourke
  • If you’re posting on Instagram make sure you are following @Menchies_Ca and @LauraLORourke

I will choose a winner on Monday August 10th based on presentation and the name of your creation! The winner will get a Summer VIP Pass which is the value of 7 complimentary visits to any Menchie’s location across Canada.

I am a Menchie’s Canada ambassador and as such I was compensated for this post with FREE FROZEN YOGURT, which I am totally ok with.

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