Marriage is hard in this season.

Marriage is hard in this season.

The other day I woke up at six, and Makayla, our five-year-old, was lying on the bed about a foot away staring at me (I wonder how long she was there??). I told her to go back to bed, and forty minutes later, I woke up again from Kelsey’s eye lashes against my eyelids. She’s three and doesn’t have Makayla’s sense of personal space. I opened my eyes, and her eyeballs were the only thing I could see, which is a an unsettling way to wake up.

And so, it goes.

Gone are the days of Katy and I waking up slowly together, brushing our teeth together, brewing the morning coffee, and putzing our way through breakfast. Sometimes, we still pause for things like a hug, but now it’s a hug of five, and it can feel like the marriage we’ve built one brick at a time for the last nine years is being unbuilt at the same slow, steady pace.  

On Saturday, I was paddling the Humble Bumble (my kayak) in the Rollinsford reservoir, towing Kelsey behind me in an innertube. Kayaks are designed to slice through the water in all the ways big innertubes with cupholders aren’t, so tying them together made it slow going, but I could hear her chipper, little voice exclaiming, “Wow! Good job, Daddy!” and it made it worth it.  

Katy was back at shore with Emma, while Makayla, who’s learning to swim, kicked around the shallows. Katy was beautiful standing there holding our baby, and I’m grateful to be married to such a terrific mom.

And yet, moments like these are why marriage is hard right now. Even when things are good, we’re often a hundred yards apart laughing and playing and taking care of different people.  

While we were there, an eagle swooped too close to the tall pines on the ridge overlooking the reservoir. There’s a falcon’s nest there, and peregrine falcons, which can dive at 240 mph, don’t hesitate to defend their nest, even against birds twice their size. The aerial combat that ensued was spectacular. After a few minutes of sorties ranging back and forth across the sky, the eagle withdrew.

The next day, we went to a wedding and listened to our friends vow, as we did, to cultivate a life together “until death do us part.” I want that life to be filled with joy—together. So, amidst everything, we’re reflecting on what makes it hard, and what makes it better. These are a couple of fresh habits that are breathing new life into our relationship that I thought I’d share.

  • At breakfast, we read to our kids and ask them lots of questions. It’s focused on them. Then, we banish the children from the kitchen, and we sit and have our coffee together (obviously Emma stays). If there’s protesting, I exclaim in a high-pitched voice, “No, no! Out! It’s Momma’s and I’s time! Up to your room!” and they run out, usually giggling. We tell them to get dressed or play, but they’re not allowed back in the kitchen.


  • While we’re making lunch, and immediately afterwards, we banish them from the kitchen again (most of our habits have to do with banishing). Like at breakfast, we focus on them for the meal, letting them talk with us about whatever they want, but before and after we process anything from the morning, deal with practical things from the business, and tell each other funny things the kids did.

It’s wonderful. I’m a much better father when I don’t feel like I’m losing Katy. I’m able to pour into Makayla and Kelsey, to affirm, treasure, and teach them, and I’m a much better husband. It keeps the buildup of life low. Instead of catching up on a day or a week or a month, we catch up a few times a day in short, intentional conversations that make me feel sane. Then, a few weeks go by, and I think to myself, “My goodness, I feel in love again.”

What you have with your kids and your spouse is precious beyond measure. Fight like a falcon.   

<3 Joel and Katy


Running a Business with Kids

Running a Business with Kids

The lights shut off, and for the fifteenth time, everyone in the audience heard our indignant two-year-old exclaim, “Hey! I can’t see!” We were at Makayla’s ballet recital and her dance wasn’t until Act III. I’d woken up around five in the morning to setup the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market and was delighted that Ali, our intrepid employee, could take over for me so that I could attend. I picked up a bouquet of flowers (complete with asparagus, because Omniflora Farm bouquets are the coolest) and arrived at the school in time to meet Katy and carry in Emma, who was wailing in her car seat.

Running a business with three kids five and under is like being the ball in a game of Calvin Ball. Sometimes the moments are quiet, like when Kelsey looks up at the nighttime sky and whispers, “stars,” and sometimes, they are almost more than I can handle. “Daddy, can you stop telling us to go play together and play with us,” Makayla asked yesterday morning.

There are moments I cherish long after they end. Kelsey was napping, Katy had Emma at the mill, and Makayla brought out oranges and milk to the patio where I was working. We had snack time listening to the birds together and then time swinging in the hammock. I told her how much I appreciated her waiting for her younger sisters to be settled before we had us time and how touched I was that she made a snack for us all by herself.

Other moments break my heart. During a stressful day a couple months ago, Makayla told me she didn’t need her bedroom painted pink and purple anymore. She’d been asking for it for a while and giving it up was her way of making things easier. Even though she said it wasn’t connected, it reminded me to manage my stress levels better, especially when I’m at home.

To that end, I’ve been trying to intentionally receive the blessings of little moments. Doing deliveries as a family, we dropped soap off at Calefs Country Store , and I bought chocolate caramels for the kids. When I came out of UPS a little later, Kelsey looked at me surprised and said sweetly, “Daddy, you’re supposed to bring us chocolate.” I still chuckle picturing her saying it. Emma has been smiling and cooing up a storm lately and will sit there contentedly if you’re folding laundry or doing dishes, but when you stop to play with her, she gets so excited. Then, there’s Makayla who’s far cleverer than any five-year-old should be, and of whom I’m immensely proud for walking onto a stage to do a choreographed dance in front of hundreds of people (tip of the hat to Belletete Ballet Studio). The money you would have to pay me to do that!

I could say more, but Makayla’s at school, the other two are sleeping, Katy is at the mill prepping for Pro Portsmouth’s Market Square Day, and those dishes won’t do themselves.

Until next time,

Joel and Katy

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