The Bell Family

Random ponderings on God, life, and the humor all around us

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Bell Family Update–December 2016

We love December. Our neighborhood is quiet from the cold, extra-curricular activities take a break, and we just get more time to hole up as a family. This has been a sweet month for all of that.

Always a family favorite–wrestling Daddy. It’s getting harder and harder for him to overtake them these days. 20161128_211800468_iosAnd while he still can…20161128_211915747_ios

The choir I sing in gave our premier performance. I love these people.20161203_011303205_ios

The girls were again in the Nutcracker. We are so blessed to dance with this studio!20161208_230743873_ios20161208_232822331_ios20161208_234054723_ios

Our first snowman! ūüėČ 20161209_182501621_ios

A glimpse into our lives in a few years. The girls taking off their makeup after the recital. Oh, boy.20161210_010007752_ios


And a better snowman. This was the perfect snow for it!20161213_202135579_ios


Ariana baked cupcakes for Aiden’s birthday all by herself!20161219_190702337_ios

We all had an amazing and hard-working week with Nana!!! She came in to help me give my home a clean-sweep/re-org for the end of the year. This woman is better at this stuff than anyone I know, and she never stopped, even with a sore knee. This is an end-of-the-week movie time, complete with Nana snuggles. I was relieved Aiden wore his helmet, too, in case something came flying out of the TV screen.20161219_230521230_ios

Grocery shopping date with Daddy20161223_153416208_ios

Coloring time. Bill gifted me with a FabFitFun subscription box! The girls loved helping me decorate it. Aka, I did nothing. ūüôā 20161224_152627026_ios

Family reading time20161224_161946228_ios

The traditional search for baby Jesus to put in the manger on Christmas morning20161225_120720548_iosAnd the finder of said baby20161225_121026379_ios

Ah yeah, buddie, dig in to that stocking candy.20161225_123155651_ios

Sugar cookie time!20161225_211732127_ios

Legos for days20161226_210418209_ios

And a cute little birthday boy!!!20161228_145553130_ios


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Date Night–Blue Lagoon & Art-tiques

For one of our date nights at the end of the year, Bill took me to Sears to use a gift card to buy more clothes.  Later we went to Art-tiques which is in downtown Jeffersonville.  It was a small art festival on the river, and he bought me two pairs of my first hand-crafted earrings.

After the festival we used one of our coupons to go to a new restaurant in Louisville called Blue Lagoon.¬† It is now seriously one of our favorite restaurants with amazing food that is beautifully displayed and great service.¬†¬†The atmosphere was well-done, making you feel as though you were sitting outside.¬† We had shrimp scampi as an appetizer (sorry, no pictures but freakin’ awesome).¬† Bill¬†had a fish & chicken dish, and I had the Mahi-Mahi.¬† For dessert Bill had some kind of pistachhio ice cream dessert (can you tell we’re not foodies?).¬† I had¬†fried cheesecake.¬† Yum!

Things we discussed: Is there anything we need to do/change now to finish the year glorifying God?

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Note About Who Plans Our Dates

I have realized through this series it may come across that I plan most of our dates. ¬†I just want to clarify that this is not true. ¬†I am the one posting because our family setup allows me to have a bit more time to blog but leaves very little time for Bill to do so. ¬†Bill does read over all my posts before publishing them, so you could often just as easily read the “I” to be Bill. ¬†Having said that, neither does Bill plan all the dates, and I’d like to explain why.

¬†There is a school of thought that says only the man should plan dates, most often to show male leadership in romance in the relationship–which we gladly affirm. ¬†But, as Bill has said to me about this issue, “If I planned all of the dates, then they would only be as creative as the ideas I could come up with and would totally ignore all the creativity you bring to our marriage.” ¬†We don’t have dates just for the sake of having them, but as a venue to really connect in a way that we can’t in normal daily life. ¬†So, while we do agree that men should lead in all parts of a marriage–romance included–we also agree that God set up marriage for both spouses to take joyful responsibility in romancing and caring for each other. ¬†It just looks different for each sex and for each person. ¬†Besides, we feel like it would make for a really one-sided relationship if only one of us planned all of the dates. ¬†Therefore, we usually take turns planning both our in-home and out-of-home dates. ¬†When I have opportunities to plan some of our dates, it gives me an chance to challenge myself to think about my husband’s needs and desires and to try to creatively love him in different ways and vice versa. ¬†In that vein, it allows us to plan outings or gifts for the other that they wouldn’t necessarily do for themselves. ¬†In this, we make opportunities not only to carve out time for one another, but to do so in ways that show our deep love for each other tangibly.

Incidentally, the way we plan often gives insight into our spouse’s desires. ¬†For example (truly an example, not an actual scenario for us), Bill doesn’t like coffee, so it might never occur to him to take me to a coffee shop. ¬†Because I love coffee, that might be the first thing I think of when planning a date. ¬†If I plan a coffee shop date, it gives Bill a glimpse that this is a kind of date that might bless me in the future. ¬†On a side note, we should be planning our dates around blessing our spouse, not ourselves, so it probably wouldn’t be a wise decision for me to plan a coffee shop date when I know Bill doesn’t like coffee. ¬†ūüôā ¬†In so doing, we become a better “student” of our spouse and learn more of them so that we can in the future show them even more specific forms of love. ¬†Planning dates becomes a playful challenge for both of us where we ask ourselves each time, “How can I bless my spouse in particular for this date?” ¬†And that’s really the bottom line for us when it comes to dating each other.


Affordable Dating

Though I have mentioned in previous posts about how to get babysitters free and have given resources¬†that list¬†cheap things to do on dates, I have not addressed how to have a less expensive date if you do have a bit of¬†money to spend.¬†¬†There is a not-well-kept secret I am about to let you in on.¬† I really love eating out.¬† Even with¬†all the weight loss I have experienced over the last year, I still love it, maybe even more.¬† Now I love going online to search the menu and look up nutrition info so I can choose the best dish¬†for me, & then I daydream about that food all day.¬† ūüôā¬† The more children we have and the more God¬†grows us with our stewardship, the less we find ourselves in a restaurant.¬† So I kind of feel like eating out is a “must” for¬†our dates out.

There are a few¬†ways you can save some bucks doing this.¬† One is to¬†follow a coupon blog or two.¬† These blogs¬†don’t just benefit huge couponers but have something for everyone.¬† They will often list when restaurants have some big mark-downs (many of these happen on holidays & birthdays) or offers they give to facebook fans, for instance.¬† We will frequently go to a restaurant with at least a $5 off coupon for orders of $20 or more, not terrible for a “sit-down” restaurant.¬† A few¬†I follow are:

Money Saving Mom

Mrs. Moneysaver


Another great resource is “The Entertainment Book.”¬† These are put out every year, and you request ones that are in your area.¬† They are full of huge discounts on restaurants, amusements, movies, shopping, etc.¬†where you live.¬† They are fairly expensive if you buy them in the beginning of the year ($35.00), but considering there are many “buy one get one free” entrees,¬†you could quickly make that money back.¬† Also, the longer you wait¬†in the year, the more the price of the book¬†goes down.

Don’t forget to take advantage of¬† You¬†can often get a $25 gift card for $2 if you use a coupon code.¬† We are sitting on four coupons right now and just used one¬†at the end of last year¬†to go to a restaurant we love, love, loved!¬† It’s¬†especially a great opportunity to try out¬†local restaurants.

Most of you¬†probably know about¬†Groupon,¬†but if not, you should sign up.¬† You get a daily email with the deal for that day, often this is half off a purchase, and it’s mainly¬†for local establishments.¬† You have to sign¬†up for the groupon the day it’s advertised, but the groupon often doesn’t expire for a year or so.¬†

Finally, date at times that are not typical.¬†¬†Because of our babysitter’s schedule, we almost always go out around lunch time on Saturdays instead of the evening.¬† Often, you can eat off the lunch menu for cheaper and still get huge portions.¬†¬†If you do¬†go at night,¬†many restaurants will let you have lunch-size portions for the lunch price if you request.¬† You just have to ask.


How Do You Plan Dates?

One thing I have had to learn about dates is it’s not about the event we do together but the time to reconnect.¬† This was a hard lesson to learn because I’m an explorer by nature.¬† I love trying new things and seeing new places, so in my heart I would be discouraged any time Bill and I got away and the date wasn’t “perfect.”¬† You know the ones, either you have no money so you can only walk around a park with $1 sodas from McDonald’s, or your plans just didn’t work the way you had hoped.¬† I would have considered those (which are honestly most of our dates) an epic fail.¬† Slowly, though, God has changed my heart to love any time I get with my Bill no matter what is going on around us.

One of the things that has served us is preparing some discussion questions we can use with one another while we’re out.¬†¬†Truthfully it is rare that we get to these.¬† We usually have plenty to discuss!¬† However, sometimes the conversation isn’t flowing as well, especially on days one or both¬†of us are tired, so the questions help us push through to¬†have meaningful conversations in spite of¬†how we feel.¬† It’s amazing how much we have learned from each other through these¬†questions we never would have thought to ask.

A few resources we have used for question ideas are “40 Unforgettable Dates with¬†Your Mate” by¬†Gary & Barbara Rosberg, “Devotions for Couples” by Patrick Morley, & “201 Great Questions for¬†Married Couples” by Jerry Jones.¬†

One word I will say here.¬† We don’t go to the movie theatre often.¬†¬†Don’t get me wrong–we LOVE movies.¬† But except for a few important exceptions (Harry Potter,¬†many comic book movies, etc.)¬†ūüėČ we don’t find it to¬†be a good use of our time together.¬† Movies=no talking, and it usually takes up half the time or more of our dates.¬† There have even been times we have left a restaurant after walking in because it was such a loud atmosphere that we couldn’t hear each other.¬† That is just to say, be careful when planning your dates that you choose options that will¬†make for optimal conversation.

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Dating Resources

Since dating is becoming more and more important to us the larger our family gets, we have invested a bit of money toward books with date ideas.  I have already listed a few in a previous post here.  We have added to our collection since then and will list our updates below.  Obviously, some are better than others, but we have gleaned ideas from all at one time or another.

All of the books I have listed are written by Christians; however, we also own¬†several written by non-believers, too.¬† I’m not listing them here because they contain a few ideas that would not bring glory to God if practiced between a married couple, and to set you at ease, we don’t practice them.¬† ūüôā¬† Unfortunately, though, putting those ideas aside, secular books are often the best places to find good date ideas because they aren’t afraid of doing or talking about things many Christians fear, like sex, alcohol, or dancing.¬† ūüôā¬† That’s just to say that those books have been good resources for us, but if you are going to purchase them, do so prayerfully and with discernment.¬† We have many times blacked out inappropriate suggestions or torn out pages, mainly to guard our own hearts.

2002 Things To Do On a Date

365 Great Date Ideas

The Little Book of Great Dates for Mates

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How Do We Get Babysitting for Dates?

This has been a question we have asked each other many times since we have been parents, and through friends and research, God has blessed us with many different ideas of how to do this.  One of our favorites over the years has been swap dating.  I wrote a short post about it here.  This blessed both families involved.  We got to go out once a month, our children became close friends as they spent 8 hours or so together each month, and we became even closer to the other couple as we would spend a bit of time before & after the dates fellowshiping.

Currently, we don’t¬†have a family with whom¬†we swap date (this works better if your families are comparable in size & age, so the bigger your family, the more difficult this is to pull off),¬†& we still don’t have tons of money to fork out for babysitters, so we¬†had to look into other options.¬† We felt we could set aside enough money each month to pay for babysitting once, but we ideally wanted two out-of-home dates, so I began mentoring in exchange for babysitting.¬† I meet with a¬†young woman, Jessica,¬†who is in high school, once a week, and she babysits for us twice a month, once for¬†“free” and once¬†for pay.¬†¬†We have loved it, and since¬†Jessica is basically the epitome of what I want¬†my daughters to be like when they are older,¬†we get a mentor for them as well.¬†¬†

Another option that is a spin-off of the one above is mentoring a group of women for a few hours once or twice a month (teaching baking, sewing, a Bible study, etc.) in exchange for babysitting from each of them.  Depending on the amount of women (or men if any of you male types read) with whom you are working, you could potentially get weekly dates this way.

We have also played around¬†with the idea of starting a babysitting co-op with some close friends.¬† Basically, you get points for the amount of time & number of children you babysit that you can “cash in” for your own date night.¬† There are existing co-ops in¬†most areas, or like I said, you could start your own.¬† I love these kinds of things because of the interaction our kids get with other kids and parents.

Finally, if this is something you desire, pray that God will provide a way for the two of you to get out.  I cannot tell you the amount of times we have gotten random phone calls or emails from dear friends who tell us they are coming over to watch our kids whether we like it or not, even though we have so many that are so young.  God has been good to provide us with sweet servants who want to bless us, and He is faithful to continue giving all of us good things.

Quick addition, Bill and I also still date on the weeks Jess isn’t here.¬† We just do an at-home date after the kids go to bed.¬† These have been some of our sweetest times together.

Because this is dear to our hearts, I’ll spend the next couple of weeks giving good dating resources, telling some cheaper ways to date, sharing how we plan dates, and we hope to begin posting what we did on our dates to help get your creative juices flowing.