Marriage Retreat

You know that moment when you are in the middle of something, get halfway done with the task, and then commit to coming back to finish in the future but it never happens. Yeah- that is this post. Ha! Flash back to February when we decided to take a little journey on a marriage retreat.

There is a first time for everything. In an effort to challenge ourselves this year and step out of our marriage comfort zone we signed up to spend our Valentine’s weekend at a marriage retreat.

(Everyone rolls their eyes)

Yeah we didn’t know what to expect. We thought we would be surrounded by discussions of feelings and your best marriage. And while that was true, that wasn’t the complete focus. The true focus was on being together, disconnected from technology, and trying new things.

Ropes Course at WinshapeWe spent the weekend doing high ropes course activities and hiking up to a really pretty watermill that is on the campus of Berry College.

I think my favorite thing about the weekend other than the commitment to avoid our cell phones if the other person was in the room, was the team building activities. We did this one communication activity where one of us had a picture of shapes (circles, triangles, and squares), and had to communicate the layout to the other person. The challenge was to see how we communicated to one another and discover how the other person heard our instructions. After the first round of the exercise, we switched roles and had a new photo to attempt to communicate and draw.

winshape tree

We learned a lot during this exercise about the fact that when we describe things, they don’t always come across exactly as we want because of our spouses ability to interpret the request. For example, I may say “Conner please do the dishes before our friends come over tonight”. He interprets it as needing to do the dishes 5 minutes before the crowd arrives rather than doing it within the 15 minute window after I communicated my desire. While he wasn’t wrong in his execution of the request, it gave me anxiety because I did not clearly communicate and make sure he heard my true desire.

While this is just one example of the break down of how communication comes across, it truly allowed us to pause and remember that we are each made differently and therefore communicate differently. Rather than finding fault in one another, we have to extend grace and figure out a way to communicate effectively so that we feel heard and valued.

winshape water wheel

Honestly, the weekend was a blast, less “talk about your feelings because you are doing it wrong” than I would have thought this type of environment would brew. It was a relaxing weekend away, we walked away with a new understanding of one another, and appreciation for our common values.

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In Sickness and In Health

You never know when you will have to carry out the promises of the vows you committed to on your wedding day. I always heard the first trimester of your pregnancy is a doozy in terms of morning sickness and the occasional snicker from already-mom’s about how it really isn’t just confined to the “morning”.


I had no concept to know what to expect for my own body, because fortunately I don’t really get sick. Yes, I get the occasional headache or need to take a nap, but the only thing that ever really makes my body feel awful would be classified as “car motion sickness”.

Well the first trimester was the whole “car motion sickness” to the 1000th degree. It was all day-I think I’m going to throw up, but I am not actually going to, sickness. If I wasn’t eating, I was sleeping in an effort not to keep eating. If I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I was chewing on a mint.

All over the interwebs you see those cute little “1st trimester must-have” charts. Mine consisted of peppermints, sparkling lime water, pretzels, and naps. My typical food groups of greens, dessert, and veggies were out the window as my body hated all of those things. My 1st trimester food groups? Bread + Cheese + Potatoes.

This whole “in sickness and in health” vow thing really got put to the test and sweet Conner stepped up to the plate. I remember one day shutting down the computer from the work grind and he had waiting for me a snack station and napping essentials so that I could easily transition to what we have come to call “baby baking hour”.

Baby Baking Hour

How lovely for him to embrace this less than wonderful, crying over food dropping on the floor, pregnant lady that I have become.

Snack station for baby foxI am just grateful for how he took the time to grab the essentials to help me be as comfortable as possible in such a transitional time. I never could have guessed what that part of the vows would look like in such the context of not being on my death bed.

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Baby Baking Exhaustion

Here’s a secret. I write blogs when I sleep. Meaning I write them out word for word, imagine the pictures, and even recognize the words I’ll have to pay special attention to when typing because they probably will be misspelled. But when I wake up… The words have vanished, just like the over abundance of energy I just had during the last 6 hours of sleep.

Growing a baby is hard work. Energy zapping, stomach turning, anxiety ridden hard work. Every moment when I’m not trying to get through my adult responsibilities, I spend the seconds sleeping, stuffing my face with bread and cheese (because all my normal food groups seem to have me turning up my nose), or sleeping some more to avoid eating again. Let’s just say there has been a lot of self discovery the last few weeks. einsteins Having this outwardly invisible battle going on has made me thankful of the miracle and reassurance going on inside. It has made me reflect on the kind of mother I will be, the kind of spouse I want to be, and the type of parents we will be when it comes to disciplining. But those thoughts make me frustrated when I look over from my sleepy eyes and see a sink piled high with dishes, a dog begging to be played with, and a gracious husband who I haven’t been on a date night with in weeks. If I’m zapped of energy now…what will life be like in 7 months?!? Yikes.

Well during all this rest, I still wanted to spend time with Conner – ignore all the internal symptoms going on – and remind him that I love him. Luckily at the beginning of the year we began watching the TV series Parenthood. OMG, so good. I remember watching an episode when it first came out and I wasn’t impressed. I guess I just wasn’t mentally in the mindset to want to watch it.

This year…we binge watched the show. It took us two and a half months and we just got to the final episode. That was cause for a special at-home date night to celebrate. So if you’ve seen the show, you know that every episode has a scene with pancakes. Those Bravermans love their pancakes. So we ordered a batch from IHOP to go, sat around the coffee table, and cried our eyes out to the last episode. So sweet! pancakes In that moment I was thankful for Conner. He goes on dates with me because he knows that reminds me that I am loved. He knows that it is how I show love and remind him that I’m glad we are married. I’m thankful for all of his patience right now during this first trimester. And for his ability to be spontaneous when I wake up feeling adventurous for a few hours and declare that we are driving 40 minutes to get brunch in the city.  I’m excited for more energy and even have a date…outside of the house…planned on the calendar circled in prayers of no nausea and lots of energy.

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Baby Fox Coming Soon

I am writing this post at 4am. That is when this baby decides it’s no longer tired but would rather be fully awake leaving me to feel every wave of nausea possible at 4am. Excuse me while I cry over the fact that I am never sick and therefore the toll it is already taking on my body is noticeable. Also, it is mixed with equal parts joy knowing that the feelings of throwing up every five minutes are proof that a miracle is growing and I don’t have to question whether things are okay or if I should have passed on that deli sandwich I ate earlier yesterday.

Oh yeah… I’m pregnant!!!!

So allow me to back up and introduce you to the baby fox that is cooking and will make its debut around October:

Baby Fox 7 weeks

And here’s the baby announcement. This picture was from our marriage retreat two weeks ago but perfectly sums up our feelings.

Baby AnnouncementYeah I’m a little scared. Mostly for the labor part. Okay also for the part where we figure out how a tiny human fits into the Volpe lifestyle. I’ve been reading a devotional thought the pregnancy that goes week by week of the symptoms, tiny science lesson of what’s happening/growing/changing with the baby, and a place to journal my feelings. It has been amazing because it is showing me week by week to align my trust in what really matters and not to worry about every little thing. (Don’t worry, my A type self gasps at the words I just wrote. Who am I?!? What is life?!? Hard hitting questions at 4:00am)

To tell our families we had these sweet little pacifiers made up with the expected due date and a little fox. We attached a little note to let them know it was their mission to hold on to it for slumber parties and baby fox hangouts that would begin in 7 months.

So how did we get here?!? Well I mean I’m not going to tell you that part… I will tell you the part where I never cry and all of a sudden I cry for a week straight… I knew something was up. So I took a test… Saw a positive and after I had my own little “OMG this is happening” moment in the bathroom, I composed myself and took a box downstairs to Conner to open. Inside contained some printed instructions for him to build a crib and of course the positive test. Because we all know that looking at something that someone else peed on is super cool and all sorts of wonder.

Here is a little video of me telling the newest daddy to be of his new role. Enjoy :)

Movie on 1-30-15 at 8.52 AM from Mandy and Conner on Vimeo.


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Casting the Vision of Marriage

We just got back from a marriage retreat that had some pretty clear ideas around vision and how that affects your marriage. Initially when they started talking about vision I got super pumped because I am a planner through and through and our family is no stranger to goal setting.

Here is a simple thought that sums up what vision is like for your marriage: When there is no vision, there is no direction.

Selfie on a date nightThe world is ready to cast a vision of what your relationship and marriage should look like. The true question becomes “what do you want the vision of your relationship to look like”? I want our marriage to be intentional, filled with joy and laughter, adventure moments, and plenty of photographs to document the journey.

Selfie Sticks for LIFE

When you set a clear vision, you have a direction. You have an idea of the action steps that need to get you to your end goal of what you are passionate about. The key is to clearly write out your goals, your vision, so that the outside pressures do not take over with expectations of what your relationship “should” look like.

Vision spurs passion and passion leads to discipline.

What does this look like, though? Strategically plan what you want your marriage to look like in 5 years. What do you want to be true of your finances? Saving money each month allowed us to get out of our student loan debt. It wasn’t easy, but we knew in 5 years we wanted to be able to focus on adventures with our family rather than on paying down debt. The vision to become debt free created direction and ultimately action steps to project us forward.

Decide on the areas you want to drive the direction of your marriage and be intentional to create vision. Make a coffee date to slow down and reconnect. Make a weekend of it, alone, just the two of you. Whatever a strategy session would look like for you and your spouse- make it happen. Now is the time to cast the vision of what you want your relationship and family to look like in 5 years.

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Love is Square

Have you heard of Malvi’s?

They are these delicious little marshmallow squares, all homemade by a young woman in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course I first discovered them through Instagram and Conner and I stalked them out last year for our Anniversary adventure. They were doing a pop up shop at the local West Elm. I thought we would show up to try the treats but they had turned the little confections into ice cream sandwiches.

Malvi Ice Cream Sandwich

I die. So delicious.

Well fast forward over 6 months and they now have miniature malvi’s and I lack the tan that I had back in August. #WhatTheWhat?!?!

Laura was kind enough to send us some of the new mini’s and we decided to turn the goodies into a date night treat.Mini Malvi

Conner used his Boy Scout skills to create a fire for us and we made a little pallet on the floor to create our s’more’s. (Disclaimer this fire was from an outdoor shopping mall that we visited. I don’t know who I have become but I forgot to take a photo during the actual date night. Let’s chalk it up to be that I was simply living in the moment). We may or may not have fired up our current binge watching obsession of Parenthood because let’s be real- my ideal outdoor adventure looks more like glamping than a hardcore wilderness sans technology combination.Fire

Okay, so have I made you hungry or at least a little inspired to fire up your own indoor date night? Well, head over to our Instagram because Malvi has decided to gift one of their new miniature sets to you! Simply like the Instagram photo of the giveaway and follow our account and you will have a chance to win! Winner will be announced on Wednesday, February 18th.

I am always looking for new date ideas so let me know what kind of indoor date nights you have done before?

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Featured: MyFitnessPal


Today the fine folks over at MyFitnessPal shared our story on their blog! We were so excited to speak with them and share some tips on how we use their app. MFP was absolutely instrumental in our weight loss and we are so happy that they chose us to represent the success possible through their company.

For those of you heading here from their blog: welcome and we’re glad you are here! Below are some links to articles we have written with handy tips and tricks to help you along your own fitness journey. Be sure to stick around, connect with us on Instagram, and thanks for visiting!

Resolve to be Healthier

Where to Begin on a Fitness Journey?

Training Tips for Adventure Racing

Ahh Sugar Sugar: 4 Replacement Ideas

Health and Wellness Hits the Road

Money Monday: Fitness on a Budget

Looking back on the most transformative year of our lives!

Oh did we mention that we are on Pinterest pinning ideas? Yep- Don’t miss it!

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