Hello everyone! I have been talking a lot about the pandemic, children, and things that I have been putting off for a more convenient time. I realized we have never spoken about parenthood as it pertains to relationships and intimacy. Too often, we spend so much time nurturing our children that we forget to nurture our relationships. When intimacy becomes less of a priority, you find yourself entering the dreaded marital rut. You have to recognize the signs. Are your late-night conversations going from sexy, romantic, and slightly Xrated, to a PG-rated suckfest filled with discussions about school work, extracurricular activities, Junior's latest nefarious escapades? When the children are down for the night, are you and your partner down too? Are you sometimes asleep before the children? Are you so exhausted emotionally and physically from parenting that the thought of having to satisfy another human being that is not yourself is giving you anxiety? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be in a rut, my friend. I feel like the emotional distance that the rut creates is far more detrimental to your relationship than the physical space. When conversations about how you are emotionally doing get tabled to talk about your routine, it can breed resentment. That resentment, coupled with lack of physical intimacy, can destroy this amazing family that you built. What can you do to prevent this? Well, every family is different; this is what works for us. We always make time to date one another. Dates do not need to be extravagant. It can be a romantic getaway, or it can be watching Netflix at your kitchen table.
We found that while physical intimacy and emotional intimacy go together, emotional intimacy has more longevity than physical intimacy. So, we make an effort to keep the lines of communication open. After the children have gone to bed, we talk about our day, how we feel, things that bother us, and general discussions about the world around us. Sometimes we watch movies and TV shows and discuss the eternal DC vs. Marvel debate. Topics like, "why is DC cinematic universe so terrible when they produce the best comics ever." (I said what I said. Come at me, bro.) Whether we discuss ridiculousness like who would win in a fight or how we would survive the zombie apocalypse or talk about serious matters, we always approach the topic with an open mind and honesty. I am unapologetically goofy, and he does not judge me for it. Part of being open is letting your partner know that it is safe for them to be themselves around you. We never go to bed angry. We put forth the maximum effort to get to the point where we are so emotionally close that it will not matter when we are too old to do the deed.
Because of the quarantine, we were not getting much alone time. We wanted to take a break and reconnect. There are many pandemic pregnancy jokes, but let's be honest. My fiancé and I have a tiny roommate that hates naps and refuses to go to bed at night. When you have three children and no privacy, finding the time and space to do the deed is hard. A getaway was a long time coming. (Puns intended.) The first weekend I was able to walk steadily without my wheelchair walker, my fiancé and I planned a romantic getaway to Solvang, California.
For those who are not familiar with California, Solvang is a Dutch village about 34 miles from Santa Barbara. It was founded in 1911 and became incorporated in 1985. This village is unique not only because of the Dutch style architecture but also because of the food. We left West Covina around 9 in the morning. There was virtually no traffic, (surprising because let's face it this is LA county, not even COVID-19 can stop the traffic.) We skipped breakfast because we knew that we would be at the most fantastic breakfast spot in California in a short two and a half hours. (Before we get all the indignant comments saying, "my favorite breakfast place is better than yours," I want you to know that you are entitled to your wrong opinion.) We had a clear plan. Have brunch, explore Solvang, check into the hotel, hole up until the morning.
We pulled up to Paula's Pancake House, and I knew I was about to have the best breakfast of my life. I had been waiting two years for this, and it was worth the wait. I could smell the pancakes as we pulled up. I took one look at the patio and saw our sexy Solvang getaway was turning into our sexy social distanced Solvang getaway. My how times have changed. We put our masks on and walked up to the hostess. No surprise; she was outside, as was the entire dining room. To comply with the city's pandemic ordinances, they had moved all their tables out to the patio. Before this visit, I wasn't sure what a post-pandemic visit to Paula's would look like, and I was nervous. However, because they were continually disinfecting the tables, the servers were wearing masks, splash guards, and gloves, my mind was at ease. Because the tables were six feet apart, there were fewer tables. Fewer tables meant a longer wait, but I didn't mind. The hostess wrote our names down and asked us to wait in line.
There were large orange X's on the ground, six feet apart. The hostess asked us to stand on the X's to maintain a safe social distance. "So far so good," I thought, "no need to run for the hills; everyone is safe." They called our name and sat us. I guess my only complaint would be that I would have liked to have a patio umbrella for shade because the sun was beating down on us pretty hard, and I forgot my sunblock. Despite the relentless heat, we had an outstanding brunch. As my fiancé pulled my chair out for me, as he has done many times before, it hit me. No matter where we are, this man never fails to treat me like a queen. I had one of Paula's famous omelets and a cup of tea. My fiancé had pancakes and Dutch sausage. We sat there for a while, just having a conversation about the last time I ate at Paula's. We had a debate about why the waffles were so delicious. They are baked, and Paula's uses an original batter recipe; I won. We could have been eating garbage, talking about nothing, and I would have been just as happy sitting there with him.
We decided to walk off our brunch and explore before checking into our hotel. There were so many unique shops. I was somewhat angry with myself for not being able to as fast as I wanted to. The muscles in my back had atrophied during my time in the rollator. It was frustrating to move at a snail's pace when more shops and bakeries that I wanted to visit than there was time. I had to take quite a few sitting breaks. I was hot, frustrated, and on the verge of tears when we finally decided that maybe it was best to pick a handful of shops to visit and save the others for another visit. We walked on and arrived at Hans Christian Andersen Park around noon. It was small and picturesque. There were plenty of shaded areas. I did not see any children save a ragtag group of teens gathered at the park's gazebo.
The girls were scantily clad, and the boys were in graphic tees and baggy jeans, cigarette in one hand skateboard in the other. I laughed and thought, "once upon a time, that was my friends and me. At least the nonsmokers have their masks on. Secondhand smoke is gross, and the smell is a bigger snitch than 69." We sat on a park bench in the shade, and I called my fiancé's attention to the teens I observed on the gazebo. We fondly reminisced about our teen years. We must have laughed and talked on that bench for hours. We watched the people walking by with their face shields and facemasks and spoke about how different it was from 2 years ago. We laughed about how we first met, marveled at how far we've come, and expressed excitement about where we wanted to be in the future. It felt like we were on our first date, getting to know each other all over again. I fell in love with him again right there on that park bench. We got up, walked to the car, and made our way to the San Marcos Hotel.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast at Paula’s, we got about halfway through my list of shops I wanted to visit before the weekend crowd rushed in. After a visit to The Spice Merchant, and two bakeries, we decided there were too many people to explore safely mask or no mask. Sadly, we put Solvang in our rearview, but the memories of love, romance, and the baked goods will always remain.