5 Minutes for Books: What Happy Parents Do

“Big trouble,” I say to Terry raising my eyebrows.

He grins, “Yeah, I know,” he acknowledges.

Terry had left the garage door open on a night that was below freezing (because of the way we park our cars, we have to close it once he’s already in the house). Not only does that make our morning commute a little chilly as we wait for our cars to heat up, but as we had learned from my unfortunate mistake earlier that month, it can freeze the pipes to our kitchen that run through the garage.

See — I am the designated mistake-maker in the house. You know, the one who forgets to pay the bill that’s due. Or runs out of checks so that no one can pay any bills until we receive our rush-delivery re-order. The one who dings up the cars, and the one who leaves the garage open and freezes the pipes.

However, because I am a stay-at-home mom, I’m also the one who deals with these problems: putting space heaters in the (now-closed) garage to thaw out the pipes, taking the car to the shop for repairs, and delivering last-minute payments.

Terry is very understanding and supportive, but the difference in our personalities gets to him sometimes when my careless errors happen in close proximity, or if he just happens to be in a bad mood. It makes me feel like the bad teenager.

On the rare occasions when Terry made the kind of mistake that resulted in a financial or time inconvenience for us, I would remain calm as I reminded him, “You know, if I had done the same thing, I would be in big trouble.” Now years later, the code has gotten shortened to those two words. Either of us can utter “big trouble,” and it diffuses any frustration that either of us might be feeling.

Using humor, and specifically code words to remind us of certain situations, is one of our “loving rituals” that keeps us close and connected.

What Happy Parents Do by Carol Bruess and Anna Kudak is full of “The Loving Rituals of a Child-Proof Marriage.” When I first received it, I thought I thought it was like a little greeting card shop sort of book — pretty, colorful, but sort of fluffy. As I read it, I found out I was wrong. Yes, it’s pretty, with a colorful cover and interior pages as well. Yes, it comes with a yellow ribbon bookmark, perfect for marking your place as you page through it, and yes, it would make a perfect little gift, but I did not find it fluffy at all.

In fact, it’s not the sort of thing that I could read in one sitting. This book contains 50 ideas and stories from 50 parents about that little something that keeps them focused on their marriage in the midst of raising their children. Then the authors make an application from that story that each of us can use in our marriages.

For example, one couple shares that they both share a love of fine coffee, and whenever they are indulging (less frequently than in pre-kid days), the wife will think “We’re real people again. I’m drinking coffee with a grown-up that I’m married to!” Then the authors challenge us to make an effort to do the little things that make us feel good, that will then cause the goodness to spill back out to our children.

As I said, this would make a great new baby gift, for parents of a first or a fourth child. It’s the kind of book that would look great on a bedside table, or even in the baby’s room — allowing you and your partner to read and discuss an idea or two anytime you have a few minutes.

The beauty of this book is not in the originality of the ideas, but in the sense of community that it engenders. Once we become parents, we often lose our sense of couple-ness, but reading these stories reminds us of others who are as overwhelmed and disconnected as we are, or who are fighting that inevitability as hard as they can!

Would you like to win one of three copies of What Happy Parents Do? Leave a comment here. If you’d like, tell us one of your loving little rituals.

The first 5 Minutes for Books newsletter is coming out this week. Don’t miss it. Sign up now.

The five winners of last week’s book, Taking Care of Your Girls, are:

#77 Heather C.
#31 Michael Capp
#37 Denise
#9 Green Jello
#25 Jenn S.


  1. says

    Yes, I would very much like to read a copy of this book. Thanks!
    (and how come it seems like I’m always one of the first to comment on these? :)

  2. says

    Let’s see, we tend to laugh at (good-naturedly) and tease each other – often it’s because our personalities are SO different… we’ll oftentimes exaggerate impressions of each other just to get a laugh.

    And we love us some good coffee, too. :)

  3. says

    This certainly looks like a great book. Dh & I are expecting our first any day now and i am looking for things to help us keep our relationship strong though this transition from a couple to a family.

  4. Elizabeth M. says

    This is such a wonderful little book! We always, always, always say I love you when getting off the phone or leaving the house or something. I don’t know why it started but I’m really glad it did.

  5. says

    I’d like one too. Here’s one we do – my husband isn’t known for being particularly handy. He’s a book guy, a teacher. Occasionally, though, he tries and a three day trial of our marriage always ensues. What we know now is that if he’s going to try, I say to him at the beginning I’m okay with how things end up either way, but that I want him to still be talking to me when it’s over. I also stay out of his way while he’s trying. :)

  6. says

    I would so love this book.

    Ummm…19 years of marriage has lead us towards using humor even when our kids think we are not appropriate. However, a special needs child also has lead to some tension.
    Some tips right now would be great!

  7. says

    Right now my hubbie and I are emailing one other 5 questions each week… whether deep, silly, or whatever, as our means of staying connected while he is serving in Iraq.

  8. LorriL says

    This sounds like a great book. We just renewed our vows for our 10th anniversary, and have been coming out of a low spell.

  9. charline s says

    This sounds like a wonderful book, even after being married for 24 years. I could use some new tips.

  10. says

    Sounds like a reallly nice book. Thanks for the chance. I am trying to think of something my husband and i do that is ritualistic, but I cannot think of a single thing that we do consistently, bad huh? Ummmm, If i think of something I am going to write it on my blog. Hah, Thanks for the idea for that too.

  11. says

    The things we do for ourselves are as simple as having a bonfire when the kids are asleep and putting on a kid movie downstairs so we can run upstairs and have… a laundry folding party. Yes. Laundry. Ahem.

    I’d love the book!

  12. says

    I would love a copy of this…unfortunately my husband and I don’t have any rituals….hummm..I’m going to have to start one. Thanks for the idea.

  13. says

    We don’t have many rituals, at least not ones that we are intentional about. The one thing we do faithfully is put our children to bed early so that we have a few hours in the evening to ourselves. Sometimes we spend the time together and sometimes we don’t, but it’s always quiet time to prepare for the next day, and we love it.

    This book is so pretty, and sounds great!

  14. says

    This sounds like a great book!
    When my hubs leaves for a business trip, I leave a little note in his suitcase to tell him I love him and to have a good trip. He also will leave a note for me in a random place.

  15. says

    With our super busy lives and all the teenagers, hubby and I try to always always always say goodbye to each other with a kiss before running out the door.

    Sounds like a good book!

    (And thank you for the last one!)

  16. says

    We always tell each other “I love you because…” Even though we know our love is unconditional, it’s nice to know specifics every once in awhile.

    sounds like a great book!

  17. Celeste says

    We pray the Rosary together every evening. It really reminds me why we got started on this parenting journey in the first place.

  18. says

    would LOVE this book. we used to have a ritual of playing scrabble after the kids went down but now that we have 3 it seems bedtime goes on forever with kids getting back up and babies waking etc.

  19. says

    We are going to be first time parents in January. I would love a copy of this book to start our marriage with a child out the right way!

  20. Nancy says

    This book sounds great! After 20 years and 4 kids (three of them are under 8) we would love some new ideas.

  21. says

    I’d love to win!! Similar to the couple in the review who share their love of fine coffee, my husband and I like good wine. I partake much less frequently now (still nursing my second child!) but it’s almost escapism when we can share a glass of wine — even yesterday on the patio while the girls napped.

  22. Melissa B. says

    Sixteen years and still going strong. We recently starting fishing together and taking walks around our six acre yard.

  23. Jenn S. says

    I would love to read this book. Sounds like a very informative worthwhile read. Dh and I share a lot of the same hobbies, it helps. As does keeping the communication lines open.

  24. says

    our little guy spends Sun afternoons with Grandma, so we take time to just hang out, enjoy each other’s company and relate as grownups – one of our new things is to go to Panera after church…clip coupons, look at sales papers, snack and come up with our meal plan/shopping list for the week. We also find ourselves dreaming about our future together and how to best reach the family goals we’ve set – it’s been awesome!

  25. says

    I would love to have a copy of this and read it! :) My dh and I have various things we do…mostly it’s just finding a way of making the other laugh before we head for bed after a long day. :) Ya know, laughter…best medicine and all that. 😉
    mom bake 3 at gmail dot com

  26. Lindsay Vandermyde says

    I would love to win this book. I have a baby on the way and am wondering how I’ll balance married life with a child!

  27. says

    We live in a country where “date night” is almost impossible. We’re not supposed to go out at night, there are multiple reasons to be careful and there are very few choices for places to do “date night” anyway. We don’t have any family here, so babysitters are hard to come by.

    We are raising 7 kids and trying to stay connected and in tune with each other through those stressors … our best way of staying “tight” in the middle of so much responsibility is to laugh and remember easier days … we spend a lot of time just reflecting on the days with two kids or the days when we lived in Minnesota and had babysitters and date night … recalling those times and KNOWING that SOMEDAY they will come again … well, that helps us cope.

  28. says

    When we were married I gave my hubby a card that said “I Love You This Much…” and then went on to list many wonderful reasons why. So we started to say that to each other occasionally. When we hear it, it makes us pause for an extra moment to remember how much we love each other and why we are doing all this – because we really do love each other!

  29. says

    We have a few minutes of “Mommy-Daddy-Talk-Time” after he gets home from work, while I’m finishing dinner. The kids know it’s sacred time. :)

  30. Debbo says

    We all need encouragement in the realm of parenting, marriage and well life! This looks wonderful. I hope I win a copy :).

  31. Amy B says

    during stressful situations my hubby and i always end up joking that we would make a hilarious SNL sketch.
    this helps us to step back and look at the conversation we just had with a different perspective and a little humor.
    and somehow a line from the movie “Just Friends” ends the argument. remember anna farris singing (breathy, valley-girl voice) “Forgiveness, is more than saying sorry…” :)
    also, our standard line is “you’re my favorite” sometimes this gets expanded to say, “if i had a fav five, you’d be all five”
    how sweet
    i think i’ll text him now.
    “hey lover! you’re my favorite!”

  32. Kim B. says

    I would love to win this book! DH and I try to have a weekly night to ourselves to watch a movie and indulge in a delicious dessert together after our toddler is in bed.

  33. Heather D. says

    We try to surprise each other. I plan dinners to surround my husband with the people he loves. He thoughtfully selects books for me and has them delivered to the house.

  34. K. Cleaver says

    We’ve never had a baby sitter and I find it very hard for my husband and I to be “connected adults”. Everything around me relates to kids. We tried having date nights at home after the kids went to bed. That was ok, but frankly, I was the one putting effort into it and my husband reaps the reward.

    A few years ago, my husband and I went away for the weekend while his parents came to visit and kept the kids. I cried and cried the last day because I didn’t want it to end.

    I miss the connection we had pre-kids. Things have changed. They aren’t bad. They just aren’t as spontaneously fun.

    I’m interested in the book. I have no helpful ideas at the moment.

  35. Martha C says

    We could definitely use help in the trying to be married as well as parents department! Sign me up!

  36. says

    We do lots as a family but don’t do a lot for each other lately…with two already, another on on the way and two full time jobs…its hard to set aside time for the two of us. Sure looks like a good book to help us get there!

  37. ab says

    I love the topic of this book. It is something that would be of great benefit in our home right now. Thanks for the chance to win.

  38. Kathy D says

    My parents taught is their girls me included that is important to spend time togther and do little things for each other…

  39. says

    This sounds like a great book that I could snatch some good ideas out of. My husband and I love to go to his old college’s football games. He went to a pretty big school…so it’s a fun atmosphere that helps us feel “young” again and get that old college feeling. : )

  40. says

    Well, my husband and I have this secret addiction to kid cereals. You know, the really “bad” ones, but our all-time favorite is Cocoa Krispies. If one of us has had a really bad day, the other might show up with a box of cereal. Yes, I know..food…stress…all that together is bad. But for us, a box of chocolate cereal is way better than any ole flowers could ever be!

  41. Kristine says

    Our ritual is to have an in-house Date Night each Week. It’s on our schedules, after the kids are in bed, a good cup of coffee and dessert together. Sometimes we read together, sometimes we talk, usually we snuggle, sometimes we watch something together. We both look forward to it all weekend (it’s on Monday) and all day long. Saves us money, but we still get our time together each week. Thanks for entering me!!

  42. says

    The hubby and I like to play games. Usually just a hand of cards, though sometimes we get wild and break out the Wii. It always makes us laugh, which is our favorite thing to do together.

  43. Sally says

    What an awesome idea! After much “life” in a short amount of time, my brain is lacking creativity when it comes to ideas on how to spend time nurturing my marriage! Wahoo! Thanks for a great resource!

  44. Brandi says

    Thursday night is our “tv-date” night. After we put our baby to bed at 8 p.m., we snuggle on the couch and watch our two favorite TV shows together.

  45. says

    My husband always makes mocha lattes for us to enjoy on Sat. and Sun. mornings. It is a wonderful treat and we enjoy that time together :)

    heatherlbrandt (at) verizon (dot) net

  46. ellen cunningham says

    My husband calls me on his breaks just to see how our son and I are doing. My husband and I could definitely use this book. Thanks for the chance.

  47. says

    Great Blog! We enjoy What Happy Couples Do website and mention them often in our own Caffection blog (now also a website for happily ‘caffected’ couples) You have a super blog, keep up the good work.
    Caffectionately yours, Mariah & Byron

  48. Alan Hall says

    I would love to win these books! After 2 children my husband and I have lost any alone time for each other and I would love to read up on how to get it back without feeling guilty.

  49. Christine says

    This would be perfect for my family! We have been trying to reunite as a couple for months now and the progress is good but I want to keep it up! Thanks!

  50. Lenora Garrett says

    I’d love to win this. One of my loving rituals is before I leave my children we always say “I love you high as the sky, and as deep as the ocean.” If I’m busy and I forget my son always tells me, “Mommy, what about the ocean?” It reminds me to stop a minute.

  51. Elena says

    We give each other knowing glances about how hard it is with the gang of kids in our house. We’ve become good at tag teaming — when one reaches their limit needs a break the other takes over. It works well for us. Thanks for a great contest!

  52. Martha Payne says

    Would love to win this! I’m expecting my first baby and seems like great reading material.

  53. Lori Z. says

    It’s so funny how our relationship roller coasters since we’ve been parents. Right now we could really use this!

  54. Suzie says

    My fiance and I just cooked dinner together and it’s the most fun we’ve had together in a while. We were in a dinner bind so I pulled out some chicken and a jar of pasta sauce and we took turns tossing all kinds of different spices and ingredients in. It actually came out really yummy and it was fun experimenting!

  55. Carla Pullum says

    Date night is always good! Also getting the kids on a bed schedule so you have time for me time! Also husband time! No stress!

  56. Veronica Garrett says

    We leave notes to each other everywhere. We started this early in our marriage and have continued it.

  57. Amy L says

    I love the idea of this book. BTW as far as the checks and not being able to pay the bills, you can get a cashiers check right from the bank or a money order. There are bill paying places where you can pay cash. We never write checks, can get lost in the mail – or with our luck – we’d keep forgetting to mail it out. I’ve read that credit card companies will sometimes hold checks puruposely to make it late.

    We have very few bills – our utilities are included in our rent, but what bills we have we pay directly on the way to other errands. Cable bill – which inludes internet and phone and cell phone bill as well.

  58. Jean Hupketake says

    Our anniversy and birthdays fall on the 16th of different months. So we go on a date on the 16th of every month.