4 years and counting: my top 10 posts of all time

Ever since Blogger (this blog's host site) started providing "stats" for Jen's Love Lessons, I've become a little obsessed checking out my top posts. I think it's interesting to see the posts that readers (like you!) enjoy reading. In addition, these stats have also helped me write more posts (because I know what you like!). Since I've been blogging for almost 4 years now (on August 7th, to be exact), I thought I'd share some of these stats with you. So here they are, my top ten posts of all time (the posts that have received the most hits)! (By the way, you can click on each post title below to read said post.)

And the #1 post of all time on JensLoveLessons.com is... drumroll...

What's one of YOUR favorite Jen's Love Lessons' posts?

"pin and win" contest

As part of the "One Year Anniversary Extravaganza" for my book, I'm hosting FOUR contest giveaways that will all end in the month of August (this one will end in the first week). Each contest winner will receive a FREE signed copy of my book. Already have a copy of my book? That's okay! You can still enter- my book makes a great gift!

This contest is called "Pin and Win" because you'll be using one of my favorite websites: Pinterest! I have a board in my Pinterest account called "book love." On that board, I pinned my book. To enter this contest, you will need to go to my pin of my book (HERE) and REPIN it to one of your own Pinterest boards (any board will do). Then, you should come back to THIS POST and leave a comment with the link to YOUR REPIN of my book. Does that make sense? I hope it does. If it doesn't, just send me an email (jenslovelessons@gmail.com).

In case you were still a little confused, here's a set of screen shot instructions:

Step One: Click HERE to go to my pin of my book on my Pinterest board entitled, "book love." It will take you to a screen that looks like this:

Step Two: Click "Repin" and 

put it on one of your own boards.

Step Three: Come back to THIS POST and leave a comment with the link to my book pinned on one of your Pinterest boards.

That's it!

I will randomly choose one of you to win a free SIGNED copy of my book on August 5th.

Want to know more about my book? You can read a summary HERE, see a few quotes from within the book HERE, and read a few book reviews HERE.

Here are the deadline details:
  1. Leave a comment with a link to the repin of my book at the bottom of this post before  August 5, 2012 at 5pm (EST).
  2. I will then randomly choose a winner (using random.org) and announce the winner by 5pm on August 6th.
  3. The winner will receive a signed copy of my book!!!
  4. Sorry, but you can only submit ONE pin to this contest.

Well what are you waiting for? Get to pinning!

quick love tip: snuggle

Our new baby, Paxton, is now two months old. And through all of the rigmarole of having a new baby, Hus and I have... well... forgotten about the importance of a few things. And one of those things is snuggling. It's not like we literally forgot. It's just that we haven't had a whole lot of time to ourselves while adjusting to our new life with three children (two of which are ridiculously rambunctious and one of which is ridiculously needy). 

Snuggling was always a big part of our pre-children life together. We would snuggle on the couch while watching tv, snuggle in bed while sleeping, or snuggle in a chair while talking about our daily events. Then, we had children. Attention-draining, time-consuming, stress-inducing, conflict-creating little people. Our time alone (when we usually cuddled) was cut down from all day long to a few hours here or a few minutes there. And our bed became a family bed. This, in turn, significantly decreased the frequency of our snuggle time.

As our twins aged, we got back to snuggling more and more. When I got pregnant again, I vowed (to myself) to work harder at maintaining closeness with Hus this time around. Then, I was put on strict bed rest and was unable to move for most of the day. I lived on our couch and Hus took over. He did everything related to caring for the twins and our house. He. Was. Exhausted. And snuggling was put on the back burner once again.

But we're working on it. Last week, the twins went to bed and Pax nursed at the same time. We knew we had a few hours before Pax needed to nurse again and the couch was available. We put on a movie... and snuggled. And boy, it was glorious. I forgot just how great it felt to curl up with my husband and just relax. We ended up both falling asleep on the couch until Paxton needed our attention again 3 hours later. But for those 3 hours, we snuggled. We snuggled and we didn't think about anything else. Just each other.

If snuggling is not your thing, that's okay. The point of this post is to help you not forget to connect (in whatever way you want) with your partner. Unfortunately, kids, work, and other daily stressors can cause us to "forget" about working on our relationship. Don't let this happen! Remember to snuggle.

"instagram love" photo contest

As part of the "One Year Anniversary Extravaganza" for my book, I'm hosting FOUR contest giveaways that will all end in the month of August (this one will end in the third week). Each contest winner will receive a FREE signed copy of my book. Already have a copy of my book? That's okay! You can still enter- my book makes a great gift!

This contest is one of my favorites: a photo contest!

I've had a lot of fun with the last two photo contests (see the contest photo albums on my Facebook page HERE and HERE) and I've decided to do another! And since this is the one year anniversary month of my book being released (it came out in August 2011), the theme of the contest will focus on my book's chapter titles AND the winner of this contest will get a free SIGNED copy of my book (if you already have one, that's okay- as I said, they make a great gift!).

In case you didn't know already, my book's title is: "Make Love, Not Scrapbooks: And 9 Other Research-Based Love Tips to Intensify Your Relationship" (read about the book HERE) and the 10 chapter titles are as follows:
  1. Be Supportive
  2. Generate Some Blushing (about complimenting)
  3. Talk
  4. Contemplate, Decide, Astonish (about gift-giving)
  5. Don't Worry, Be Happy (about being positive)
  6. Laugh
  7. Make Love, Not Scrapbooks (about having a satisfying sex life)
  8. Heart the Hell Out of Your Mate (about saying "I love you")
  9. Add in a Dash of Spice (about keeping things interesting)
  10. Manage that Conflict
There's also an "extra" 11th chapter called (of course) Extra Love Tips which includes tips like: Listen, Dish Out Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Accept, and Trust.

Chapter 11: Extra Love Tips- Trust

You can also see a few quotes from within the book HERE and read a few book reviews HERE.

So where does the Instagram part come in? I'm glad you asked. I heart Instagram! I don't have a smart phone (I know, it's totally lame), but Hus does! I feel like I'm always asking Hus for his phone to take a pic of one of our kids to Instagram it and then post it to my personal Facebook page or blog. I just love taking pics of things and then using all of the cool filters to make the pics look more interesting. C'mon, you know you love it, too! 

Let's review. I'm challenging you to take a photo of something (ANYTHING) that you think represents one of the chapters in my book. Imagine I've hired you as a photographer for my book and you have to take a photo for me to print in one of the chapters. For instance, you might take a photo of someone blushing for chapter 2 or a photo of something spouses argue about for chapter 10. ANYTHING will do. Then, use one of Instagram's filters and email it to me (jenslovelessons@gmail.com). Sound good?

Here are the details (one more time!):
  1. Take a photo of something that you think epitomizes one of my chapter topics. It can be a photo of anything- you and your partner, your kids, your pets, your friends and family, your house, your coffee mug, your car, anything!
  2. Instagram it.
  3. Email it to me at jenslovelessons@gmail.com-- put "Instagram Photo Contest" in the subject line and tell me what chapter your photo is connected to. Please get your photo to me by August 1, 2012 at 10pm (EST).
  4. I will create an album on my Facebook fan page with all of the submissions on August 2nd.
  5. I will then open the album for votes. Anyone will be able to "LIKE" a photo to cast their vote (which means that anyone can vote for as many photos as they want, but they can only vote for each photo once). You can also advertise your photo on your own Facebook page to get more votes (i.e. "likes").
  6. I'll keep the album open for votes until August 11, 2012 at 10pm (EST).
  7. The owner of the photo with the most "likes" will receive a signed copy of my book!!!
  8. Sorry, but you can only submit ONE photo to this contest.

Pretty sweet, huh? I think so.

So, get out your camera phone or start searching through the thousands of pictures on your phone to Instagram and send me. I'm waiting...

"we need to talk": 11 topics to discuss before baby makes three

The nine months leading up to the birth of your first baby are filled with excitement, anticipation, and for many, immense anxiety (hell, you'll experience these feelings with all of your pregnancies). There's so much to prepare for, worry about, and acquire (babies need a ton of stuff!) before your bundle of joy makes an appearance. And after he or she is welcomed into the world, your life becomes consumed by this new little person. All of your time and energy is put towards caring for, thinking about, and just loving your new baby. During the first few months (and maybe even years), many people will fail to put in the work needed to keep their relationship with their spouse afloat. It won't be intentional, just a unconscious (and totally normal) response to adding a new, helpless, attention-draining person to your family. Unfortunately, this will create a good amount of conflict between you and your partner. 

But there is hope! Many of the little tiffs, moderate disagreements, and seemingly relationship-ending screaming matches during this time will be brought on by things that could have been avoided if you and your partner spent a little more time talking about the challenges that parenthood inevitably brings prior to becoming parents. The key is to get the conversation about these things started while you're pregnant and then keep the lines of communication open well after baby makes three. 

Not sure what to discuss? Below are 11 topics to bring up in those short nine months before your world is turned upside down (don't worry- it's not that bad) so that you can make your post-baby life a hell of a lot easier (believe me, you're going to need all of the help you can get). In addition, I split the topics up into "serious" things and "fun" things so you're not talking about such heavy subjects all of the time. I've also given you a few resources for each topic. Choose a topic, read the articles separately, and then come together to share your thoughts on the subject. You could spend anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks discussing each talking point. However you decide to do it, having these conversations will help you and your partner avoid some of the typical post-baby conflict.

Here are some serious things:
  • Childcare. What are your thoughts on childcare? Do you want to have one parent stay home or will both of you work? If you take the stay-at-home route, who will fulfill that role and for how long (some families will return to dual-income households after all children have started kindergarten)? If you decide to both work, do you want an in-home nanny, a family member, a daycare in an individual's home, or a childcare center caring for your child? How are you going to pay for childcare? Conversation Resources: Click HERE and HERE to read articles that compare the typical childcare options.
  • Nursing. Do you want to breast feed? If yes and everything works out (many women have a lot of trouble in this area- including me with our twins), how long do you want to nurse (a few weeks, months, or years)? When do you think you'll start introducing bottles (either of breast milk or formula) so that your significant other can also feed the baby? Conversation Resources: Check out these articles (HERE and HERE) about the pros and cons of breast feeding.
  • Chores. How do you want to divvy up the daily chores that come with having a newborn? For instance, I nurse our newborn boy as much as possible (he gets a bottle of breast milk about once a day) and so if Hus and I are together, Hus will change our newborn's diaper and burp him when I'm done nursing him. This helps us balance the workload in that area. You should also re-evaluate the regular daily household chores. If you're nursing, you will be unavailable a lot during the day, so your significant other may have to pick up more of your chores during the first few months so that you both don't loose your sanity due to a messy house. Talk about your household chores and all of the new chores you anticipate having with a new baby and discuss how you plan to divide them. Conversation Resources: Take a look at these articles (HERE and HERE) about post-baby chores and how to divide them.
  • Discipline. What are your thoughts on discipline? Do you believe in spanking, time-out, logical reasoning, or some kind of combination? How old do you think discipline can or should begin? I can't tell you how many couples I know who argue about this. One parent thinks the other one is too tough, while the other parent thinks his/her spouse is too lenient. Being on the same team with discipline is one of the best things you can do for your child. Talk about how you plan to deal with certain behavioral problems and try to come to a consensus about things. For example, Hus and I try to clearly state the rules about different situations before any rules are broken so that our twins are clear about what they should be doing. We also use time-out and logical reasoning when our kids break the rules (which seems like several hundred times a day).  Talk about it now and then remember to continuously talk about discipline as your children get older. And try your hardest to avoid criticizing how your partner disciplines your children (especially in front of said children). If you have a problem with what your partner is doing, have a private discussion with them later, when you're both calm. Keeping the lines of communication open here is very important. Conversation Resources: Click HERE for more information on discipline.
  • Adjusting. How do you plan to cope with the major adjustment you will need to make when baby arrives? Having a new baby changes everything. Your routine, date nights, and conversation topics will all change. Probably the most difficult things to deal with are the lack of sleep, intimacy, and free time you and your mate will experience. While you can't do much to avoid these things, recognizing that they will happen is half the battle. Talk about how you plan  deal with sleeping. Maybe only one of you is going to wake up in the night (this will likely be the case if you are exclusively breast feeding), or maybe you're going to switch back and forth every other night, or maybe you're going to split the night in half (Hus and I did this with our twins- he took care of them before 2am and I took care of them after 2am), or maybe you're both going to wake up through out the night and split up the duties at each feeding/changing (for instance, one of you might feed baby while the other might change baby's diaper). As for intimacy, you're going to have to work really hard at this one. Continue to talk to one another after baby arrives (this may seem obvious, but I can't tell you how easy it is to forget to talk to each other; especially when all that you want to do is be with your new precious baby). Express your love and appreciation to your spouse on a daily basis. And compliment your partner when he or she does anything worthy of praise. When it comes to a lack of physical intimacy, it might not be such a bad time to start scheduling sex (after the first six weeks of course). You both will feel so over-worked and over-tired in those first few months that sex will be one of the last things on your mind and/or your partner's mind. And, sex is important! Don't let your sex life be a casualty of having a baby. Conversation Resources: Click HERE and HERE to read articles about adjusting to becoming new parents and HERE to read more about adjusting to motherhood the first, second, and third time around. Also, HERE is a post I wrote about scheduling sex and HERE is a post I wrote about the importance of an active and satisfying sex life.

And here are a few fun things:
  • Dating. Dating is going to be different when you have a baby, but it's very important that you make time for one another. With a new baby around, it is difficult (and expensive!) to get away. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to have date nights at home. You could watch a movie, get dressed up for a candle-lit dinner, dance in your living room, have another couple over for a double-date, or share fondue. Talk about three new date nights you could have. What can you do at home? How can you make an at-home date night special? How often would you like to commit to at-home date nights (one a week, bi-monthly, or monthly)? Conversation Resources: Check out a few stay-at-home date ideas HERE, HERE, and HERE.
  • Names. Figuring out what you're going to name your little peanut is probably one of the more fun things to do- at least it is for us! I absolutely love talking about names with Hus (even when we're not pregnant!). Make a list of names you each like (first and middle) and compare. Do you want to have family names? Do you want all of your children to have similar names (either by first letter or sound)? You also need to talk about if you're going to share your names choices with family and friends. The benefit of doing this is that you don't have to keep it a secret (it's hard!), but the downside is that everyone has an opinion and you may not want to hear them. Conversation Resources: HERE's a link to my all-time favorite baby-naming website (the NameVoyager and NameMapper sections are awesome). HERE's another fun site- one of my friends actually named her daughter the third option she was given! I just love everything about these two sites.
  • Old traditions. Think back your childhood (and have your partner do the same). What was a family tradition or fun activity you did as a child that you want to do with your own child? Why did you like doing this as a kid? Would you like to do this activity monthly, yearly, or something else? Reminiscing about happy memories from your childhood is a great way to grow closer as a couple and it's fun to talk about fun things in your future together. And, family traditions help children feel included and loved, which is always a good thing. Conversation Resources: I don't really have any resources here. Just think back over your past and have fun sharing with your spouse.
  • New traditions. As I already noted, family traditions are great. And while passing down traditions from generation to generation is good, starting your own makes your nuclear family special. Talk about creating a new tradition for your new little family. Think of something that you or your partner did not do as children. For instance, Hus and I started a Christmas Tree tradition with our kids where each year, the kiddos get to pick the color of the tree the following year. Then after Christmas, we all go shopping in the clearance racks for the following year's color(s). We put all of the stuff in a box and then wait until the following year to decorate the tree. It's fun because our tree looks a little different each year and who doesn't love shopping in the clearance aisle! Conversation Resources: Click HERE, HERE, and HERE to read about how to create family traditions.
  • Love Lists. I've written several posts about the importance of writing spousal love letters or love lists (see HERE and HERE). This time, I want you to make a list about why you think your partner will be a good parent. Just write down ten reasons. And share these reasons with your spouse sometime in the final weeks of your pregnancy (maybe on your last date night before baby). Conversation Resources: See my past posts HERE and HERE about this topic.
  • Promise Lists. Make a promise list (similar to wedding vows) of things you will try your hardest to do and not do when baby arrives. For instance, "I promise to ask for help before I become overwhelmed and agitated" or "I promise to make requests instead of demands." Read them to each other prior to baby's arrival and return to them several times after baby is born. You might even want to hang them on a wall in your house so that you can both remember your promises to each other.  Conversation Resources: Read this great article about pre-conception vows.
I know, having a baby is supposed to be an incredibly joyous time in your life. And it is. Well, most of it. To make those happy moments more abundant, have these discussions prior to your little bundle arriving. Because as you will soon find out, EVERYTHING is easier before baby makes three.

Surfing the net for baby supplies? Here are three of my fav products:

one year book anniversary extravaganza!

I can't believe it's been a year already! I released my first book, "Make Love, Not Scrapbooks: And 9 Other Research-Based Love Tips to Intensify Your Relationship," on August 1st last year. To celebrate, I thought I'd host a One Year Book Anniversary Extravaganza during the entire month of August. Here's the deal: next month, I will have FOUR contests (one each week) where a lucky reader will win a SIGNED copy of my book!

Already have a copy? That's okay; you can still enter! They make a great gift!

While I will begin each contest at least two weeks prior to the deadline (meaning that some will start in July), they will each end during a different week in August. Here's a sneak peak of the contest titles and deadlines:
  • The "Pin and Win Contest" will end on Sunday, August 5th
  • The "Instagram Love Contest" will end on Sunday, August 12th
  • The "Fill-in-the-Love Photo Contest" will end on Sunday, August 19th
  • The "Share the Love Contest" will end on Sunday, August 26th
You can enter any and all of these four contests. Each winner will be announced the Monday following the end of the contest and you'll receive your free SIGNED copy of my book by the end of that week. 

Stay tuned for the start of the first contest on July 15th!

"don't talk to me like that": 3 ways disrespect damages your relationship

Demeaning, criticizing, emasculating and cursing. Unfortunately, many of us have engaged in one of these activities with a spouse at one point or another. Contrary to popular belief (yes, that was a little sarcasm), these actions are completely inappropriate, terribly unacceptable, and extremely damaging to
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