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A dating bucket list to tackle this summer

Anyone who knows me knows that my kids are my life. I would do anything for them. And I basically do. But I'm not afraid to admit (OK, maybe I'm a little afraid) that my marriage is my top priority. Please don't fire up the hate-mail yet - let me explain.

If you have a bad marriage, you're likely stressed, unhappy and maybe even clinically depressed. There's no doubt that feeling blue will impact your parenting. Your kids will feel it. On the flip side, a happy marriage helps keep those stress levels down, your joy rubs off on your kids, and family life is more fun. I'm not saying my marriage is perfect - far from it. Like super far. But, we try and it does make a difference.

One of the most obvious things my husband and I do to stay connected is make time for one another. One-on-one time. Just us. We date on a fairly regular basis. Mind you, at times it's just a quick walk while our little ones hang out with one of our big girls. Sometimes, it's breakfast on a Saturday morning while my mother-in-law spends time with the kids. We do what we can, when we can. The trick is to mix it up. Lately, we've been a little boring. Dinner out. Different restaurant, but same deal. It's nice, but it's time to shake things up. So we made a bucket list of 10 dates. Must-dos this summer. We have three months to get to all of them.

  • Outer Harbor get-away. If you haven't been to Buffalo's Outer Harbor lately, you're in for quite a treat. We love it there, but haven't gone without the kids yet. Our plan is to head down to Wilkeson Point, rent a tandem bike and cruise along the trails. It is so beautiful along the water. There is live music, a beach, outdoor games, a volleyball court and plenty of lounge chairs to chill out on, plus food and beverages. The Outer Harbor is only a few miles away from our house but always feels so far away. Tandem bike rentals run $15 for the first hour, $10 each additional. This is a good afternoon date. We can't wait!
  • Shakespeare in Delaware Park. I can't wait. I haven't gone in years. The season is split into two. "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is playing through July 16 and "Macbeth" is July 27-Aug. 20. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. We'll bring a blanket, snacks and have an amazing time watching these talented performers. We've both been to this event in the past, but never together. This is great for a date-on-a-budget. It's free theater and that is surely a bonus. We can't wait!
  • Catch a Bisons game. Every time we go to a baseball game, we ask the same question: Why don't we do this more often? It's always fun to cheer on our hometown team. sure, it's nice to bring the girls, but they often don't make it through the entire game. This is a pretty inexpensive date night, too. You can get tickets, parking, a hot dog, beer or soda for two all for less than $50. Summer weather in Buffalo is amazing, so being outside on a nice evening is good for all of us. We can't wait!
  • Water bike Adventure Date. We have never been to Canalside without tiny people tagging along. There are countless things to do with kids along the inner harbor, but, man there are some cool things for grown-ups to do, too. We've put the Water Bikes on our dating bucket list. It just seems like such a romantic and fun thing to do. It's pretty reasonable at $36 an hour for two riders on a tandem bike. It's a great opportunity to get in a workout and enjoy the beautiful Buffalo waterways. We are lucky to be surrounded by water, so we have to take advantage of it. We can't wait!
  • Beach it. This is fun. And relaxing. We used to go to the beach as a couple before our little ones came along. Now, there's no relaxing: just playing, building sand castles and keeping a very close eye on our little sweeties. Applying and re-applying sunblock. Making sure they are safe and entertained leaves little time to soak up the beauty of the beach, so going it alone would be a treat. There are quite a few beaches to pick from but we're fans of Beaver Island . The beach is always clean, there is a cool little boardwalk, and it's never really super-packed. We'll just spend a few hours together. My only problem with this date is mom guilt. I'm afraid that knowing how much my girls love the beach I might feel a bit bad leaving them home with a sitter. Still, hitting the sand - sans kids - is something we've earned. We can't wait!
  • Romantic picnic. We both agree that a picnic is a perfect date. We had this date oh, 10 years ago. Yep, our last picnic without kids - just us - was a decade ago. I remember it well. We packed lunch and headed to Delaware Park. We sat near Hoyt Lake, brought a blanket and a wonderful lunch - it was fabulous. We lost track of time and spent hours there, sitting and talking and laughing. We aren't putting any pressure on ourselves, but we going to try and re-create this date. It'll be interesting to see if it's different. I'm sure our conversation will be, since we were just getting to know one another back then. I'm actually super excited about this. We can't wait!
  • Morning hike. We seem to have an easier time getting babysitters on Saturday or Sunday mornings, so we'll take advantage of this and take a hike. After some research and debate, we've decided on Akron Falls Park (there are some great hiking trails though - Niagara Gorge, Eternal Flame in Orchard Park and so on). We picked Akron Falls because it's gorgeous and you're rewarded with the amazing views of the falls. Fresh air and time together sounds like a perfect combo. We can't wait!
  • Mini golf. It might seem kind of lame but we put it on the bucket list anyway. It's a fun, inexpensive thing to do when you don't have a ton of time to spend. We've taken our kids, but never just us. We haven't decided on a location just yet, but there are plenty to pick from. We both like golf (I like, he loves), but we never have several hours to play 9 holes together so this is our alternative. Hey, we'll be together and that's what matters, right? We can't wait!
  • Check out a concert. Being married to a musician, I certainly get my fill of live music and I love it. But it's usually me and friends out watching my awesome hubby; not exactly date night. So, we'll be picking a concert from one of the many outdoor locations around town. Maybe a Thursday night at Canalside or an evening at Gratwick Park, or the Gateway Series - so many options and so many talented musicians in the area. We'll narrow it down depending on babysitters and schedules. You really can't go wrong with live music - just bring a few lawn chairs and enjoy the spectacular summer. We can't wait!
  • Date at home. I know, sounds crazy but think about it. If we bring our kids to my mother-in-law's house and go home, we can have the entire house to ourselves. We can have some wine and not worry about driving. We can binge on Netflix or lay on the hammock. Sure we can do this every now and again, but never together. Never in peace. Even at night when the kids go to bed, I'm beat and usually not far behind them. It will be a nice change to spend an afternoon hanging out with my husband without a worry in the world. We can't wait!


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