Sitting on the kitchen floor of her shared apartment 10 years ago with a computer in her lap, desperately trying to book tickets for a weekend back in Missouri with just two week's notice, Kira realized she was going to marry Jon-Michael.
And it was that President's Day weekend that he met her family, was carted to her high school brother's play and asked her father for permission to marry his daughter.
"And then a month or two months later, he asked me to marry him. And we actually got married," Kira laughed.
Now, sitting on a couch in their new home, packing boxes still stacked and a 7-month-old on their laps, the memory brings a fresh round of smiles.
"That was a fun conversation, sitting down with her dad, because my undergrad is in ancient Greek," Jon-Michael said. "He was like, 'So, how are you going to support my daughter with a degree in ancient Greek?'"
Jon-Michael and Kira Rutter will hit their 10-year wedding anniversary this May, and the couple has made their share of memories along the road, including four bright-eyed, blond sons, the spitting image of them: Lysander, 6; twins Milo and Oliver, 4; and Peryn, 7 months.
And if Kira didn't pick up Jon-Michael's cues at first (hint: she didn't, and Jon-Michael still laments it), they're in tune now, finishing each other's sentences with ease.
Kira herself is a go-getter. She speaks a mile a minute and is big on making dreams happen. Jon-Michael jokes he has to be careful what "crazy ideas" he says when she's around for fear she'll make him do it.
"And I mean, any crazy idea she's like, 'OK, so, step one, how are you going to do that?'" he said.
In the background, Kira laughed. "Why talk about it if you're not going to do it?" she quipped.
If her father was ever worried about support, Kira could probably tell him Jon-Michael is doing just fine. In fact, she credits much of her work with Itsty Bitsy Broadway, a children's theater company where she and her husband are director and technical director, respectively, to Jon-Michael. He's stayed back with the children, set up lights and sound, written plays — he's been there every step of the way, she said. And it only exists, Kira added, because he was willing to take money out of their savings to support her dream.
"But in the same vein," Jon-Michael said, "supporting Kira is also supporting things that I want to do."
It started slowly, and he resisted at first, Kira said, but soon, writing Kira a play turned into running the sound system, which turned into auditioning for roles together. And, he's enjoyed it. Just recently, he auditioned for a role alone. Kira is convinced he has the theater bug. The only thing he won't do is musicals. (In time, Kira said.)
But at times, she said, her go-getter personality could be exhausting for anyone else. It's Jon-Michael's patience that provides a "great rooted system" for their family.
"I appreciate his patience. I am not inherently so patient," she said. "His patience and his willingness to grow and do stuff together and to pursue big dreams and aspirations together is why we're together, I think."
At the core of their relationship, and what has gotten them through nearly 10 years, is communication.
It's in the little things, like saying "I love you" or giving compliments on what they appreciate the other has done. But they're quick to point out actions have to support the words. It's not one or the other, but a step-to-step process to establish a pattern of trust. The words are just a promise, an intention.
In a way, "I love you" is a check-in of its own. Shared between them, "it means we're still good," Kira laughed.
Communication is also big in any disagreements between the two; sometimes mutually agreeing to take a step back and breathe is what matters. When emotions run high, Jon-Michael said, the time apart — even if for them it usually only lasts 10 minutes — can bring you back to what matters.
"If you're on a track and you're feeling frustrated, or angry or unheard or something like that, it's only gonna get worse and worse and worse and worse, unless you take some time to calm down," he said.
And it's OK to realize you may not think the same way, Kira added. What may upset one person may not upset the other. As close as they are, they don't share the same brain, she said. It takes work to understand the other, and at the end of the day — especially when arguments start because of outside factors not related to their relationship or home life — it's important to not "get stuck in ruts or blame people for how you are feeling when it's the safest person you know," Kira said.
But communication doesn't stop at arguments or words of affirmation. In the same way, it's important to communicate expectations.
Valentine's Day, for one, is important to the two because Jon-Michael "messed up the very first Valentine's Day."
"Oh, I remember that," Kira said. "He was trying to read my signals, and the signals got crossed."
It took a moment, but then the two started planning special days together. For them, it was the time together that mattered, not a big flamboyant surprise that may or may not fulfill uncommunicated expectations.
"At the beginning of relationships, people get a little too bogged down in trying to not tell the other person what they want," Kira said. "You're trying to each be your own individuals, but when you don't communicate expectations, then you're setting yourself up to have disappointed expectations when all anybody wants to do in a committed, mutually loving relationship is figure out things to help the other person feel supported and happy and loved. When you don't share what will make you feel supported and loved, then you're basically saying 'Guess!'"
And if there's one thing Jon-Michael has learned over the past 10 years, it's having the ability to adapt is important. That list of qualities you want in your future spouse that you make when you're a teenager? It changes throughout the years, from dating to marriage to having your first child, he said.
Now, with four children and a bustling life of playwriting and teaching, the two seek quality time in the comfort of one another. Sometimes, that means putting on a show after the children are off to bed. Other times it's taking out one of the 120 board games they own. Occasionally, it's Kira picking Jon-Michael's brain about "the next play you're writing me" and sharing their love for theater. Quality time, Kira said with a grin, has to "flex based on whose turn it is to have quality time."
One of their most prized memories, however, is their five-year anniversary. They relived their budget honeymoon, taking a trip to St. Louis and visiting all the places they had before with a 1-year-old in tow and a very pregnant Kira. It was so fun, she said, that upon their return, she went into preterm labor at 25 weeks with twins.
"Apparently, I'd overexerted myself," Kira said with a chuckle. Next to her, Jon-Michael smiled softly at the memory.
When he looks at her, it's safe to say he's still as smitten as he was 10 years ago.
It may have taken Kira a bit to pick up on his cues, but Jon-Michael didn't let that get to him.
"I think it happened at different times for us," he said, trailing off while Kira laughed, encouraging him to go on. "I pretty much decided that I wanted to be with her after our first date."
There was no one else, he said, who he felt he could talk to about the "weird stuff" going on in his mind.
The baby in her arms squealed.
Jon-Michael smiled back.
"Yeah, it was at different times," she quipped before their laughter filled the room.