Darren and I subscribe to the school of thought that says - if you put your marriage first, you're better parents. We try to get out alone together at least once a month, to remember why we fell in love to begin with, and to keep that spark going. I think it DOES make us better parents, honestly. We're more able to give of ourselves completely to the kids when we're not frustrated with each other.
We don't have a lot of money. We have enough, that's for sure. But we have to pick and choose what we do with it. We don't have fancy cars (in fact, we've been sharing one car for almost a year), we don't have new electronics (our stereo is actually just the computer speakers). But we like to travel. Even in our most dirt-poor days, we saved pennies to go camping in the mountains. GOING places has always been one of our priorities. (And let me tell you - we have the art of vacationing CHEAP down to an art form! You wouldn't believe the FREE things you can do and see when you get creative enough!)
Nine years ago, Darren started a tradition: he planned a getaway weekend for us without my knowledge! It was the first time we'd gone away to celebrate our wedding anniversary. That year, we spent one night in a B&B in a quaint little Texas town, and then we spent the next day rummaging through antique shops. I think we only spent about $12 in those shops, though. We wuz po'!
The next year, our 9th, I planned. I scored tickets to our beloved Dallas Stars on eBay - my first eBay purchase! Darren was thrilled, and so surprised!
For our 10th, I jokingly said I wanted to go to Paris. So Darren made it happen. We took a day trip to Paris, Texas! Then we swung through the town where we'd met and married, and took photos at the chapel and other places where we'd stood 10 years before.
For our 11th, Darren took the reins again, so I was doubly surprised. After all, it was supposed to be MY year to plan! While filling out the hospital paperwork for Ian, who was only hours old, Darren brought another form and said, "Here. You have to fill this one out, too." It was a passport application. I thought, "Hmm. Life in Post-9/11 is getting weird. They want passport apps for NEWBORNS now??" Imagine my shock and delight when he announced we were going to Paris again! This time, the REAL one! (Flights were CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP then because everyone was scared to fly.)
The next year, our 12th, I took the reins again. I planned another pro-sporting event - this time scoring tickets to see the Mavericks. Floor seats, even.
For our 13th, in 2004, we road-tripped 10 hours to New Orleans. This one wasn't a surprise - we both planned it together. I'm so glad we got to experience New Orleans before Katrina changed it.
Our 14th anniversary was fun - we sent the KIDS away instead of us leaving. They went to Grandma's for the weekend, and Darren took me on a tour of all the places we'd lived in our marriage, from the run-down roach-infested apartment we had as newlyweds, to the dumpy duplexes we rented for years afterward. All of the locations were within a 90-mile radius, so it was easy to go see them all, and celebrate the blessing of having just bought our first home the prior year.
The 15th year started off with Darren being SLAMMED at work. He was working mandatory overtime, and was hardly home at all. We didn't even celebrate with a dinner out until mid-February. No get-aways that year.
Last year, our 16th, we decided we wanted to see Lake Tahoe, and we combined it with a visit with our friends Norm and Nancy, and Greg and Martha!
Which brings us to this year. It's Darren's year to plan. It's not entirely a surprise for me; we're going to New York City! Here's why. We're season ticket holders to the Fort Worth Symphony. (Darren's a HUGE classical music fan. I snore through the concerts. But, he loves them so much that every year for his birthday, I buy the season tickets. It provides that "free" date night once a month that I mentioned earlier!) This year, when the tickets arrived in the mail, there was a sticker on the back of the envelope that said, "See you at Carnegie Hall! January 26th, 2008". Hmmm. Our anniversary. Turns out, the FWSO is playing in NYC that night! We had to be there, don't you agree? WHAT exactly we're doing in NYC isn't clear to me. He's keeping that much a surprise. I'm so stinkin' excited!! It really started hitting me tonight that we're really going! I've never "done" NYC before. I. CANNOT. WAIT.