Project Valentine 2012, Day 14: Made My Baby a Steak Dinner


Just like the title says: inch-thick ribeyes, cooked medium rare, with baked potatoes and grilled vegetables.  Why?  Because that's what my girl likes.

Not feeling great tonight, but I'll post a wrap-up tomorrow.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 13: Family Photos


One of the best reactions I ever got from Courtney was with a present I gave her on Mothers Day 2008.  Ava was only about 7 months old, and I took her and Blake to have some pictures done of them.  Courtney took one look, cried "My babies!" and loved it.

I wanted to get some new pictures of the kids, but I'll be honest - I just flat ran out of time.  So instead, I printed up an IOU certificate promising her a photo session, either for the whole family, or just for the kids, her choice.  I'll post them in here once we have them done!

Project Valentine 2012, Day 12: Braved the Icy Wilds


Sunday's thing ended up being kind of a punt.  See, when I made my list, I thought that one nice thing to do would be to wash Courtney's car for her.  The bonus of that is that I was going to do it in really short shorts, and put pictures of it on here for laughs.  Cut to Sunday, when it spent all day snowing.  This ruled out not only washing the car myself, but also the sense in taking it to a carwash.  Unfortunately, I also hadn't really made a backup plan.

My salvation came when we noticed that the cupboards were pretty much bare, and it was time to feed the family dinner.  I know this isn't the most romantic thing in the world, and it's not something that focused specifically on Courtney, but I'm going to give myself at least partial credit for going out on really slick roads and getting dinner for the family.  I even took Jack with me.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 11: Recreated Our First Date


Courtney and I went on our first date on February 11, 2000.  We'd already met, and that's a story for another time, but this was our first time out.  She came walking out of the elevator of her dorm, all long legs and red hair, and that was pretty much it for me.  I was in.

We went to Gardski's Restaurant, one of Lubbock's oldest restaurants.  It's nice enough to impress a date, but reasonable enough that it's not intimidating (and you're not out too much money if the date doesn't go well).  I wanted her to think I had good taste in places, so I made sure not to choose a chain place.  While we ate, we talked about what to do with the rest of the evening, and she told me that she wanted to see The Sixth Sense, since she hadn't seen it yet.  Now, in the years since then, she's given me a hard time for taking her to a horror movie on our first date, but it was totally her idea.

I asked her about a week ago if she would go out on a date with me to celebrate a special occasion on the eleventh, and she said that she would, and asked what the occasion was.  This was the moment when I realized that I am the girl in our relationship, for knowing when our date-a-versary is, and for using words like date-a-versary.

We went back to Gardski's, where I embarrassed her by telling the hostess what was special about the day.  Dinner conversation is much different three children later, but all the better, because now we know how hard to come by that time together is, and we have real things to talk about.

Courtney really is not that big on horror movies at all, but she decided (again, HER CHOICE) that we should honor the spirit of the occasion by going to see something scary, so we went to see The Woman in Black.  You guys, that movie is creepy as hell!

As I drove the babysitter home at the end of the evening, I took a moment to think of the things that are different now from on that first date.  First, there's now a babysitter to drive home.  Second, I have no question in my mind about whether or not I'm going to get to spend the night with my date.  Third, I have a far deeper appreciation for what an interesting and unique person my date is.

Two things that made us both laugh:
  1. After seeing The Woman in Black, Courtney said that it was like we'd combined Project Valentine and Project Horror.  Aw, she does read my blog!
  2. At the restaurant, I told her that blonde twins would be out in a moment to sing "Let's Get Together," and then caught myself and corrected by saying how that had actually happened on the parents' first date in The Parent Trap, not on our first date.  That may have been funnier if you were there.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 10: Made Her a Mix CD


"Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing."

"The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules."

From "High Fidelity"
I used to make mix CDs for Courtney pretty regularly when we were dating.  Is this a thing that people still do anymore?  In college, we made mix tapes, and then it was possible to burn your own CDs.  Do kids still do this, or do they just share iTunes playlists?

Anyway, the appeal of making a mix for somebody you're dating is severalfold.  First, it has an automatic appearance of thoughtfulness.  Second, it's a chance to make them think that you have good taste, or are at least kind of deep.  Third, they'll think of you every time they listen to it, or maybe even when they hear songs from it in a different context.

When we were dating, I'd try to make sure there were some good romantic tunes on there, but we also had some running jokes that I'd add fuel to with some of the selections, like how I'd always put at least one song by Queen, a group I like and she doesn't.  I would always end the CD with a version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," which is kind of our song.

The last time I made her a CD, though, was probably before we were married.  I decided just to make this one focused and sweet.  Here's the playlist, which I'm sure at least one of my friends will find something in to poke fun at me about.
  1. "I Only Want to Be With You" by Dusty Springfield
  2. "I Only Have Eyes for You" by The Flamingos
  3. "Sometime Around Midnight" by The Airborne Toxic Event
  4. "The Origin of Love" by Rufus Wainwright
  5. "When It's Love" by Van Halen
  6. "Strong Enough (Live)" by Sheryl Crow, with The Dixie Chicks
  7. "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton
  8. "I Can't Explain" by The Who
  9. "Don't Let Go" by Weezer
  10. "Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus" by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (I understand that this one isn't exactly a love song, but it is sexy as hell.)
  11. "Just Really Wanna See You" by Shudder to Think
  12. "Make You Feel My Love" by Adele
  13. "I'm Still in Love with You" by Al Green
  14. "Femme d'Argent" by Air
  15. "Girl Like You" by The Wolfgang Press
  16. "She is Staggering" by Polaris
  17. "I've Got You Under My Skin" by Michael Buble
  18. "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon
I was thiiis close to ending the CD with "Dream a Little Dream of Me" again, but then I felt like the Lennon song had some special significance to our station in life right now.  It's about making time to reconnect and renew your relationship.

Here's the stupid thing I did, though - I didn't make sure we actually had blank CDs, so she didn't get the CD until today.  She was excited to get it, though!

Project Valentine 2012, Day 9: Got Her a Treat to Have at Work


Yesterday was Courtney's first night back at work in several days, since she'd been on the road for her trip.  I phoned her as I was leaving my office and asked if she would like me to pick up anything on the way home for her to have last night while she was on duty.

Here's what was great about it - she was really surprised and delighted.  She didn't know what to ask for at first, but I could hear the smile in her voice.  Finally she asked if I'd stop by the cold case and get her one of the fruit and yogurt parfaits that she likes.

It wasn't a big thing today, but I was still really pleased with the result, just because the sound of her voice on the phone was so pleasantly (and cutely) taken by surprise.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 8: Massage


Right around New Years, Courtney and I got a new mattress.  It is AWESOME.  How awesome?  So awesome that I just used every text enhancement that Blogger offers when I typed the word awesome, and also made it pink.  So awesome.  The mattress we'd been sleeping on was one that we got along with our bedroom set, just before we were married, so it had been slept on for nearly 10 years.  You know in cartoons how somebody will sit down on an old mattress, and a spring will poke out and go "sproing!"?  Our bed was making that sound.  Now we're sleeping on a Tempurpedic, and it's like having friendly sleep angels lulling you into unconsciousness every night.

The bad part about being so quickly spoiled by our new mattress is that it becomes very hard to go to sleep anyplace else, as Courtney and I have both discovered while traveling in the past month.  When she got home yesterday, four nights in a hotel bed and a crowded return flight had all added up to one really sore back for her.  I think she probably could have put her head down on the pillow and instantly been out, but I wanted to make sure she got a really good night's sleep and relaxation, so I gave her a backrub until she was ready to sleep.

I'm pleased to report that she fell asleep smiling.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 7: Made a Welcome Home Banner


Courtney came home today!  That sound you hear is me heaving a deep sigh of relief.  I wanted her to have something sweet to come home to, but I was also a little tight on time last night because I had to go to a meeting after work.

My mom came over to be with the kids, and I got out some butcher paper, crayons, markers, and stickers for them to work with while I was gone.  When I got back, here's what they'd made with Grammy's help.
I'm pleased to report that she really liked it.


Project Valentine 2012, Day 6: Sent Roses to Her Hotel Room


One time when I was a junior in high school, this girl I liked went on a choir trip to Nashville.  While she was there, I sent some roses to be delivered to her hotel room.  Later, she totally went to the prom with me.  I tell this story so that you can see that even twenty years ago, I was kind of a baller.

(Later, she and I were also in each other's weddings, and our families went to Disneyland together!  So, yeah, the roses worked.)

But this isn't about her, it's about Courtney.  I wanted to send some flowers to her room, but I've had mixed experiences with services like FTD.  Sometimes they get it right, but sometimes the florists they work with do kind of a sloppy job.  Instead, I called the hotel that she's staying in for her conference, and asked for the concierge.  I figured that if there was somebody who would know a good, local place to work with, it would be them.

The concierge's name was Britney, and she was really helpful.  After I told her what I'd like, gave her my billing info, and what I'd like on my card, she assured me that the rest would be taken care of.  Yesterday evening, when Courtney finished with the conference for the day, and went back to her room, I got a message from her thanking me for the gorgeous flowers, along with a picture.
It sounds like it's been a good conference, but I'm awfully ready for her to be home on Wednesday evening.


Project Valentine 2012, Day 5: Cleaned the House


It's probably silly, but the time when I'm absolutely the most motivated to clean is right before I leave on a trip, because I love coming back to a clean house.  I thought that Courtney would enjoy that, too, so I decided that today's thing would be to clean as much of the house as I could.  It's not spotless, but she'll be coming home to something much nicer than what she left.

We skipped church yesterday, because the kids were all really sniffly, and Blake was coughing.  Since we had all of that time at home, I enlisted their help.  After they'd picked up all of their toys and books from the living room and put them away, I Tom Sawyered them into wanting to Swiffer the kitchen floor by telling them how boring it was, and how they wouldn't like having to do it.  Worked like a charm.

With a little more time before she comes home on Wednesday night, I think we can a few more things looking good, too.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 4: Hid Something in Her Suitcase


Courtney left town yesterday morning for a critical care nursing conference in Houston.  She won't be back until Wednesday evening, which makes it a little more challenging to do something nice for her each day.

Sometimes when Courtney travels, she gets kind of nauseous.  Couple that with pregnancy and, well, you can see how it would be even worse.  One thing that's always helped her, though, is sour candy.  On Friday night, when I ran out to get ice cream for movie night, I ducked into Walgreens and bought a card and some Sour Patch Kids.  After the movie was over, I quickly wrote a note in the card and slipped both items into her suitcase while she was in the next room.

I got this text from her yesterday while I was out with the kids.
Success!  And yeah, I put little smoochie smilies in my message.  Deal with it.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 3: Movie Night

First, I have to brag on Blake for a second.  There's a monthly event called the First Friday Art Trail, where different galleries and venues around Lubbock open their doors to the public to display work by area artists.  Last night, one of the galleries had a display of work from All Saints students, and one of Blake's pieces was selected!  It's the Keith Haring-inspired piece right above his head in this picture.
Mrs. Lemon is a really great art teacher.  Blake comes home telling me about the stuff they've learned in class, and it's far more in-depth than anything I was doing in first grade.  Small world - my mom actually taught one of Mrs. Lemon's daughters over a decade ago.

Courtney left town this morning for a critical care conference in Houston, where she'll be for the next few days, so I wanted some time with her last night.  We got the kids to bed after we returned home from the gallery, and I went to get ice cream for the two of us while Courtney chose a movie for us on Netflix.  See, that way I'm romancing her on two fronts - giving her the snack that she wants, and showing her that I'm able to relinquish control of the Netflix queue when it counts.  To her credit, she chose a Steve Martin movie, something that I can always get behind.

I guess there's not too much to describe about watching a movie together.  We sat next to each other, held hands, and enjoyed both each other's company and the ice cream.  When I started to doze off, she'd stick an elbow into my ribs and tease me about being an old man who couldn't stay awake through a movie anymore.  It was nice.  It made me think of when we would watch movies together on my couch back when we were dating, just with lots less making out.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 2: A Day Off Together


I had something a little different in mind for yesterday, but the way that the day turned out was actually even better.  The alarm went off and I started to shower and get ready for work.  As I started to lay out clothes for the day, Courtney asked, "I don't feel very well today.  Do you think you could stay home with me?"  And that's what I did.

We dressed the kids and took them all to school, and then came home and just spent the day together.  We went to our room and spent over an hour talking with each other.  It is really, really nice to have a conversation where you aren't being constantly interrupted by tiny people.

She napped, and I laid beside her, and although it wasn't what I had planned, it was great.  When she'd wake up, I'd check to see if there was anything that she needed.  At the end of the school day, when she usually goes to pick up the kids, I was able to go do that for her.

A short entry today, I guess, because there isn't much to describe, but it was still a really nice day.

Project Valentine 2012, Day 1: Love Letter


First things first: I posted yesterday's blog entry and almost immediately received a pile of messages from friends who were amazed to learn that Courtney is pregnant!  This is my fault.  It's such a part of our lives right now that I sometimes think I must surely be talking and writing about it far more than I actually am.

So here's what's happening... Courtney is almost twelve weeks pregnant with twins right now.  For several years, going back to before Jack was born, she's felt led to become a surrogate, and it's a path that we've been on for a while now.  I've mentioned it on here a couple of times, both directly and indirectly.  I guess that there are a few reasons I've been a little quiet about it overall, though.  First, I've wanted to be respectful of her privacy and of the couple she's carrying for.  Second, just like when it's your own pregnancy, we've been holding off on making an announcement until we felt like it was safe to do so.  The couple she's carrying for is a really fantastic couple, and they're very excited.

Now you can't say that I didn't tell you!

I thought that a good way to kick off two weeks of romantic gestures would be with a good old fashioned love letter.  Like a lot of things in relationships, this is something I used to be much better about back when we were dating, but have sort of fallen out of the habit of doing.  I don't think that a day passes when I don't tell Courtney that I love her, but I wanted to give her something she could hold onto, you know?

I sat down once the kids were in bed, and got to work.  It was harder than I thought it would be, because once I started, I had to self-edit a lot.  I thought of posting the finished letter here, but ultimately decided that it really should just be for her eyes.  I tried to follow a piece of advice I'd seen, though, when I was writing: a love letter should express appreciation of your past, happiness with your present, and hope for your future.  That's what I tried to go for in this letter.

She wasn't working last night, and after a while she looked over and asked, "What are you working on so intently over there?"
"I'll show you in a minute."

I finished writing just as she went to change into pajamas, and she called to me from our room to ask if I'd pour her a glass of milk.  I did, and put the note down beside it.  I didn't want to watch over her shoulder as she read, so I stayed in the next room, but I could tell that she was reading it, because I could hear her starting to sniffle.  She came into the room smiling from ear to ear, and thanked me for her letter.

I'm going to rate Day 1 as a success.

Project Valentine 2012


I have got to get my mojo back.  I just reread the last post I wrote on here: a few months ago, I would have spun that story into comedy, but instead I took it in a sappier direction.  What do I need?  What I need is... a Project.

I made one New Years Resolution this year, and actually it was also kind of sappy.  My resolution, which I have so far only shared with Courtney, was to make her fall in love with me all over again like when we were dating.  This May will mark our tenth anniversary, so I thought it would be a good time to make sure I'm doing my part to keep the homefires burning.

You may not have guessed this from reading my blog, but sometimes it takes a lot of patience to live with me.  I mean, I like to think that I'm a pretty good guy, but I also do stuff like hogging control of the Netflix queue for months at a time or bringing international attention into our lives.  In spite of all that, though, Courtney encourages me and wants me to do what I love.

Here's just one story about why I love her.  With the exception of a few recent additions, my musical tastes are pretty much frozen in the mid to late '90s, when I was in high school and college.  I've never outgrown the all-too-brief Britpop boom, when the world had Pulp, Oasis, and Blur to listen to.  So, when the line-up for this year's Coachella festival was announced, and I saw that Pulp was reuniting, I really wanted to go.  (To say nothing of the many other great acts!  Madness, Mazzy Star, Radiohead, Noel Gallagher, The Hives!  Many, many others!)  At first, this was just idle chatter on Facebook, until my friend Steven hit me right in my vain soft spot with this observation: "You've never been to a music festival?  Going to this and writing about it would make excellent material for your blog."  He and I decided that we would try to get tickets and travel there together.

But I still had to pitch it to Courtney.  I put it in the nicest terms I could, but it still boiled down to, "I would like to ditch you and the kids for a long weekend while I go camp in the desert with my friend, where we will be partying and listening to music.  Did I mention that this will take place while you are five months pregnant with twins?"  And you know what?  She not only told me she was fine with me going, she was enthusiastic about it.  She wanted me to have that experience.  As it turned out, Steven and I immediately got placed in the standby system when it was time to purchase tickets, where we sat for the rest of the afternoon as we watched Coachella sell out.  But still, Courtney was willing to let me go, and that meant a lot to me.

I did a Project Valentine last year, where I watched a different romance movie every day in February.  This year, Project Valentine will be something different.  Every day between now and Valentines Day, I'm going to do something special for her.  Because I don't want to rush these, I'll post each day's project the next day, along with how it was received.  This will be a bit of a challenge, because she's going to be out of town for about 5 of those 14 days, but that just means I'll have to be creative.

Don't worry - this is going to be fun, not schmoopy.  Maybe a little schmoopy.