The tradition started when I brought along a wire-bound journal to our second-anniversary dinner. Fueled by a bottle of Pinot Grigio at a now-defunct downtown Minneapolis restaurant, we filled two pages with random musings, like how we wanted to have two or three babies (check, check, check and bonus check) and how we were looking forward to running the Twin Cities marathon later that fall.
On subsequent anniversaries, I've pasted in keepsakes from the restaurants where we've celebrated—including a paper napkin from the Sonic drive-in in Dallas where we ended up, toddler in tow, on anniversary number four.
Since we only open the journal once a year, these sloppily jotted passages record random details that we surely would have forgotten otherwise, like how we spent anniversary #7 in the lighting department at Home Depot, and how the sheer physicality of parenting three small boys in marital year number nine "kicked our collective married ass." (That was in Nate's handwriting.) We've also cut ourselves some journaling slack. Pregnant with baby #4, I was so tired and sick on our 11th anniversary that only after a couple of weeks went by did I manage to draw a heart-encircled "oops" and scribble a line of crabby-looking text at the bottom of the page: "Pregnant, sick, puked before dinner, wanted to puke on the ride home." How romantic!
The best part about the journal is that it makes us slow down and be grateful. As we talk about the previous year, we get in an all-too-rare sentimental, reflective mood. So much of our daily marital communication consists of texts confirming who's supposed to shuttle the kids home from football practice or "I've-only-got-a-second" phone calls about when the irrigation guy is stopping by the house. I truly can't think of a better anniversary gift than spending a couple of hours each year reminiscing with my best friend.