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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Italian Market Review


Since we're eating out a lot nowadays, we're trying to make the best of it by going to places we've been wondering about but were too cheap to try out (when you're cheap you tend to play it safe).  So we tried out the Italian Market in the Arlington Highlands.  Let me just get to it: thumbs up all the way around.  I would recommend this place to a family with young kids.

So let me tell you how it works so you know when you go.  You walk in, get a menu, decide what you want, and order at the counter.  Now this is the only un-kid-friendly part because when you're standing around deciding what you want, there is a half-wall full of wine racks beckoning for toddlers to come and create a disaster.  So decide quickly or check out the menu online before you get there.  Then you pay, they give you a number, and you go find a table and put your number on it.  You also have to get your own drinks and silverware. 


When deciding what to order, keep in mind that the kids' pizzas are this size.  We ordered two and took an entire one plus a couple of slices of the other home.  

I ordered the Italian club, and it was delish!  If you love Greek olives, feta, and goat cheese, then this will be a hit with you.  The only problem was that it was huge.  I was filled up on half of it.  Michael ordered the lasagna, as he always does when we get Italian, and it was great, too.


I love it when a restaurant caters to families because there are not many out there that don't have tubes and slides.  This one, however, has kids' tables nestled in the middle of the grown-up tables, so they can dine in the company of their siblings while Mom and Dad have a clean table to themselves.  What a GREAT idea!!  My kids loved it.  And Samuel was quite occupied with coloring the butcher paper while he waited for his food.  They both sat like big boys while they ate, too, which is a change from the norm where Levi is usually climbing in my lap asking for my food OR running all over the place.  

The yummiest part was the gelato after dinner, although I forgot to photograph it.  Everything was excellent, but when we come back on our own dime, we will order half of the food and drink water instead of the Thomas Kemper Root Beer in a bottle priced at $2.25/each.  We spent $49 on 2 kids' pizzas and drinks, my sandwich, Michael's lasagna, 3 bottled sodas, and 3 small gelatos.  But, like I said, we had a lot of leftovers.  

The service is really great, too, as there are people coming by the table often asking if you need anything.  All in all it was the best dining experience we've had with the kids at a restaurant that doesn't have a play area.  We're definitely coming back.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hotel Musings

We've been in the hotel a week now, and I've made a few observations about some things that I'll share.

1.  Most hotel rooms have been smoked in...frequently.  9 out of 10 hotel rooms that we've stayed in over the years I've asked them to move our reservation to a different room because I can smell that it's been smoked in.  They were tricky with this room that we're in now, though.  You can't smell it right away if the A/C is down to 65 degrees.  So when I put it back up to a reasonable temperature, it smelled like an ashtray.  We're supposed to get a new room on Sunday, but I'm skeptical about moving all of our stuff for fear that the next room will start smelling like an ashtray, too, after the A/C is down.  Bleh!  The smell makes me nauseous.

2.  One doesn't tend to make the wisest decisions with money and nutrition when a food allowance is given to them.  We've struggled to eat healthfully while we're eating out so much.  But that got me to thinking about the welfare system and such.  I remember once I was at Whole Foods checking out, and the lady in front of my was using a Lone Star card for her purchase.  At first I thought, 'Well, that's pretty cool that she gets to eat good, wholesome food because of her Lone Star card.'  Then I took a peak at the groceries that were going into her bags, and it was a bunch of candy and chocolate.

3.  I don't know how I ever had the patience to sit through commercials before we got a DVR.  It's torture!  I've watched very little television since we've been here because of that.

4.  Skipping maid service for even one day in a hotel room with kids is a BAD idea.  I don't care if the maid has to wake the kids up from their naps next time.  This room is getting de-funked.

5.  I do, in fact, have the most comfortable bed in the world at home.  I know we bought it when we were doing our debt frenzy last fall, but I don't care.  It's paid off now, and I love it.

6.  There's pretty much nothing cuter in the world than when my boys run excitedly down the long hallway to get to the car.  Levi will also inevitably fall at least once each time and say, "Tum on, Mommy!"

7.  Non-filtered water does, indeed, taste and smell like pool water.

8.  Having three washing machines makes doing laundry MUCH more bearable since it's SOOOO much quicker.

9.  Getting take-out at a so-so restaurant is much better than having a really good meal with my kids running all over the nice restaurant.  We've only attempted it once at Gloria's in the Highlands, and we were in and out of there in 30 minutes.  Thankfully, the waiter took us seriously when we said we wanted to be turned and burned.  AND we went before the dinner rush at like 4:30.

10.  Our room has granite countertops, and now I have to have them in my house (eventually, of course, not right away).  They hide everything!  My awful white, formica countertops show every little crumb on them.  And I guess that means I have to keep them pretty clean and sanitary, but still.

That's all I got for now.  I can't complain at all, though.  We're not going crazy just yet, and it's pretty cozy here.  Can't wait to see my new house, though!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reach for the Sky

Saturday marked the beginning of our three week stay at a hotel while our wood floors are being replaced and hall and living room are being retextured and painted.  I'm thrilled!  I can't until all the work is done and it feels like a new house.  (I'm even more thrilled that insurance is paying of it since we had a water leak in our A/C.)

Anyway, while there's not a whole lot to do during nap-time around here at the hotel, Michael and I had a lengthy conversation about something that had been on my mind recently.  I just remembered on Thursday that my theatre teacher's certification renewal is due at the end of September, and I still have a bit of continuing education to do - not much, but enough.  Then on Saturday when we were moving all of our stuff into our large dining room from the closets and rooms Michael accidentally broke this group production picture that all of the kids from my classes signed gave me when my student teaching was over.  We did a production of Stage Door, and it was just all too symbolic and weird that the picture (just the glass, actually) got broken.

When it broke, all of my fears of failure came rushing to slap me in the face.  I was never able to land a job teaching theatre (well, I did have one offer, but it was a 45 minute drive for not much money, which in hindsight I probably should have taken for the experience).  And at each interview that I went on I was reminded that this profession wasn't suited for me - not because I wasn't smart or talented or able or didn't love it but because I simply didn't have the resume.

So Michael and I dug deeper as to the reason I got the certification in the first place.  First of all, I got a degree in a business (film) that is not suited for family life, which I was fine with until I ended up getting married way sooner than I expected (I imagined 30-ish, and I got married at 23) and ended up wanting to be a stay at home mom, which I didn't expect.  So I thought, 'What can I do that will still use my degree and casting experience that is more suitable to family life?'  Teaching high school theatre was my answer (completely forgetting about after school rehearsals).

So I went back to school (after I already graduated with my film degree) to get a minor in theatre, but I still didn't have time to be in any productions.  Then I went to grad school to get my secondary teacher's certification and did my student teaching.  All of that took a year and 12 weeks.  It wasn't that hard because I'm pretty smart and a fairly decent student; it was the easy part.  So I did everything that I needed to do to be able to get certified to teach, but the one most important thing I didn't do was ask myself, 'What does it take to be a successful theatre teacher?' My answer should have been, 'To have a lot of experience in theatre production (not film) and be able to share insight from those experiences with students.'  I thought that my film experience would translate well enough, but it just didn't.

We talked about what I would do differently if I could go back and have a do-over, which was good to think of for when the kids don't need me at home anymore.  We came up with a pretty good solution, I think.  First we talked about doing things in a creative environment that would make me happy but that weren't so specific as film and theatre.

But the coolest solution we thought of, I think, is saying, "Okay, here's $X.  Now go make at least 20% more out of it."  That way this risk of deluding myself is very low if I start out small.  Say I make something for $100, and try to sell it for $120, and it ends up tanking and no one wants it.  Well, at least the risk was only $100, and I didn't go to school for a year and a quarter and spend a ton of money on tuition and books.  The idea is not confined to selling stuff; there are lots of ways of investing money to make money, so I'm really excited about discovering what might work for me to be the most profitable and fulfilling for me and our family.  I have quite a while to figure it out.  I plan to stay home with the kids for the long haul.

Live and learn, I guess (I think I say that a lot).  When I think of my teaching certification I still get a sense of failure, but I think I was just a bit misguided and deluded and young.  Oh well.  **sigh**  Now to start my day.  Life goes on.  ;-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mental Health Day

As some of you know, I have been quite busy lately, running from here to there like a madwoman.  The last week of June was filled with swim lessons, doctors appointments, and a sick Levi.  Then the first week of July I was in San Antonio with my kids (Samuel being sick for a couple of the days) and without my husband (which I don't recommend!) running all over town catching up with family and friends.  This week I was entertaining my 13 year-old cousin from San Antonio for the first half and catching up with life and friends the second half (still doing swim lessons).  After all of that my oh so dear husband gave me a much needed mental health day today (Saturday).  And oh how I needed it!

So first I went to this swap thing at my church where a bunch of women brought stuff from their houses that they didn't want, and you got to take home whatever you wanted (like a free garage sale).  It was the perfect start to my MHD!  I ended up taking home an embarrassing amount of loot, but I'm alright with that because it was all stuff I needed.  I ended up with:
- a whole tupperware set (off-brand, already washed and put to use)
- a shower curtain (brand new, already hanging in the boys' bathroom)
- two panel curtains (brand new, going to use in my dining room after I get a rod)
- a piece of wall art (looks perfect in my bedroom)
- toiletries (Chi volumizer, BBW handsoap, body wash)
- a toy tool set (brand new, going to give to Levi as potty training incentive)
- an Old Navy jacket for Levi
- two nicely scented candles (have already been using them today)

I wanted to make sure that all of that stuff didn't turn into clutter since I just got rid of a bunch of clutter for the swap, so right when I got home I put it all to use, hanging things, washing things, and putting them away.  It really made my day.  I was so happy I went.

After that I picked up the guitar and played the same song for about an hour.  It was glorious.  I never get to play with the kids around because they just want to play with it themselves and don't allow me to get through a single verse.  I played until my uncalloused fingers could take it no longer.  It's so refreshing to me to work on something and make it good in the peace of a quiet house, uninterrupted.

Then I did a little 12-steppin' (free therapy).  [Sidenote: I'm not in a 12 step program, but I was in Ala-teen when I was a teenager, so I like to use the steps for self-help stuff.  They're truly brilliant and inspired.]  That was not what you would call pleasant, but it was good for my soul in the long run.  It was good to see patterns in my life that make me kind of crazy so that I don't have to repeat those same patterns again.

Then I made cookies, but they didn't really turn out.  So before they could harden I took the spatula and scraped them all together and made a loaf out of them and cut them into slices.  They were actually really good, and we've been munching on them.

By this point, the boys were home, and bathtime was soon approaching.  So while Michael gave the boys a bath and put them to bed, I did yard work until my hands were blistered and my arms and ankles were covered in mosquito bites (11 on my left arm alone).  Ahhhh....it feels good to do yard work.  I worked in the front yard which I don't get to do often because I don't want the boys to run into the street while I'm not paying attention.  We still have more to do, but I did a LOT.  There is little as satisfying as really hard work.

Anyway, take a mental health day every once in a while.  It's way worth it.  And special thanks to Michael for coming up with the idea.  What a great husband!

By the way, this will be the last post that I'll feed into Facebook (FB looks at my blog every 24 hours and puts new posts up as notes on my account.)  I decided to stop posting to FB for a few reasons, so if you still want to follow my blog, then please visit me there: http://arlingtonmama.blogspot.com  Thanks!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Connecting

So swim lessons have kind of been taking over my life lately, which is totally fine because my boys are doing awesome in them.  But a two-week refresher course turned into 4 weeks and counting because my sweet little stubborn Levi is one of 2 of the hardest kids our instructor has ever taught.  It makes a mama proud.  ;)  I'm just so grateful for the instructor's perseverance.

However, since the lessons are at 11:00 Monday through Thursday and I have to leave my house at 10:30, I am left with no significant time to do anything social beforehand.  Tuckered out Levi then naps when we get home, leaving us at home until around 2:30 or so.  At that point most people (moms and kids, that is) are not really into hanging out so late in the day, so we usually just run an errand or two or hang out at home until Dad gets there.

As you can imagine, that leaves me feeling a bit disconnected from the outside world.  Whenever that happens I tend to turn to the computer for some outside "connection", but it never really does the trick.  I was talking to a good friend of mine (on the phone) about this today.  She was recalling how I gave up Facebook for a while, and that started us talking about the whole Facebook addiction.

In my opinion, people (myself included) get addicted to Facebook (or message boards, forums, etc.) when they just want to make meaningful connections with people.  But I don't think it's real.  To me it's like porn (or any other addiction).  You can look at it all you want, but it's never going to satisfy you like love will.  And virtual interactions don't satisfy me like face to face, sit-down-for-a-cup-of-coffee connections.  They just leave me frustrated and neurotically checking my email a hundred times a day.

Note: Blogging, by the way, is a product of my insomnia, not my addiction.  ;)

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