Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A First Date

To say that Scott isn’t good with picking out gifts is unfair. Typically, because I have specific “gifts” in mind, I tend to give him a specific list of ideas and hope he doesn’t stray from the list too much. This year for Christmas was a little different. Due to a minor lack of “fundage” even though I gave Scott a list, it was quite vague, quite small and I left a lot up to Scott. And really, my story just goes to show how much someone can surprise you if you let them.

One of Scott’s gifts to me this year was far beyond tangible. He gave me twelve days. One day each month that he would take me out on (gasp) a date!

And while this might not seem like a lot, it is. With precious little time and money, we tend to put “us” stuff to the side and focus on the “house” stuff-bills, groceries, power. Previous date nights were sporadic and poorly planned, consisting mostly of a quick dinner and a movie.

With this gift, come rules. Scott is ultimately in control of where we go and what we do, although I can offer suggestions, Scott will plan each date on his own.

So, without further ado, here’s the first date:

After clearing babysitting detail for Ashleigh with Mom (Cyra had a sleepover at a friend’s house), Scott set our first date for January 10 and wouldn’t tell me anything about it. All day long I wondered and waited for him to get home from work.

Ok, by waited, I mean, I went to a girl scout meeting, ran errands, went to the library, did some laundry, dropped Cyra off at Olivia’s and bought a new pair of jeans that actually fit (in case Scott chose a casual setting).

Scott surprised me with his venue for the night. I figured he’d ease into “datiness” with a return to tried and true dinner and a movie. Instead, he told me when he got home that he wanted to go bowling. Now for those that might laugh, I have developed a great fondness for bowling, especially when it involves disco balls. So I was quite excited. Scott, although he decided on bowling, couldn’t decide where he wanted to go eat and asked for a suggestion. I said, “Well, if we’re bowling, the only logical place to eat is, of course, Steak and Shake.”

And off we went. Steak and Shake was hopping for an early Saturday night, so it took a few minutes to be seated. Once we sat down we began perusing the menu; although really I don’t know why I did, I always get the same thing every time: Turkey melt, cheesy fries, diet coke, and a coffee shake. But Scott needed to browse the items. So while he pondered what triple-decker delight he’d partake in, I watched the goings-on around the restaurant. The servers were moving like elegantly choreographed ballerinas, swooping, dancing, gliding in and around tables, balancing trays filled with bubbly soda and smooth thick shakes. It was a beauty to watch and it struck me then: I miss waitressing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to quit my nice cushy job that offers benefits and four months off a year, but I honestly think I was a better waitress than I am a teacher. I was good at it, evidenced by my plethora of $20 tips. I could go home and actually leave work at work! It had drawbacks, of course, as every job does, but I was really good at it.

Anyway, back on track, Scott ordered a huge triple-decker “man” burger with oozy cheese, bacon and God knows what other type of meat was thrown on top of the hamburger, fries and coleslaw (eww). Not only did he manage to finish his food, but he ate some of my fries too. He complained that I ruined perfectly good fries with cheese while I argued right back that he ruined perfectly good fries with ketchup!

After dinner, we headed over to Bowl America on Beach Blvd. A dingy little hole in the wall bowling alley, but really? What bowling alley isn’t? We played four games. The first game was spent trying to get the feel for the game again-it had been some time since we’d been bowling. And Scott still totally bowls like Frankenstein’s Monster. Stiff, ungainly, and well, dorky. Scott won by one point in the first game we both came in well under 100. The second game was a bit better for both of us. Scott still beat me and I will claim that I had a ball malfunction. It wasn’t a large victory, only about 5 points, but still, I was getting grouchy with all the losing! Then that blessed time of night came when the lights went out, the disco ball came on and the lanes were lit with black lights-Cosmic Bowling had arrived!!

It was our third game. Scott kept mocking me and my technique. Granted I kept mocking him as well, but still the karma flowed in my favor for the third game. Was it the loud hip hop music that thrummed in our ears? The bright flashing lights that raked across the lanes like UFO’s searching for people to abduct? I might never know, but I do know this, my third game is always my best game!! I trounced Scott with a 20 point victory!! I mocked. I gloated. I danced about in the dark while amused people in the lanes next to us laughed at my childish antics (they then carried on with their own childish antics so I wasn’t the only one!).

Then my joy was deflated like a perfect soufflé that collapses under the intense scrutiny from a judge in a cooking contest. Mayhap it was my selfish gloating, my egotistical narcissism, or the fact that my thumb kept getting stuck in my ball. Who knows, but the last game ushered in my sad defeat. If we are to talk trounced this is the game in which I was trounced. Thoroughly. Completely. Systematically. The difference between the scores is too shameful to even mention. Suffice to say, Scott reined in at well over 100, while I barely hit 70. It was sad.

What wasn’t sad though, was the night! We had a great time. It has been a long, long time since we went out and had that much fun. Alcohol wasn’t even involved at all! I can’t wait to see what he has in mind for February!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Magic Pot

For Christmas this year, I asked for and then ordered for myself, a Crock-Pot. An ancient device that allows me to prepare a meal in the morning and by the time I get home, it is all cooked and piping hot! The wonders of technology! For a long time I was nervous about getting a crock-pot, scared even, about what the pot might “do” all by itself all day, unsupervised. In fact, even in the instruction manual, it states: Do not leave the crock-pot unattended. It also states: do not use crock-pot for anything other than its intended use. So, really? I figure like all good corporations fearful of lawsuits, Rival was just trying to cover all its bases.

I decided to try out my crock-pot the day of winter break. I figured that I should do a test run before I let it go off on its own. I scoured though recipe books, the one Scott got me (after he was informed that he was getting me a crock-pot) and my Good House cooking bible and found a lovely chicken meal that called for potatoes, carrots and chicken. Three major food groups in one pot; I was sure it would be magical or at the very least, tasty.

The final product ended up more “chicken stewy” rather than “chicken dinnery.” but all in all it turned out well. The girls both ate their portion and Ashleigh asked for seconds. Scott not only dug into seconds but moved on up to thirds.

My second recipe the next day: meat sauce for pasta. I prepped all the ingredients the night before, pepper, onion, shredded carrots, meat… and popped in my magic pot the next morning. That night when I got home, my house smelled like an Italian restaurant. Even the girls who do not appreciate spaghetti sauce as much as they should ate their dinner.

The final recipe I tried last week was on Wednesday: Hungarian goulash. (After that I did not need to cook again until Sunday with the amount of leftovers and activities over the weekend) While the girls did not dive into this meal, they did eat and I made it clear that with the magic pot in our lives we were going to be introduced to new foods and flavors and they might as well just get over it now otherwise they could go hungry. They seemed ok with that.

Scott summed up the best thing about my crock-pot on Sunday as we sat down to delicious pork tenderloin (not crock-potted). He said, “You know, we’ve sat down to dinner, as a family, four times this week. That’s more than we have in the past month.”

No only does it cook our meals, but it arranges our schedules too!

What can I say? Magic!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Even Dozen

On January 2 a sacred ritual is preformed in my house. It involves cake and burning wax, brightly decorated gifts and a loud, off-key rendition of an ancient folk song.

It is, of course, Ashleigh’s birthday. I have instructed her to stop aging, alas, her stubbornness persists and every year she informs me that she is now grown-up. And boy does she act it. At a whopping 12, she is fully involved in pre-teeness, from rolling her eyes, to sassing, to (gulp) being independent.

I couldn’t be more proud.

If I thought the tenth birthday was hard, I couldn’t be more wrong. Compared with twelve, ten was lackluster in evoking my melancholy. I thought with ten it would hit me hard, a double-whammy Ashleigh ten, me thirty. Ten wasn’t so bad. Thirty was no big deal. Ten was like a sweet piece of chocolate dripping with caramel and marshmallow.

This year we celebrated quietly. Ashleigh asked if we could go to Dave & Busters (and arcade/restaurant that is full of fun awesomeness where one can easily drop $200+ without realizing it) on Friday night and unfortunately, right after Christmas is not a good time to go as bank accounts are slightly lower than normal. Instead, Ashleigh accepted a dinner at Red Lobster and a Build-A-Bear.

While Red Lobster is a favorite restaurant of hers and well, mine too, as it has the whole seafood thing going on, I’d have liked to have gone to Joe’s Crab Shack or Mango Mango’s but as it was Ashleigh’s choice, to Red Lobster we went. Ashleigh enjoyed a shrimp fest: shrimp scampi, shrimp linguini and fried shrimp. Cyra had children’s popcorn shrimp while I enjoyed scampi and coconut shrimp. Scott just had a huge plate of coconut shrimp.

Following of side splitting dinner, we went to the mall to build a bear at Build-A-Bear. She chose a fluffy light brown bear and promptly (and aptly) named it Velvet.

On Saturday we had a birthday dinner with my mom and my sister. Steak and potatoes. Yum! I gave Ashleigh her actual birthday presents: new bedding. It doesn’t seem like a lot but if we consider that she hasn’t ever had “matching” anything, she was pretty excited about it.

So that concludes another year. 12. A whole dozen. It really doesn’t seem possible that that much time has passed. And from what I hear (and, of course, what I remember) the hardest years are yet to come!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I'm still here

It has been a bit since I've posted. Aside from being crazy busy back at work, I found a great many things preoccupying my time. I am currently in the process of getting a few posts written. So, I am still here. Please don't give up on me. And maybe, just maybe, I'll even figure out how to add photos to my posts.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

So a new year begets a new venture: I’m now blogging.

I tried my hardest to come up with something witty, intelligent or at the very least meaningful to me for my first post yesterday. I drew a blank all day long. I’d start typing and think: Pretentious. I’d talk to my husband and kids hoping that they’d inspire me to write something. Nope.

So here it is the second day of the New Year. 2009. It feels just like 2008 and maybe that’s why I had such a hard time yesterday. I’ve thought about it and I don’t really count my years from January to December. Yes, I know that is technically the correct way but when we were growing up, as kids our years went from September to August. And now that I’m grown and I’m still in school (as a teacher of course) my year still follows that pattern, except that in Florida the school year goes August to June (summer running from the second week of June to the third week of August).

So does it surprise me now that even though I am not a student I still have the student schedule? Not at all. And besides I kind of like it.

One of my dreams? Become a professional student – and really what is a teacher but a student who grew up.