Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Goin' Through the Big D

Ever heard that Mark Chestnut song..the one with the lyrics "I'm goin' through the Big D
and don't mean Dallas...?" This song instantly popped into my head as I sat here to begin writing about our weekend in Dallas.  The song, however, is talking about divorce and that is definitely not where I'm going with this entry.  Go ahead people, smile...SMILE! :)

Anyway, back to Dallas.  Alex and I headed out on the evening of Thursday, June 27th, for a weekend in Texas.  This was after a super traumatic visit to our new dentist here in Monroe and needless to say I was ready to peel outta there ASAP!  We made it to our hotel in Arlington just after 10 p.m., which made for a bit of a late night trip but we knew it meant we could enjoy two full days in Dallas if we went ahead and drove there that night. 

On Friday morning we went to a place called Top Golf.  Ever heard of it?  If you have, I bet you've heard only good things about it.  If you haven't, look it up next time you're in the area.  I seem to faintly remember there being locations in a few other states too, so just go ahead and check it out anyway.  For those of you non-golfers out there (like myself), imagine an outdoor bowling alley with each group of friends or family playing in a designated lane, called a bay.  Instead of rolling a ball, though, participants take turns hitting golf balls toward designated targets (or golf holes, whatever those are called).  Never fear - no need to be a pro at actually making that ever-desirable hole-in-one because the closer your ball gets to the target, the more points you earn, even if it doesn't make it to the hole! 

Alex and I had a great deal of fun at Top Golf.  We beat our "top scores" over and over again, even though we only played for an hour.  After our time was up, we headed down to the indoor cafĂ© area for lunch (though food is available via servers at each of the bay areas and even in covered lounge chairs throughout the facility). Alex ordered a very tasty pulled pork barbecue sandwich and I had the "mushi" (think sushi-themed wrap).  The meal was pretty reasonable in price, considering I expected it to be fairly expensive for the area and the setting.  We were pleasantly surprised. After lunch, we went back outside to wander around and ended up finding a corn hole set, life-size connect four games, huge checkerboards, and a large-scale jenga game - all for free!  There was also an area for putt-putt, but temperatures had started climbing (no one loves Texas heat) so after a few board games we decided to head back to the hotel with plans to take a dip in the pool and grab a cold one before our evening activities. 

We spent the evening at a Texas Rangers game.  Conveniently, Alex planned ahead for us to stay at a hotel that came with a free shuttle to nearby attractions - the ballpark included.  It was SO nice to not have to deal with traffic, parking, or crowds.  Well, traffic and parking, anyway.  We did have to wait at least half an hour for a return shuttle after the game, but what's a little extra time whenever it's free and you've got no place else to be?  I will say the first part of the game draaaaagged on.  Alex's friend, Justin, made fun of/lectured me for being a bad wife in whining about how long the game was.  Seriously, though...I like baseball...I just happen to be accustomed to the timing of college baseball games, not professional ones.  The game ended with a fancy fireworks show in honor of the upcoming July 4th holiday.  While Alex was in hog heaven all evening long, I'll admit I was pleased to finally see the fireworks show, knowing that soon we would be headed back to the hotel for the night. 

Saturday we headed out to Forth Worth to check out the Stockyards.  This fun little neighborhood near downtown Ft. Worth is filled with western-style shops, restaurants, museums, and other attractions.  We moseyed down the streets checking out some of the souvenir shops and scoped out options for lunch.  Mid-morning, everyone flocked to the streets to await the first of two daily cattle drives.  I've been around livestock here and there, but these guys were huge - and beautiful - if cattle can be beautiful, that is.  Then, we decided to try our hands at a maze; the guy who worked there told us most people average something like 12 minutes in the took us thirty.  Oops?!  Actually, Alex finished before I did, but it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes apart.  We enjoyed the challenge and would probably go again if we were ever in a position to do so.  For lunch, we stopped in at one of the locally-owned restaurants, taking a break to enjoy the air conditioning and rejuvenate before wandering the streets a little longer.  As the temperatures began to jump again, we ended the afternoon with some home-made ice cream (and to Alex's delight - Cheerwine in a glass bottle) from a quaint little shop then headed back to the hotel to get ready for our date night out. 

Dinner and a movie is pretty clichĂ© for a date, but I bet few of you have had dinner while at the movie.  Say what?  Movie theatre food is super expensive and resembles all that your nutritionist would nix on the spot, yes?  Au contraire.  The 21st century has arrived my friend!  See, Studio Movie Grill combines the two-step date night out into one.  Just purchase your assigned seats, get comfy, browse the menu, and buzz your waiter when ready to order.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the latest big screen flick without having to lift a finger in the kitchen or plan ahead to time dinner at the restaurant just right for a 7 p.m. showing.  Really though.  We enjoyed dinner at SMG in Arlington while watching Monsters University with a hundred of our closest friends - ha!  The food was tasty (though a tad pricey, as one would expect at any other movie theatre) and we enjoyed the adventure of trying something new.  I think the dine-in movie experience will be "coming to theatres near you" very soon, so be on the look-out and give it a chance if you ever come across one.  And because date night wouldn't be complete without a little something sweet, we splurged and stopped by Steak'n'Shake on our way home to share a peanut butter fudge milkshake capping off our lovely evening. 

As for Sunday, the only exciting item on our agenda was packing up and driving back to Monroe just in time to attend Mass and catch the newest episode of Big Brother.  (Any #BB15 fans out there?!) Then of course, it was back to the grind on Monday for another short week due to the (July 4th) holiday.  More to come on time!


Friday, July 5, 2013

June Bugs

Now that June has come and gone, I'm hoping to get back on board with posting a little more often again.  Seriously though, June fleeeewww by! When you hear all that transpired, you'll understand. 
Alex's mom flew in from North Carolina on (Wednesday) the 5th of June.  She planned to stay for a week, but with me leaving on Monday (June 10th), I wasn't around a whole lot during her trip.  I also worked on both Thursday (6/6) and Friday (6/7) of that week.  We did finally get out and do a little exploring of the Monroe area while she was in town; Alex and I took her to the Chennault Aviation Museum located at the MLU airport, and we also checked out Kiroli Park in West Monroe.  Alex tried to take her to a few other sites while I was at work, but she didn't like the idea of attractions with paid admission.  In any case, Alex's mom came and went and we went on with the rest of the month...
A photo collage from the aviation museum. 
'Betcha didn't know Delta Airlines got its start in Monroe, LA!

As mentioned above, I left for 4-H Camp on June 10th.  This was the first time I'd ever been solely responsible for so many children at once - 22 kids, ages 9-12, and two teenagers, total.  That's some precious cargo if I've ever seen any!  The 25 of us headed down to Camp Grant Walker (CGW) in Pollock, which is "the" 4-H Camp in Louisiana.  It's so old that generations of former 4-Hers all have their own stories of 4-H Camp.  Thankfully they installed air conditioning systems since I attended as a child, but still it is a camp after all.  During my time in Arkansas, I became spoiled with the state-of-the-art facilities at Camp Aldersgate and was not at all excited to spend a week at CGW.  However, we all survived the week (I worked with the food & fitness track, archery, and the camp store) and returned in one piece on Friday morning. 
The traditional rope burning ceremony at vespers on the final night of camp. 
The following week (June 18-21), I took two teenage boys down to Baton Rouge for 4-H University, which is essentially, Louisiana's version of a state convention for 4-H.  Delegates compete in over 40 contests, with state winners awarded all-expense paid trips to really awesome places.  Some teens choose the non-competitive route and instead take part in 12-hour workshops over the course of two days.  4-H University is, by far, my favorite Louisiana 4-H event.  Being from a parish that brings over 100 youth to the event each year, with generally 60% or more of those taking home Top 10 placings in their contests,  4-H U is kind of a big deal in my book.  As a 4-H Agent, though, I work in a parish that is VASTLY different than the one back home, and so I was only able to recruit two members to attend.  To make matters worse, I could only convince one of them to even compete in a contest!  Sheesh, people.  
On the bright side, I have some really amazing 4-H Agents back home who were willing to let me tag along with their larger group in hopes of exposing my boys to the greener side of the pasture, if you get my drift.  It was also good for me to reacclimate myself to the event (it's been EIGHT years!!) and get some practice with coordinating a larger group.  To trade off, the male agent from home agreed to supervise my boys in the dorms while I helped out with toting some of their kids around campus during the day.  It was a win-win situation.  I really enjoyed being back with my 4-H family, especially those from back home and even the ones in the state office and southwest region since I don't get to see them very much anymore.  Events like 4-H U really help me to keep going whenever I feel isolated and like I'm beating a dead horse up here in no-man's-land..
I'm a real, live 4-H Agent, with a purple ribbon tag to show it!
June 24th and 25th was our district horse show event in West Monroe.  This year, the district, state, and even southern regional shows will all be held at the same facility, which makes it super nice on those of us in the Northeast region.  Going into the show, I was pretty excited about having such a large delegation - of eight, that is - competing in the event.  Unfortunately, only four showed up, and the other kids didn't even bother to tell anyone they weren't coming.  (This is the kind of people I'm working with, ya'll.)  My assignment for the show was to help with the non-riding events, so I got to judge the demonstrations with a fellow new agent from a neighboring parish.  All of my kids competed on the second day of the show, so I grabbed myself a seat at the official announcer's/timekeeper's/recorder's table and managed to learn a bit about the "speed events," as they call them.  All four of my kids qualified for the state show in each of their events, several of them with strong placings.  It will be fun to see how they do at the state show next week.
The boys with their ribbons.

That weekend, the final weekend in June (6/27-30), Alex and I went away to Dallas.  Since this entry is so long already, I'll hold onto it for another day.  Also as a reminder to myself (and the rest of you, if anyone out there wants to hold me accountable), I still do want to write about our garden and, by that point, my parents' 4th of July weekend visit, as well as our trip to North Carolina, followed by another visit from my parents.  Sheezums, it looks like July will zoom by nearly as fast as June did!
Until we meet again,