Saturday, April 30, 2011

NYC Doug's Perspective

My brother Doug was definitely not prepared for the torture I had planned for the NYC trip. On average we walked close to 10 miles a day and spent a considerable amount of time standing.

As Doug said "I didn't know I was coming on vacation to kick my own butt."

He described our typical day in the city as follows: "We would leave the hotel and walk the one block to the subway where we would stand and wait. Once the train arrived we would stand and sway the thirty minutes into the city. Once we arrived at our destination we would walk the 3-6 blocks to the 'must see' tourist site where we would stand in line to get our tickets. Once inside we would walk around and then take the 3-6 block walk to the subway to then get to our next destination. More standing and swaying, more walking and looking, until the end of the day when you return to the hotel ready to cut off your own feet."

His favorite activities included the Martha Stewart show, Opera, Broadway and the Pizza tour simply because they involved the most sitting.

I also didn't warn him about the "nuts to butts" train rides and museum lines.

Needless to say I know he was thrilled to get back home to his quiet town, I certainly was.

This past week the students who were on the trip, kept calling Doug's name anytime they saw each other. It is sweet how much they liked him. I promised him that if I ever invited him on vacation with me again that I would plan more relaxation.

Thanks Doug for being such a good sport!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

NYC Final Days...

Saturday seemed to be an exercise in futility. Once again the students were all late in the morning which meant we would miss the first boat out to Staten/Ellis Island. I decided that we still had enough time to make the second boat. With our umbrella's up we took off.

Once we entered the subways the hell began. Lines were not inservice due to repair, kids were always walking too slow for the group and we routinely missed trains. After an hour and a half we reached the exit point only to discover the rain had picked up. We decided that it would be miserable to go out to the islands.

On our original itinerary I had planned to visit Hoboken, New Jersey for pastries at Carlo's Bakery (made famous from the tv show Cake Boss) and then to Central Park. I decided that we could still go to New Jersey. With $30 in subway fare we headed to the tunnels again. The trip to Hoboken was pleasant, because we were able to get a seat on the train. Even though it was still raining the walk to the bakery was short. I really liked the look and feel of Hoboken and would have loved to have visited on a day that wasn't so unpleasant.  Once we found the bakery we snapped a few pictures and went to go inside only to discover the massive line across the street. I was in agreement with Doug that I was not about to spend 3 hours in line for a canoli.

Another wasted trip for the morning, we returned to the tunnels and spent our remaining time getting lunch and shopping in Grand Central Station.

Our shutte service was waiting to take us to the airport when we returned to the hotel. The kids and I said our goodbyes to Doug and we parted. While driving to the airport I got a text from Southwest informing me that all our flights were cancelled. Our flight had us making a connection in St. Louis and then catching another flight to Vegas. Friday night a tornado hit the airport and it had to close due to the damage.

Thinking quickly I called my sister-in-law Steph (thanks for the help) and she was able to rebook our flights for Sunday morning and find us a nearby hotel. Our shuttle driver still dropped us off at the airport and we picked up some food and went to our hotel. I was so exhausted that I was asleep by 7 pm.

As I am writing, it is a beautiful Easter morning and we are safely at the airport awaiting our departure. If all goes well and our flight leaves on time we should be home by 5 pm. I feel rested and refreshed. Although I am going to have to do more fundraising when I return home to pay for the additional night in the hotel, this little delay hasn't been terrible.

In all honesty, I don't think I will ever lead a trip like this again. We had a great time, but the stress, work, time, and money aren't worth it. I am still attempting a trip with students over seas for the summer of 2012, but with that trip a company does all the work.

I hope you all have a wonderful and Happy Easter!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

NYC Update #5

Friday we attempted to get to the sites missed on earlier days.

The day started with a chilly trip to the Empire State Building. The line was HUGE, but we attempted it anyway. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took an hour to get to the top.

We then traveled across town for 'A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour.' This 4 hour tour took us on a drive through all the major neighborhoods of Brooklyn-including a cold walk along the Boardwalk as we visited Coney Island. As part of the tour we stopped twice for pizza. The first was at Grimaldi's which is famous for their great location (under the Brooklyn Bridge) and the use of coal to fuel their pizza ovens. I love Grimaldi's and they did not disappoint. All of us gobbled up the pizza in 10 minutes. The second stop was at L & B Spumoni Gardens for authentic Sicilian pizza. This style is made with a thick crust, then fresh mozzarella and the sauce on top. I was surprised with how much I liked it. They are also famous for their spumoni (a version of ice cream that whipped cream is incorporated into it). Even though we were all stuffed from our pizza, we enjoyed some spumoni.

Most of the students preferred L&B's pizza of the two. Doug rated Grimaldi's a 10 and L&B a 9.6.
The tour guide was funny and engaging through the entire tour. I was just thrilled for the opportunity to enjoy a restful (ie: little walking) afternoon.

After the tour we went to the Guggenheim for an hour. We all agreed that the best part of this museum was the building itself.  The exhibit was a tad boring and the students were glad when we left.

Friday was the coldest day all week and I was stunned that I had students in shorts and no jackets all day. At breakfast I warned them about the weather but they didn't heed my suggestions. With the temperature continuing to drop I made the executive decision to return to the hotel for the kids to put on more clothes before heading to the baseball game. This was a wise decision. I was frozen during the game. We saw the Mets vs the Diamondbacks. In the bottom of the eighth the Mets managed to get the score a few extra runs and we left at the top of the ninth inning. The Mets won 4-1.

It was unanimous that everyone appreciated the relaxed pace of today.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

NYC Update #4

Today should be called 'Mishaps and Missteps.

I had planned the following activities today: Visit to Staten Island and Ellis Island, view 9/11 site, visit the MET and some shopping in Times Square.

I had a bad feeling about Thursday when the girls didn't arrive in the lobby on time. The students had been great about being prompt. When I ran up to their room I discovered they were all still in bed. Our departure for our morning activities were thrown off by more than an hour and we had to readjust our schedule.

Instead of heading to our tours of Staten and Ellis Island, we went to the MET. We all agreed that this was a great museum to visit. Doug especially loved the architecture. From there we headed down to the financial district for lunch at a huge McDonalds. It was so crowded and busy. The only thing I enjoyed was the piano music that was played while we ate lunch.

After spending a few moments at Ground Zero we headed to Battery Park to take our Island tour. Unfortunately they had sold out all the tickets for the day. The students voted that we should return to the Empire State Building. While riding the subway it got so packed that when we arrived at our stop Doug was not able to disembark. The students were upset and started to panic. Doug had decided not to carry his cell phone with him and that freaked the students even more. They wanted to jump on the next train to find him. I knew Doug and I were on the same wave length and I just proceeded to our destination. I was positive he would figure it out and meet us there.

While the students went to line up at the Empire State Building, I waited outside for Doug. Doug had the foresight to write my cell number down on the first day and so he was able to call me when he found a pay phone. He eventually met me outside. The students decided that now that we were reunited they didn't want to wait in the three hour line to get to the top.

With yet another change in plans we went to Times Square. Earlier in the week the weather had been so pleasant that both Doug and I decided not to bring a jacket. A poor decision with the 30-40 mph winds. We were really cold all night. Times Square was packed and while the kids explored Toy'R'Us, Doug and I huddled with the mass of humanity outside.

Dinner was at a nice Thai Restaurant near Times Square. After dinner we planned to go to Serendipity 3 for dessert. Once again we arrived to discover a 2 hour wait. Ultimately, we just returned to the hotel with a quick detour for candy at a nearby Walgreens for dessert.

Doug has come to the conclusion that he has never walked so much on a 'vacation' in his life. We both have struggled with sore legs and feet. Conclusion, next major vacation needs more R & R.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

NYC update #3

Wednesday we had great weather. We headed to the MoMA for a quick one-hour tour. Much to my dismay, this theater was PACKED. So badly that when you rode to the top of the escalators there was no room to get off and we were crushed from in front and behind. The students all agreed that one hour was not enough time to appreciate this museum.

Unfortunately, we had to get to our taping of the Martha Stewart show or we would have lingered. The Martha Stewart show was an interesting experience. We arrived to the studio at 12:30. While waiting we once again hurriedly ate.

The show was scheduled to tape at 2:00, but didn't begin until around 2:40. Seeing the small army of people it takes to pull the show off was fascinating. I will confess that the experience was exactly like I had imagined it. We were told how to act, when to cheer, and when to make 'yum' sounds.

The show they taped will be airing on Friday, the 22nd of April in honor of Earth Day. We are sitting in the 3rd row on the right side. The girl with the red flower in her hair is the first of my students. Make sure to watch!

I was a little surprised by Martha, when she entered the studio to begin taping she didn't acknowledge the loud applause or even look at the audience. It wasn't until the taping was finished that she talked to us.

We did score some sweet giveaways - a great cookbook on cakes, a huge box of jelly bellies and a set of beautiful measuring cups.

Due to all of our arms full of bags and candy, we decided to return to the hotel and drop our stuff off. We had a slight subway mishap that threw us off our time table. By the time we made it back to the city we only had 30 minutes to eat before going to the Opera.  The only way we were able to arrive to the show on time was to splurge on taxis. The theater where the MET performs is lovely and it has the most exquisite chandelier. The Opera we saw was Il Travorte. A classic tale of revenge, mistaken identities and love. The visit to the Opera was for me and even though Doug and the students weren't excited by it, I was glad they were willing to indulge me.

We had the cheapest seats in the theater (last row at the top), but the acoustics are so phenomenal that I didn't mind. I thought the whole evening was spectacular. During the 3rd Act, the lead soprano sang the most breathtaking aria. The best quote I heard from the students about it came from Garrett who said "man, that woman just blew my mind."

Funniest moments today both happened on the subway. First, on the ride back to the hotel after the Martha show we managed to score seats next to each other. Garrett decided to open his jelly bellies only to discover all of the flavors had mixed themselves up - this led to quite a bit of ribbing. After much begging he decided to share a taste of a 'cile mango' jelly bean with David who then declared that he had "just tasted death." I'm sure all the other passengers on the train thought we were crazy, but all of us we roaring with laughter.

The second funniest moment came on the ride back to the hotel after the Opera. Felipe undid his tie and decided to see if he could remember how to tie it. (Doug had shown him earlier in the day) This demonstration took nearly twenty minutes as we gave directions which we largely ignored. We were all laughing, as well as the crowd of subway riders. Even the girls attempted it. Needless to say Felipe still has a lot of practicing left.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NYC Update #2

Yesterday was an exhausting blast. During the NBC studio tour we saw the sets for the Nightly News, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and Saturday Night Live. It was interesting to see how small everything is and the tricks the studio uses to make everything look larger.

We then ate lunch at the Shake Shack. They had the yummiest fries and burgers. They were so juicy that I didn't notice they didn't put any ketchup, mustard or mayo on the burger until I was almost finished eating it. The only down side to lunch was the cramped quarters. We wolfed down our food very quickly. This was mostly done because of the huge que waiting to sit. It is hard to savor your meal when you are getting the evil eye from other hungary patrons.

After lunch we spent three hours at the Natural History Museum. I was stunned by the enormous crowds. It was hard to move through the exhibits due to the number of people. Doug (my brother and the other chaperone) decided to scan for an open bench to rest our weary legs and feet. After our butts got too tired we would move to another corner.

Dinner was at John's Pizzeria in the Broadway district. Once again the meal was quickly inhaled before our Broadway show 'Rock of Ages'. A basic boy-meets-girl premise set to music from the hair-bands of the eighties. All the boys were jamming, singing, and rockin out. All of us agreed that it was hilarious show and a ton of fun.

Star sightings for the day; John Lithgow (on the subway) and Billy Joe Armstrong (lead singer/guitarist for Green Day, he was leaving the Broadway show 'American Idiot' which is about his band.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NYC Update #1

Last night we headed to Grand Central Station for dinner. All of us ate at different places. I enjoyed a delicious tomato soup and salad.

The highlight of the station was the acoustics. Between the main concourse and the dining area is a small area where the acoustics are amplified and you can talk to each other by whispering in the corner. At first the students were skeptical to stand facing the wall to talk, but once they tried it, they were impressed.

After being turned around a few times we made it to the Empire State Building. Once we discovered there was a 2 hour wait we returned to our hotel and managed to get a few hours of sleep.

This morning we left early to visit the Today Show. At approximately 7:34 when Al Roker came out to deliver the news segment the camera caught us.  Al was nice enough to shake all the students hands.

On schedule for today: Tour of NBC studio, ice skating, Natural History Museum and the Broadway show 'Rock of Ages'.

With only 4 1/2 hours of sleep, I am feeling jet-lagged and tired; however, I am sure I will perk up as the day progresses.

Until the next update...
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Monday, April 18, 2011

New York the Arrival

My student's and I arrived safely to Newark for our NYC holiday. Traveling brings its own annoyances and after waiting over an hour in the airport for our reserved shuttle, we were picked up.

The 40 minute transfer to our hotel was our own driving adventure. Our driver honked, swerved, ran over dividers and cut off other vehicles to drop us off. I could have handled an extra 10 minute drive, for safety, but it was amusing. This driver took us through Harlem and it was interesting to see beautiful, well maintained streets so close to run-down and depressed areas. Detours like this reveal the oddities in city planning and organization.

Tonight we have dinner and a visit to the Empire State Building. I will try to post as the holiday continues. I hope you Easter is shaping up as well as mine!
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Love to get LOST

I am a television junkie  As a way to force myself to not spend hundreds of hours sitting and watching a bunch of shows, I recently cancelled my cable (also a great money saver).  The only downside is that I can still watch almost everything via my computer.

Recently, I just finished watching the series Lost.  With a lot of shows, I am not initially interested in watching them while they are on the air, but I get really involved when I can watch season after season on DVD.  This was the case with Lost.  With the ending of each show I go through a small mourning period.  I miss the characters, their antics, the stories and emotions the show stirs up in me.  This show was especially moving, I cried many, many tears.

What I liked best about the show was the light/dark themes and road of redemption the characters take. A group of strangers forced to band together to save themselves and flee a mysterious island.  A quick look online reveal fan site after fan site of theories and expositions about the show.  I won't get into any of that but I will close with these three quotes:

"We were all brought here for a reason." (said by Locke)
"I'll see you in another life, brother." (said by Desmond)
"I have looked into the eye of this island, and what I saw was beautiful." (said by Locke)

Goodbye, I will miss you!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quick Update

Here is a quick recap of the last couple of months:

  • The month of February brought me a lovely visit from my parents.  My dad spent two days at school teaching my students about his experience in the FBI and then he and my mother spent the rest of their time helping me hang pictures and complete some little home projects.


  • President's day weekend I traveled Tucson to visit my brother and his family.  I had a nice relaxing weekend.  My niece and nephew's favorite activity when I visit is helping me to grade homework. I must say it is infinitely more fun when they are helping me.
  • The last weekend in February I drove to Logan, Utah to take the engagement photos for my niece and her fiance.  It was great to meet Carson and other than being a little cold, I loved being up in the mountains for a day.

  • In March I completed my portfolio for my National Board Certification.  The next task is to study for the assessment test which I will take the first Saturday in May.  After I complete that portion I will just have to wait for my scores.  Scores aren't released until December.
  • April is one of my favorite months in Las Vegas because everything begins to bloom again and the weather is usually perfect.  This month I will be taking seven students to New York City for Spring Break.  My brother Doug is accompanying me and I am looking forward to the trip.  The last time I was in NYC was three years ago with another group of students.  In addition, I have several photo sessions lined up which I am looking forward to.
I like to ponder my life frequently and because I believe in constant and never ending improvement I have decided to implement a plan to be more accountable for my actions.  I have recently been inspired by Conference and a book about Happiness to start this project.  As I am more intentional about my life, choices and happiness I think I will find more satisfaction, find more peace and ultimately do more good.  I will write more about what I am doing as I figure out all the details.