Sunday, July 27, 2008

Viva Differentiated Instruction!!

Last Saturday morning Pat and I packed up the RAV4 and drove to Las Vegas for a 4 day national teacher's seminar on D.I. My school picked up the tab for my transportation, room at the Riviera and a per diem for food. Pat enrolled and paid tuition on her own because the classes and workshops they offered looked very interesting.

We had hoped to get there in time to get in a session at the L.V. temple the first night (more on that later) but it took us about 30 minutes to get across Hoover Dam , crawling behind a line of cars. We did see the enormous bridge under construction there which will bypass the dam someday. So we got to the hotel and took a walk down the strip. It was about 114 degrees as we walked about a mile to the beautiful Palazzo hotel, next to the Venetian where we bought tickets for the Broadway show "Jersey Boys" for Monday night. It would be our one splurge (about $70 a ticket). After buying the tickets we crossed the street to a food court and had a burger and cheese steak at Johnny Rocket's.

Each day we each attended four 70 minute sessions given by expert presenters who were former teachers, administrators, etc. relating to about every topic you can think of in education. Most were very good, informative and full of practical ideas, only a couple were not that great. Our lunch break on Sunday found us waiting in line at the hotel's food court with thousands of other teachers. There was also a trade show in the ballroom with many vendor booths offering tons of teacher stuff. Pat found some treasures.

That night we decided to get tickets to a Neil Diamond tribute show there at the Riviera ( we got a big discount because we were with the teacher group). The performer was Jay White and he did a show (about 1 1/2 hours) performing the hits with a four piece band. It was a great show and we were all singing and clapping along. After the show we walked across the street to Circus Circus and spent too much money (but had a lot of fun) winning some stuffed animals for granddaughter Ellena at the midway games. We also watched a couple of the trapeze and other circus acts.

At lunch Monday, as we sat at a much coveted table, Pat spotted a young couple (teachers) who had brought their cute little chubby baby to the conference. She went up and told them they could have our place. She is such a grandma! After a short nap we boarded the "Deuce", a double decker bus that moves up and down the strip for $2 a ride and got off at the Palazzo for our show. "Jersey Boys" was so good, great music and story about the Four Seasons, the 1960's pop harmony group featuring Frankie Valli. It did however have its share of rough "Jersey language"! After the show we ate at the Italian restaurant there called "Carnevino". It was wonderful (the overhead music was "The White Album", no kidding). We split a salad, some bow tie pasta and a New York strip steak along with some veggies and risotto cakes. It was pretty elegant (and delicious) and rounded out our splurge evening at about $300 (dinner and show) and it was worth it.

On Tuesday after our classes we hoped to go to the temple but Pat suggested we call first just in case. Sure enough, it was closed for cleaning and maintenance. Too bad. We decided to try the hotel's buffet for dinner. Years ago Las Vegas was known for cheap (maybe $3.99) buffets all over town. No more. Our meal was $16.99 each. It was pretty good but nothing to write home about. After dinner we got back on the Deuce and headed down the strip again. We saw the dancing waters show outside of the Bellagio and wandered through New York New York. It is a fun place with an interior that looked like NY streets with corner deli's, street lamps, Central Park, etc. We got in line for their roller coaster but changed our minds when we saw that it cost $14 apiece! We crossed over to the MGM and started walking again. We visited the 4 story M&M store and the Coke store and headed back to the Riviera. After our classes Wednesday, we headed home most of the was talking about ideas we had learned that we can use in the classroom. It was a very fun time together.

So, some thoughts on the famous Sin City... There is lots to do and see, it is very bright and flashy but it still has a very dark side. Everyone is solicited at some point on the street for some decidedly non-family activities. It is VERY expensive to eat and stay. We are not gamblers (not a penny on this trip) but I can see where that could be fun for those folks I don't know... strictly from a vacation standpoint, I think I'll take San Diego anytime.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lost and found... with a happy ending

Fourth of July and nobody was home at our house. Rachel and Scott were both out and Pat and I were in Taylor, AZ where the Due West Trio was performing. Our little terrier, Jaxx was locked in the backyard as usual. The sun went down, the fireworks started popping in the neighborhood and Jaxx began to get nervous.

We have a heavy wrought iron gate which closes in the yard but it has been off a hinge and in need of repair for some time now. A non-panicked Jaxx would not normally be able to budge it. So after surely scratching at the Arcadia door to no avail he began to shoulder his way out the gate and off he ran. The kids really did not notice him missing until the next day and everybody started looking. Pat and I got home late afternoon Saturday and Wendy, her boyfriend Chad, Scott and I all went in separate cars and combed the neighborhood searching and calling his name. Rachel was at work and said she was going to cruise the Nielson's neighborhood. No luck.

We called Pima County Animal Control, the City Pound (because they typically pick up a number of scared strays every Fourth) and went on the websites to check and report him missing. In short, we did everything we knew to do.

Then, Sunday afternoon we got a call from a woman who said she had found him. We were all very happy with the news! She lived at Houghton and Camino Quince. Jaxx had run there (crossing Houghton and Broadway, both very busy streets) and scratched on her door. So he must have spent at least one night alone and a mile from home.

Rachel and I drove to the corner and Jaxx seemed pretty happy to see us. Of course, I offered to reward the lady but she refused and was very gracious.

So there was a happy ending to what could have been a very sad story!