Today we were joined by my sister and her husband. They are also known as Denise and Andrew Gutierrez. They are also known as Kiana, Marissa, and Sabrina's parents.
They live in New Mexico and their contribution to our big summer extravaganza was to foot the bill and transportation to the Rio Grande Zoo and Botanic Garden in Albuquerque. It was pretty hot that day and the animals were slow moving. Patrick found a friend here in a lazy Gorilla.
It seems Anissum and Marissa found some friends too. These exotic birds found pleasant resting spots on their shoulders and head while being fed.
It was hot there in sunny New Mexico that day and the water spritzer area was a hit. As a group we split off into natural groups here and there. But there were a couple of moments when our entire party of thirteen were together. Here at the water area, when we sat down for lunch, and when we traveled by train to the aquarium.
The aquarium was a hit. There were interesting play areas where a garden was built to look as if we had been shrunk down to one inch tall. And there was a great butterfly habitat too. But there's something about the containment... the silence... of an aquarium that just gets me every time. I understand though that aquraiums aren't magical for everyone.
For example, Anissum seemed to really like the grace of a yellow eel while my mom was disgusted. The jellyfish, as always, were fascinatingly beautiful. There was a sea lion show at the main zoo so it made sense that there was now display of seals here in the aquarium.
There was however, a large tank with sharks, rays, and other large sea life. It was set in a darkened room with some cushiony bleacher-type seating. I settled upon one of the steps there for a good amount of time watching others in our group come in and out of that room before asking Nick, Issa, and Nicole to stand against the backdrop of the tank. Don't sweat this picture on the right too much... no jr. high students were harmed in the shot. :) The zoo closed strangely at 5:00 so we took one of the last trains back to our car together. Knowing this would be one of the last days that my nieces would be visiting with my students they really seemed to enjoy having a whole cable-car to themselves. It felt a little like the last day of camp.
Luckily we snapped a ton of pictures to remember all of this time together. Looking back on all of the events we had shared up to this point, there really was a great deal of beauty. Not to be outdone at the zoo, a peacock was kind enough to give us one last beautiful memory to see.
After the zoo we killed some time at Denise and Andy's place for a while and enjoyed the down time with video games and pizza. We then headed over to Denise's coworker's home. She keeps goats and horses. And while the warm rains had made for unfavorable conditions to ride the horses we enjoyed getting to meet the goats and experience first hand some of that farm-community that previously the Oscarville students had only read about.
They even had a pygmy goat baby there to show off. He's only about 2 1/2 weeks old and still drinking from a bottle. We took turns petting and holding the goat but as I have come to see first hand, Anissum really does seem to have a comforting way with animals.
While checking out the rest of the goats I pulled Patrick aside. It seems one horse in particular, had had her hooves cleaned and was read to be ridden. Patrick was definitely the one who wanted to ride the most as he had brought up his desires to me on nearly a daily basis. We couldn't take them far... just around a little yard in fact... but it was enough. Patrick was elated.
This photograph here above is quite possibly my favorite from the entire trip. Patrick's ride was definitely my most favorite memory. When the owner was able to lead the horse up to a gallop Patrick squealed with unabashed delight.
Hearing the glee, the rest of the Oscarville students took turns on the horse. We didn't have a while lot of time but it was enough for a few circles for each of them. Some had a real feel for it. Anissum and Nick seemed to understand the rhythm necessary to feel comfortable with the trot.
Issa and Nicole looked only slightly less comfortable than the others. But they enjoyed it all the same. As I stated in the title of this post... after a full day at the zoo the most talked about animal was... the horse.
It was hard to leave the horse but we did have a movie to see. We missed the previews and had to seat in separate seats all over the theater but we got to see Batman: The Dark Knight on opening weekend. WE were a part of those record setting numbers. The consensus was that it was the best movie yet. A must have on DVD for every single one of us.
I'll get back to the posts about the summer again, I promise.
After sending in a request for an absentee ballot, and then not getting mail in Oscarville for over a month, I was finally able to vote. Last Friday... five days before the general election, I was able to snowgo up to Bethel to drop off my ballot at the Post Office. I am officially one of those 40,000 absentee voters in Alaska.
Here's the headlining news this morning...
Some of that makes me very happy. Some of that makes me want to drop kick half of the general voting public in Alaska and California over to our sneaky neighbors in Russia.
July 19th we left the Grand Canyon area and drove to New Mexico. It was time to drop off my three nieces with my sister (and brother in law) and end the summer romance for two of them. We would become a much smaller party of eight soon.
Early that morning there was a Cowboy Show that some of us were motivated enough to wake up for. Those who did attend enjoyed it. It was a pretty funny show and once it was over you got a chance to have your picture taken with the cast. Here's Nicole and Patrick with the sheriff. After the cast pictures were taken Nicole and Patrick then found their way to the horses. There was a request for horseback riding from day one and we'd been trying hard to make it happen. Spending $50 a person for a guided tour or something was NOT something we were ready to splurge on but certainly we must know someone! After the show I took a quick one-hour nap while everyone else watched an hour or so of TV before heading back to the road. We stopped only once on the way to New Mexico and that was to grab a meal at the Golden Corral. But then it was back in the car. The weather was turning from painfully hot to occasionally raining. It made for a pretty rainbow a few times.
But mostly we were just starting to get stir-crazy from the road.
It was a great relief to get to the Gutierrez' place where there was plenty enough room for everyone to spread out and get into their own things.
They also have a bunch of animals that helped to entertain those who were sort of "done" with people but not really ready for an independent brain game either.
We were back on the road before noon. This time though it was slightly more lively in the car. Oh yeah, we really rocked things up this day. SOME of the time I didn't have the view of my parents' van in front of me. SOME of the time I had the view of my parents' van in the rearview mirror. It was pointed out that perhaps I was not being entirely safe there taking a picture of my rearview mirror while driving. So I handed off the camera and allowed for them to snap some pics. Here's just one of the 30 or so shots like these. Our next destination was a big hole in the ground. It was so big in fact that some might call it "grand". I gotta say though... all together... our group is pretty darn grand as well. See... all together we pretty much overshadow the canyon. So speaking of shadows... I did find a way to snap us AND the canyon... We took a walk seeing some other views of the canyon. For those who haven't been there before the ledges certainly have safety railings and such but when you take a little mile or so walk to an information center you'll pass all sorts of ledges that you can climb down on. I let some students go exploring a bit to really get a feel for the energy of this place. They were safe. GIving one another space and keeping their distance from the real "edges". In fact the only one who really got scared was a my mom. Who screamed wildly for them to come back a few separate times. Admittedly it did look a bit dramatic from far away.
In the end we found it best to just sort of split up and walk at our own pace enjoying the scenery. I was alone some of the time. And other times I caught up to one or two of them finding their own personal favorite spots there.
We were still in Vegas the next day. We did some shopping and purchased some poker chips with our faces on them. There on the strip I got a call from Anita Creamer a newspaper columnist in Sacramento and was able to set up some interview time. But other than that... it was pretty mellow. It was the day I found time to post some blog updates while they hung at the pool.
And then, that evening, we went to a magic show. Not just any magic show of course... it was rather the World's Greatest Magic Show. I know that because that was it's title. The Teens loved it. Magic is pretty cool in general but to these teens it's the end all of awesomeness. I am really glad we were able to provide them with an appropriate Vegas Show.
So yeah... Vegas wasn't a total wash. Magic and buffets were enjoyed by all.
So... here's the thing about Vegas. It hate it. I try to like it. My mom loves it. But me... I just am not a fan. I think the only way I could like Vegas less was if I were still under 21. But since I AM 21 I was able to do the real fun stuff like wait in line in a casino rather than wait on a couch in a casino. Look at their happy faces. Don't they just look THRILLED with Vegas? And then later... I got to stand in a line to get a casino-card (cheaper admit into a buffet) while they again got a wait on a couch. See the smiles this time? It's cause they took to wrestling for space there on the couch prior to the photo being snapped. I did spend some time telling them to behave more appropriately in Vegas. But the truth is... I would have been bored out of my gourd and looking for some wrestling entertainment myself if I were them. We ate at a buffet and I went and played a little Texas Hold 'Em (up 6 bucks at the end of a hour or so) before walking the strip. It was late. It was hot. And their legs were a little out of practice. So when we stopped for sodas there was a bit of a meltdown. This picture was luckily taken before the commotion. Some more "waiting" occurred and then we decided to head over to Freemont Street to just get all this touristy Vegas stuff done in one horrible night. Freemont Street has a big light show every hour on the hour. The "hour" that we attended was not really geared towards kids. So the lit-up, sultry, stripper show (not flesh but in "lights") paired with the full frontal ads we saw for escorts-in-your-room here and there around town made for a real desire act as kindergardeners. So that's just what they did, post light-show, outside the casinos, there on Freemont Street. There was some anti-boy sentiments and then jumping an cheering and holding hands. It was the kind of play that can't really be captured in a photo but here's a taste of it.
The participants of both of those two events though have requested that their names not be released onto this blog. Anyone who knows a Jr. Higher would expect both of those "events" to occur. There is just something about this age. It gets the hormones a jumping. Jumping together. Jumping apart. And all that jumping gets a person tired.
Not that you would see that at the end of the day. We checked into a hotel in Needles. It was pretty basic. The Teens swam while the adults relaxed. I picked up some Del Taco for dinner. And then some of them stayed up watching movies on my computer. It was a pretty mellow day followed by a pretty mellow night. I went to sleep long before they did.
So much time has passed since I last blogged. I am currently in Fairbanks, sitting in a chair at the public library alone. I get on a plane tomorrow morning and I will be back in the village around 6:00pm I figure.
So let's see... July 13th was San Francisco and July 15th we began the road tip. So... July 14 we did very little. We went to a movie... uh... Hancock. They LOVED Hancock. I thought it was better than I was expecting. Interesting twists. Enough of a movie to talk about afterwards. A good popcorn flick.
... and then we met my parents for a Chinese food buffet. This was their first buffet and they enjoyed it immensely. Little did they know they were on their way to Vegas where there would be many more buffets to come.
After spending the night at my Uncle's house in San Jose we drove to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I never feel like there is enough time for the Exploratorium so this trip I made sure to have it be our first stop in San Francisco. There is just so much to see... and do... and play with. This first photo was one taken on one of their displays on perceptions. Patrick (who took the picture) could not bring himself to drink out of the water fountain toilet. As you can see, I was less hesitant. As was the case in Santa Cruz the day before, everyone just spread out allowing themselves to really enjoy everything around them without the wait for their friends. I tried to snap photos while exploring myself, but in the end I handed the camera off to Patrick and he took the following few shots.
Every so often a couple of people would meet up and do come of the partner displays together but then they would separate again allowing for individuals to move at their own pace. About two and a half hours after we got there a group started to form around me requesting food.
I made some purchases at the gift shop since I will teach Life Science for the first time next year. I'll miss Earth Science. With the change in school the year before last I was able to teach the same curriculum for two years in a row! After the Expolatorium we drove Lombard St. and then drove to the Pier 39 parking garage. We ate a late lunch at Jonny Rockets and enjoyed the nickel songs on the jukebox. It never ceases to amaze me how some music makes it to the minds of people born 20 years later. And in Bush Alaska now too?!! Keeping up with the whole "dated" entertainment theme we then walked to the old-school arcade found at the end of Fisherman's Wharf. The arcade is full of older dime-operated type games. Of course now they cost a quarter or two to play but the attractions are still the same. There were palm-reader machines like Zoltar from the movie "Big," a claw machine that dispenses plastic-ring trinkets, arm-wrestling machines, etc. There were also more modern-ish machines. Like Pole Position. I love me some Pole Position. "Prepare to qualify. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeeep" brings an eager smile to my face. The biggest draw for them though was... Foosball. We got downright loud playing it. It started as a game with me versus my mom and my uncle. Then Patrick joined my side. As it got louder and louder Issa and Arianna (a cousin of mine) took over the "seats" of my mom and uncle. Can you tell from this shot who the victors of the shot were?
Yeah, we're not so subtle winners. After the arcade we walked over to Pier 39. There they strolled lazily down the Pier stopping at a variety of shops. Their favorite, by far, was the magic shop. Several of them walked out with bags of tricks and a couple of select boys were taken into a back room to learn how to perform their newly purchased trick. Once we got to the end of the Pier I booked a table for ten at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant. We had purposely eaten prior to this visit because Bubba Gump is sort of ridiculously expensive.
Here we let the teens all partake in a couple of pounds of peel an' eat shrimp and fancy flavored lemonaides with light up keepsake cups.
As you can see they didn't seem to miss the company of the adults.