Thursday, July 17, 2008

On a roll... can't stop now...

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.

"There out there having fun, in the warm California sun"

Today started off with the always-longer-than-I-remember drive to Santa Cruz.

We had planned to be on the beach at noon. We got there at 2:00. Blah blah it's hot blah blah we made stops for sandwiches and gas blah blah traffic blah blah.

I love Santa Cruz. The rides. The beach. The boardwalk. The cooler breeze. The corn on the cob and funnel cakes. Truly, once you're there, wants not to love about Santa Cruz?

We planned to meet my uncle and his family and well as my friend Michelle and her fiance Marc there on the beach. Do you know how hard it is to coordinate a group of 17? I don't particularly recommend it. But once we found a couple of tables and created a "base" it made for a really enjoyable day.

For those who know me it should come as no surprise at all that I insisted that first ride be "the Giant Dipper". Here we are (minus the non-wristband members of our group) in in-line for out first coaster for the day... the first coaster ever for Issa and Anissum. Note the mostly smiles met with some nervous skepticism.
This next photo is just after the ride was over. You'll notice my lack of sunglasses and the lack of Sabrina. Well... most of us made it through alive. The ride, as experienced by the two that have never been on a roller coaster before, was said to be "so cool" and "so scary, I almost fell out". One participant, Nicole, admitted she didn't open her eyes for a second of it.

So... okay... roller coasters are not for everyone. I get that. Kind of. What I don't get is how a person can walk out of lines half way to the front due to nerves and yet ride the skytram 23 million times. The skytram makes ME nervous. At least the first part does. When you are rising in those slippery non-restraining seats.

After that first ride it was just Rissa and Nick who went off just the two of them, while the the larger groups stayed together. They chose rides based on what my nieces (who have seasoned experience on the Boardwalk) enjoyed. After not too long though the roller-coaster apprehensive went off on their own and by the end of the night I think everyone had ridden at least one ride by themselves. Some prided themselves on riding most of the rides alone.

It was quite a different feeling than when we started out the first few days needed to huddle together in one specific area of swimming pools. But then again that is usually the case each time I have brought my LKSD students here. It's a lot to take in... much more than I can even imagine, despite having shared this experience three times now.

The fact is the Rural Alaska kids come to CA fearful of getting lost. But by the end of the vacation they are flat-out specifically try to get lost... just to experience the being able to find their way found again.

It was a bit of a chore getting everyone gathered up for lazar tag at 10:30pm but we did it. Our wristbands allowed for some free games and we were even able to talk my Uncle and Aunt into it. Sadly, my parents remain lazar tag virgins. We left the park around midnight. Pure satisfaction.

Awesome artists' art everywhere the eye can explore...

Sorry I have gotten WAY behind. It's now Thursday and I am in a hotel room in Las Vegas while five teens are swimming at the Circus Circus pool and the other three (don't you just hate growing from a girl to a young woman?) are visiting the Ethel M candy factory. I hope to get several posts done in one day here.

So... I last left off on Friday, July 11th. Friday gets to be remembered for being the day when we spent the least amount of money. At least that's how I think the adults will remember it. I think the under 20-year-olds (the had requested I NOT call them kids) will remember it for all of the beautiful indoor and outdoor art.

After I send the Oscarville students home, I will be heading to Juneau for a week-long art class. I have heard really great things about the immediately applicable projects that are presented here from other teachers with LKSD who have gone. Recently, I received an email from an instructor attempting to get to know the people who will be taking her class in Juneau. I replied with my blog address and an apology for not really having a whole lot of extra time right now. As it turns the guest instructor for the program, Sue Anne Foster, is a resident of Sacramento County. What a coincidence!

After some email-tag and switching around of our itinerary (it's been too hot for a day at the Capitol and Old Town Sacramento) we decided to get together for a potluck dinner at her beautiful home. Additionally she mentioned an artist friend of hers who lives in Citrus Heights that we could visit.

So we started off the day with a visit to Ann Bowns's home and backyard art studio. Water lovers that they are of course, the students were particularly interested in her koi pond.

Ann Bowns took some time showing us some of the media she has been experimenting with lately. The students loved her demonstration of the vibrant colors she uses and her ability to make and fix mistakes. She gave them each a free postcard with her work and the kids have been found pulling it out and admiring it in these days that followed the visit.

After we left we went back home and allowed for some much needed downtime.

I took Issa and Rissa to buy some swimming suits at Marshall's and then we met up with the whole group again for some make-your-own-lunch (mostly left over burritos fixings and cup of noodles). Issa got to try out her swimsuit right away when my dad took the group to Tempo Pool.

While they swam I was able to pick up a few things for the potluck dinner including some wonton skins that my mom then turned into wonton cookies. She did this cooking while I selfishly took a nap upstairs for an hour or so. Mom had been feeling pretty sick and had been dropping out of events here and there to save her energy for the larger upcoming events. The making of these cookies along with the dishes and laundry were enough to put her down for the night.

Now a party of ten, we went to Sue and Gary Foster's home for a nice outdoor dinner. Sue has several things in her home that appealed to our group. They asked me repeatedly if they could stay the night there. It seems labyrinths in gardens, assorted musical instruments, indoor starred ceilings, player pianos, tiki torch lamps, and exotic fish and birds far surpass air hockey tables and a wii with this group.

I think it was nice getting to have Sue Anne meet my students. Spending the evening with her certainly has made me look forward that much more to the class. At one point she expressed some frustrations about not being able to pack everything (sample of art, materials, etc) to Alaska for the class. All the AK Bush teacher-readers can certainly relate to that!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jumping off cliffs, cussing worthy of an "R" rating, and other things I learned from my teacher

I woke up way too early this morning.  After spending so much time in the sun yesterday I went to sleep pretty early.  I was in a room with Patrick, Nick, Anissum, Issa, and Rissa.  There were two big beds and two air beds on the floor.  The sleeping arrangements were made before I fell asleep.  Patrick and I were to take the two air beds.  Issa and Rissa would share the big bed and Anissum and Nick would share the futon. 

Now, when I woke up at 5:00 a mere three hours after they finally turned off the lights and tv the only bed that was "correctly" occupied was my own.  

No, no, no... it's not as bad as you think.  It's just that Patrick fell asleep horizontally on the futon leaving Nick in the air bed and Anissum on the floor... sleeping on top of my backpack and towel more precisely.  And... for some reason... Issa too was on the floor with a pillow.  I don't know how Rissa got lucky enough to have the big bed to herself but there it is.

So... after waking up at 5:00 and retrieving my backpack at 6:00, Rissa woke up.  She and I spoke for a while on the balcony before deciding to walk into town to see what was open.  We returned shortly thereafter with hot cocoa and a white mocha.

By 7:00 my parents and Patrick were also awake.  By 8:00 Anissum and Nick were awake.  By 9:30 everyone but Patrick and my parents went back to sleep.  By 10:45 everyone was out of bed.  And by 11:15 everyone was checked out and waiting in the car.

Our first stop was the Downieville graveyard.

My great great grandfather was a judge in Downieville. He's pretty famous there as he is rather notoriously known for having hung quite a few many men and women.

He's buried here in this graveyard that opened in 1861. It's really quite a beautiful site once you get past the morbidity. (ha!)

There are several graves marked "unknown" and this led to a small discussion on the area, in general, being a big gold mining town... and with that who would attracted to the area in the 1800's.

We also saw some graves for infants. Some so young they weren't named. We discussed our thought about that as well.

But it was hot there in that cemetery and for goodness sakes there was water to be in!

My daredevil niece, Rissa, was the first to jump from the rock ledges into the water of this second water hole we swam in in Downieville. Nick also jumped before he and Anissum went off for some other exploring.

Patrick also jumped a few times from the rocks before we left this area for lunch.

It was pretty hot in this area and even my water hesitant dog, Bailey, worked out a way to cool himself while the rest of us weren't watching. It's important that you know that he was away from the crowd in this picture. If we were to walk closer to him, he would immediately climb out of the water and lay of the sunny rocks panting heavily.

sidebar: For you and Loki... Shaun, I have tried to post more Bailey photos today. I understand the needs of my readers here and would hate to deprive you both of the real star in this group. How rude of me to only post a picture of a sick Bailey.

Eventually though the desire for food (the only known way to get these kids to leave the water) pulled us away. We had dinner outside of the pizza place in Downieville called, "The Gallows". The pizza, as always, was tasty. We had two pepperoni pizzas and one greek pizza. The greek pizza would have been a trillion times better with a white sauce but that was really my only complaint.

After lunch we went to our third and final water hole in Downieville. Earlier in the day Patrick had walked the town with my parents and he had decided this place was the best Downieville had to offer. So here he stayed in Patrick's choice water hole for the next several hours.

Bailey clearly approved of Patrick's choice and took his spot in the water away from us contently.

Here we had to keep him on leash because there was another dog off leash who came over instigating drama with him every 15 minutes or so before the dog's owner finally left the beach.

Free from the need to be ON Bailey I swam across the river and found my own rocks to jump from.

Seeing their teacher jump safely from the rocks those hesitant in the past (Issa, Nicole, and Sabrina) followed suit and took turns with Patrick climbing on the rocks and jumping out.

Anissum and Nick spent a good amount of time taking tubes down the rapids just upriver from us.

Everyone really got all the time in the water they could have wanted and them some. The teens were shocked when their question of when do we have to leave was met with a, "when YOU'RE ready." In the end we didn't get out of the water until after 5:30.

Nicole ended up cutting up her foot pretty good on a fall and Issa got out around that same time. But Nicole continued to be content to play her DS (with Kiana who was never really the fish the rest of her family and these kids from Oville are). And Issa? Well she seemed quite content watching everyone else swim.

About and hour before we finished my mom suggested we rent "Stand By Me" to watch. There was something about the woods and water today that reminded her of this favorite movie of mine. I reminded her of the "R" rating for language and she blew it off. My mom of all people! I for one always thought the rating was unjust so I was all for a viewing.

We packed up slowly and stopped at an In-N-Out on the way home. Contented with hours in the sun, bellies full of burgers, shakes, and fries everyone enjoyed a showing of "Stand By Me" to end the evening.

Well it ended the evening for me. After the movie I took and shower and began working on this post. My mom and dad went to bed. And most of the teens put in "Forrest Gump" to prepare themselves for our upcoming visit to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory Restaurant on Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Cheaper than Disneyland

Two rooms.
One tank of gas.
Steak meat.
Pasta salad.
Fried rice.
And lots of trees and water.

About two hours away from Sacramento is a little town called Downieville. Perhaps not little when you compare it to Oscarville but pretty tiny for California standards. It’s a town that was once a hub or sorts for gold miners. Then it went through a period where rafting was popular. Now it’s known for it’s mountain biking opportunities.

There is a little store and restaurant on the way to Downieville called, “Indian Valley Outpost.” And across from Indian Valley Outpost is a section of the Yuba River that I like to soak my feet into.

I rarely wade out very far into this water myself, but the group I brought today were risk takers. They coasted down the rapids mostly intentionally… and sometimes not so intentionally.

Once hunger got the better of them we all dried up in the heat of the sun and then had a shaded picnic lunch.

After lunch we drove to the McMahon Mine. There is a pipe and slough built along the side of the mountain that carries this “natural spring water.” At one point it runs along the edge of the road and drips enough for water bottles to be filling pretty quickly. He’s a shop of some of such bottles being filled. Free water! Imagine that.

The Mine is my favorite place in the whole world. Everything from its long drive way to its long walk to water appeals to me. The McMahon Mine is private property that has been handed down by my family for several generations. It was once gold mining territory but it’s been a while since any gold has been found there. Currently it sits at 800 acres of beautiful scenery on the cusp of being passed down from my parents’ generation to my own.

I snapped this photo of my mom and dad (the bankroll of our trip this month) coming down the driveway.

It’s hard to capture the real attraction of this silent area of trees and dirt. In the main area we go to there is no swimming water hole to wade around in. And yet… somehow… people always find things to do here. Ways to entertain themselves.

And even when not “entertained” they don’t seem all that unhappy to just be sitting around on a log. I get it. I feel the same way when I visit.

After sitting around for a bit I led those who were interested on a hike to the nearest water source. I started with six teens and two dogs but after not too long, I was down to four. Issa, Rissa, Nick, and Anissum and I hiked along this path nature had nearly taken back for about thirty minutes before finding a way down to the stream that passes through this property.

At one point Anissum lamented to Nick that he wished they had brought a machete. I wished they had too. It would be nice to have this trail all cleaned up for me. And shoot if they are willing to be free laborers… ;)

After a rest at the water we decided to head back. We nearly got to the trail again when Anissum decided to go back for just one more sip of water. Rather than skillfully walk his way down he ran and jumped down off a fallen tree and ended up snagging his new shirt on a branch.

That’s the thing about the pretty nature. If you don’t slow down to appreciate it, it bites back.

Also on this hike I feel through log. All the way up past my knee my left leg broke through the rotted, fallen, trunk. The kids thanked me for showing them the hole and then moved on around me. Glad I could help them out, I guess.

A few scrapes and scratches were had all around. That is to be expected when you’re hiking in these private areas. When you think about it… so many worse things COULD have happened.

Nick and Anissum in particular seemed to thing little of risks before doing what looked pretty darn ridiculously unsafe to me. But I guess that’s just ‘cause I value my life ‘en stuff.

side note: I have a picture of my dad in nearly the exact same pose Anissum is in here. And he’s lived to be 62-so far… so I guess this isn’t as hazardous as it looks. Of course if you ask my dad now he’ll be the first to point out that, “if you do slip, you’ll die.”

Leaving the area we stopped to make some wishes on the huge dandelions that are growing wild.

It took a while to decide on just the right wish but once they did they let loose and blew.

We finally reached Downieville at about 7:00. After our cars were unloaded my mom got to work on barbecuing the steaks she had been marinating all day. Anissum, Nick, Patrick, Sabrina, Rissa, and I went to a swimming hole by the hotel while the remaining members of our group relaxed in front of a tv for a hour. Issa, I heard, even took a little nap.

At the water hole, everyone quite happily let the current carry them around the deep water that flows under one of two bridges in town. The one we were playing under is the bridge many people were hung from back in the day when hangings were commonplace.

They were just about to call it a night and head back in when they saw the rope swing was open. Nearly dried off everyone hopped back into the water and swam across to the rope swing.

Nick was the first to swing out over the open water but then he contently swung back to shore before getting off the rope. Anissum took the more popular route by swinging out over the deep area and dropping into the water with a splash. Patrick and Sabrina later took Anissum’s lead.

I didn’t bring my camera down to the water this evening but I anticipate getting the opportunity to snap pictures of the rope swing again tomorrow.

Once hunger again led to a desire to towel off we saw a deer cross over the bridge everyone was playing under. Sabrina and I stuck around a bit longer then the rest and got to see the deer then cross down into the water and eat grass from the rocks they had been playing on moments before.

With the three hours of driving on mountainous roads I am proud to announce that only one of the member of our party got sick.

Poor guy. Doesn’t he just look miserable? He hacked up some yellow stuff before settling back down in between Nicole and Patrick. Bailey loves it up here but I don’t know how many more road trips to the mountains mr. grump can take.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

For what seemed like little plans...

We had a very full day today. It started earlier than any other day we have had here in California. Today we were up at 8:00 am and out of the house before 9:00. We caught a free showing of "Hook" at the theater at theArden Fair Mall at 10:00 this morning. I love the movie "Hook". It's just so colorful and happy. I had heard that these free movie really fill up so we got there early. And it's a good thing we did because the place really did fill up.

It filled up with kids who are too young and/or too noisy to be taking to a "real" movie. And... some special needs' adults. It was a strange crowd. The people watching was nearly as entertaining as the movie itself.

Before the movie began everyone separated and enjoyed some quality DS time in their seats.  As the theater started the fill most of us ended up grouped back together.

Don't be alarmed.  Issa was neither angry nor scared... it was just snapped at a weird moment.

After the movie, we walked into the main part of the mall and had lunch at the food court. And by "we" I mean me and the eight teens. My parents spent the time following the movie bringing the van, that we got back last night, back to the shop. Apparently the brakes are grinding. With Downieville on the docket for tomorrow, touchy brakes are really NOT okay.

After the food court feeding I stayed at the table with Sabrina (who was saving her money for later) while everyone else had free reign in the mall for a couple of hours. Some made full use of their time shopping and dropping bags off at the food court table only to then go back out shopping again. Others spent the time finding the places to play free games. And then there were a few who would plop down in a chair every so often and stare off into space hoping mall time would be over faster.

Now, I myself have had my share of buyer's remorse sadness but this was just painful. It's teenage kids! It's a mall! And you need more entertainment from adults?!!

After my dad arrived to take over table-sitting duty I took the opportunity myself to wander the mall a bit. There were some great deals today. I got a dress and five shirts for less than $100. This happened only after I shook off a coupe of kids who wanted to "follow" me into clothing stores.

Confession: I'm sort of hermit-like in my mall shopping. I really would rather do it on my own. If I am with a group, I'd really rather not buy anything more permanent. Food or candles, etc... that's group shopping. Clothing and shoes... that's for me alone.

Without any real established time for shopping to be over, it should come as no surprise to anyone that we ended up "behind schedule". After I finished my shopping I took a quick bathroom break and remembered (because the bathroom IS where my mind blinks on often) that the last "Jelly Belly Factory Tours" commence at 4:00. My watch read 2:45 and we were a good hour away from the tour.

The gathering up of the crew took longer than we expected and we ended up not getting to our cars until about 3:20. Hmm... forty minutes to travel what should take 60 minutes. Well... ONE of us made it on time. And it wasn't me.

Actually, it wasn't me because I made a wrong turn and ended up on hwy 99 for about 3.5 miles before turning around. It's not entirely my fault though... I was distracted. By having to call back the auto mechanic while not being able to talk on my cell phone with my hands. The fishing out of the earbud, etc was far more attention-distracting than if I had just held up the darn phone. But I digress...

I was also running out of gas. And by running out I mean I had driven my 13 gallon tank a good 460 miles on hills. And I knew I was really really pushing it to get to the factory. In fact I planned to have Marissa run in with my carload while I went to go fill up, that way I wouldn't have to use the gas necessary to start up the engine again.

Pulling into the Jelly Belly parking lot of the visitor's center the time was 4:17. I figure there was no chance at all that they would make the tour. But then I spotting my dad. He was holding 5 tour hats and a parking space right up front for us. I guess he had made it there at 4:05 and asked if it was too late. The staff said they would do one more tour just for them. At that point my dad confessed to the second car (my car) not being there yet.

It all worked out in the end though. I got to join everyone for the tour (it seemed wrong to not take the pretty spot up front). It was my second time taking the tour in a week and my 10th time doing the tour in like the last 6 years. But that's okay. It makes me feel super smart to know everything right before it's said.

And to be honest, I needed that super-smart feeling of confidence. Because unbeknownst to me at the time, I had just made a horrible mistake. My dad insisted on following me to the gas station even though I told him I could afford the gas on my own. Just as I was about to pull on to the freeway the engine light came on. I had power but the air conditioning stopped running, etc.

I read, actually, I assigned my students to read, some information about the Prius Hybrid. And it turns out when you run out of gas there is a fail-safe where it allows you to continue to drive on just battery power for a few miles to let you get to a station. However, I would like to let the record show that I am a big chicken. When the engine sort of "shut down" I pulled over. I took my dad's car up to the next exit that claimed to be a place to get gas but didn't see a station. I did see a Target so I went in and bought a gas canister before getting back on the freeway for a few more miles to find a place to fill my new purchase.

By the time I got back to me car it was pointed out that it was over 30 minutes that I had left my 60 year old dad with 4 teenagers in a sweltering car with no air in 109-degree temps. Whoops.

And... by the way... for those keeping track... in four days... we have had a car in the shop for a new alternator, a car in the shop for new brakes, a different car buried to it's frame in soft sand, and yet another car out of gas 70 miles from home.

I figure the trip to Vegas, Grand Canyon, and New Mexico will either be completely car-worry-free or we'll end up starting a holocaust. One or the other.

Once returning home, much later than expected, some of the group borrowed my bikes and rode around exploring the neighborhood. A couple of others took the dogs on much needed walks. And my mother and I began prepping for dinner.

Eliza Joekay mentioned in a previous comment that she hopes the kids are helping out with chores. And while, it's true, we are still having a hard time with things like getting them to remove their garbage out of the car when they leave it, they have complied with direct requests.

Here, for example, Nicole is putting the sheet that my mom washed back on the mattress for one of the boys. Well eventually she put it on. The TV is a pretty distracting thing sometimes.

By the time the chores were done, the sun was set, the bicycles were put away, and all dogs were walked, I laid out our spread for dinner.

Today we had burritos. There were a grand variety of things to put inside their burritos and I let each of them wrap their own. There were beans, chicken, and shrimp but also guacamole, two kinds of cheese, salsa, olives, yogurt (instead of sour cream as a shout out to Erin), grapes, pineapple, watermelon, chips, and so on.

Some were quite good at being able to get the "right" amount in the shell...

Others were less good at getting it all in the tortilla and more good at getting more than enough to eat in one sitting...

It was a late night and by the time dinner was completely cleaned up it was near 10:00 at night. But... I HAD promised them lazertag and it could really not be put off any longer. Even Patrick, who's dinner didn't exactly stay down, joined us for this late night lazertag excursion.

Sun Splash looked pretty quiet even though I had read online that they were open until midnight. By the time we got up to the counter to buy lazertag tickets it was 10:30pm. The tickets though were buy one game get the other free so despite the staff's desire to close up early (at 10:30) they ended up staying to close until after out two games were done.

Lazertag, as always, was a blast! Patrick did exceedingly well beating out the seasoned professional Lazertaggers (myself and Kiana were distant seconds in these games). When it was done though there was some controversy over the leader's scores as he apparently had been observed "covering" his sensors. Dirty politics! I leave you with this group shot of the crew before the first game (notice the lack of drenching sweat that we had when the two games were complete).

PS. We'll be in a hotel tomorrow night so there will be no update until we return.