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Another School Year Over

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Another School Year Over

This past year brought a lot of events in our family. There were changes for some of us, challenges for some of us, and growth for all of us. Now that there are 3 of us who attend (well, okay, one of us teaches, but you get it) school daily, we measure things in years of 10 months at a time. Summer somehow seems like an entirely different entity.

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The 4 of us on our first day – August 2016

I came back to 5th grade this year. I got a new partner, and a new principal. We went on several field trips this year – more than last year.

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Soaking up local culture and Art

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Re-enacting the American Revolution at Riley’s Farm

This year had its challenges for me, but being in the classroom for the second year, teaching (mostly) the same content was much easier than last year. I had a much clearer picture and understanding of my expectations.

We raised money for another 3-day field trip to the Pali Institute this time. It was a great experience!

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Checking out wildlife in the pond at Pali

My son, the 16-year-old, was finally able to get his Comedy Troupe started. It was a struggle sometimes, and it took a LOT of strength for me to stay out and let him find his own wings and his own voice, but he did. He managed the team and ran the practices and at the end of the year was able to perform to a full house!

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the teams warming up before the show

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My son, with his winning “Karate Kid” move

He also managed to get himself into the “Top 10 of 2019” at his school, something he aimed for last year but JUST missed.

Our youngest daughter started middle school this year. Thought it seems like *just yesterday* that she started pre-school, now she is ready to take on 7th grade. She had a year of adjustments, but rose to the challenges that faced her. Last year, she was very involved in things like Math Field Day and her dance elective. This year, as she was adjusting to middle school, she decided to scale things back. Next year she’s hoping to be part of the performing arts elective. She did, however, attend all the dances.

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The youngest (right) ready for Mardi Gras

Our middle child had a full, busy year. She performed several times with her performing arts elective, and was in the Spring Musical. She also trained to be a Junior Docent for a historical building in town.  She auditioned for a new Arts high school and was accepted! And finally, she graduated 8th grade and is moving on to high school in the Fall.

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Heading into the audition

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My girl and I on her promotion day.

 

While I am glad to be back in the classroom, the worst part is that I don’t get to volunteer in the kids’ classrooms or go on field trips like I used to. (Though, admittedly, now that they’re older there are less opportunities to do this.) Luckily I was able to take a few personal days and chaperone the 8th grade field trip to Catalina. I did it for my son, and now my daughter. (Hopefully in 2 years I’ll get to go with my youngest.

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My daughter, ready to try snorkeling at Catalina

Somewhere in there, we also managed to go on a trip during Spring Break. (Now that one child will be on a different schedule next year, this may be our last Spring vacation in awhile…)

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Salt Creek in Death Valley

Next year will bring even more changes for us. Not only is my daughter starting high school in another district, I’m changing schools (and grades! I’m going from 5th to 1st grade). We’re back to having 3 kids at 3 schools for a few years. Luckily my husband’s schedule is flexible enough that we can tag-team with all the kids!

For now, we’re on Summer vacation. We began our summer by saying good-bye to my Granny. She was a fabulous, loving woman with a great laugh. She is missed.

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Granny and I, 2 years ago

Two kids are taking summer school classes, both Mom AND Dad are taking classes this summer, and everyone will be busy. In there somewhere, we’ll be headed on a trip, and attend Comic-Con. I worry this summer will go by in the blink of an eye, but we will make the very most of it.

Happy Summer, everyone!!

~Genevieve

A Tale of Two Theme Parks

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Here in Southern California, we’re lucky to have a few theme parks to visit. If you love speedy roller coasters that get the adrenaline pumping, you can go to Six Flags Magic Mountain. (There are lots of kid-friendly rides there, too.)

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Picture from sixflags.com Batman ride. (side note: everyone’s wearing Chucks)

Then there’s Knott’s Berry Farm, which also has a lot of thrill rides, along with an Old West area, a Snoopy kids’ area, and a water park.

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This kind of ride scares the daylight out of me!

There’s Sea World down in San Diego, and Legoland in Carlsbad. The two parks I’m going to talk about today are Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland.

Disneyland is probably my favorite of all-time. I don’t know what it is, but it reminds me of my childhood, and makes me happy. We recently took a trip there on a day when we thought it wouldn’t be too crowded…

It took forEVER to just get into the parking structure. We got there at Opening, and I honestly think they just weren’t quite ready.

 

So many people at the gates.

Something you do not see everyday… cast members just hanging out on the ride.

Ready to take a trip through the jungle on a cruise

Waiting for “Small World”

Our artist, looking into an animator’s studio

The kids like this ride a lot better than the grown-ups

The ride that gives all kids a driver’s license – Autopia

 

Girls with Walt and Mickey

Obligatory Mickey picture with bonus climbing kid in background

 

Hanging out at the Cantina from Star Wars

There’s so much to do at Disneyland & California Adventure. It’s hard to get it all done in just one day. However, we managed to fit in 21 activities. On a good day, where there’s a smaller crowd, we’ve done probably 25. (maybe a few more) Let’s just say that for a day that was pretty crowded, we managed to squeeze a LOT into the day.

Now, once upon a time we did have annual passes to the Magic Kingdom, but living in the L.A. area, we don’t make it down to the O.C. as much as we’d like (and now that the AP is so much more expensive, we don’t make it down there enough to make it worth it). However, a theme park closer to us has much cheaper Annual Passes, so we got them for Universal Studios Hollywood.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I worked at Universal. First, as someone in the merch department, and then as a Studio Guide.

“Hello, my name is Genevieve and Ill be your Studio Guide today!”

After spending 5 days a week there for 3 summers and then working there full-time for a year in the VIP office, I stayed away for quite awhile. We took the kids when my son turned 10, but stayed away until they brought something magical – and one of our favorite series – to the park.

mmmmm… Butterbeer

We’d been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, and couldn’t wait to go to our local version.

Going down the Starway brings back a LOT of memories!

Transformers the Ride is in the very location I used to work…

I used to work at Backdraft and Cinemagic right in the same spot.

 

There are Minions now, and Simpsons, and Transformers.

There’s a mummy, and Walking Dead, and dinosaurs. All of them are fun or exciting rides, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Studio Backlot Tour. Even though it’s changed quite a bit – with it’s headset microphones and video screens and Jimmy Fallon – there’s still something special about going on a tram ride through real sets used in real movies and a few unexpected surprises along the ride.

After trying several times to connect, we finally got ahold of my old friend Paul and rode his tram!!

Those who knew me in my guide days know that this is my favorite part of the tour. 😉

Universal Studios doesn’t have as many rides and attractions as Disneyland – this is true. However, it does have a lot you can do in a visit. We’ve been there a handful of times since February and we’re not bored yet. One of the best new additions to the experience?

VooDoo Doughnuts!

Believe me when I tell you that they’re amazing, and worth waiting in line for.

Obligatory photo with the marquee

Overall, both are great, though different, theme parks. Both have their pluses and minuses. If you have the time, money, and patience, I say try going to both. Especially if you are an out-of-towner visiting Southern California for the first time!

A Night Off

Sometimes you just need a night off.

I had my first formal observation yesterday.

How’d it go? Well, two of my students got into a fight in the middle of class, I had to leave my group to redirect another group, and the plans I was going to do got thrown out the window and I ended up improvising. I’m dreading my review.

Today, our 5th graders took a field trip to the Griffith Observatory.

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It is a great program they have for 5th graders. We got to see a fun scientist make a “comet,” got to see the planetarium show, explore the planets, and more. It was a great experience, but it was also stressful.

Our bus was supposed to leave as close to 8 as possible, as we had to be there by 9. We got on the bus at 8:10. One of my aides ran up to the playground to find one of our students. She brought him back and he didn’t want to go, so she took him back to the office, and the nurse requested to see one of the girls, as it was “urgent.” So, my aide brought him back, brought the girl to the nurse, and then brought her back to the bus. We pulled out at 8:20.

We pulled in at 9:02. Whew! Except that we were stuck behind all the buses unloading, so we didn’t get into the building until almost 9:15, and were late to the show.

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After the comet show (which was HILARIOUS), we headed to the planetarium, where I was scolded by the tour guide for having students who weren’t as quiet as the smaller schools across the aisle. During the entire program in the planetarium, I paced back and forth, making sure that everyone was in their seats and listening. When I let a few girls use the restroom at 11 (3 hours after they last used the bathroom), I was scolded by a woman who worked there that I should have let them use the restroom AFTER their program. (I understand her frustration, but frankly, she didn’t tell us there’d be “free time” later, and I wasn’t going to make them hold it for another hour.

As we walked up the staircase to look out at binoculars and see the view, one of the docents said, “Wouldn’t you rather be here than at school?” One of my students complained that he’d rather be home.

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We got back, we had lunch and finished out our day.

My head was killing me.

I picked up my son, went home, and collapsed on the couch, lying down and hoping my headache went away.

I took some ibuprofin and picked up some yarn and needles and “Once Upon A Knit” and cast on to knit for the first time in a year.

I watched the Goldbergs with my kids and husband. I watched “This is Us” and cried. And I’m headed to bed in a few minutes.

I didn’t do any schoolwork. I didn’t do any grading, or organizing, or ANYTHING.

I had ice cream.

My head is finally feeling better, and I’m going to bed.

I didn’t do ANY schoolwork and am 100% Totally okay this. Sometimes you need a night off.

Tomorrow’s a new day.

~Genevieve

Halloween once again

It’s November 3rd now. Monday was Halloween and we’re speeding toward Thanksgiving and then all the winter holidays. I swear it was JUST the 4th of July yesterday.

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Except when you’re a teacher.

It’s fun to dress up. It’s fun to pass out candy. It’s fun to eat candy. It’s not fun to wrangle 34 10-year-olds in their costumes and get them to do any sort of activities resembling learning while at school.

To top it off, Halloween was on a Monday. I repeat, a MONDAY. Not only does that suck because it’s Monday, but it sucks because we have a short day and there’s literally no time to do anything. And after a day with crazy kids, we had to sit through a staff meeting and actually focus and do work.

It was a beautiful day and we walked to the neighborhood senior community, who wanted to give our kids candy.

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Our noon aides and behavior specialist were dressed for success.

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After work, it was time to go home and do a few last minute preparations for one of my daughter’s costume. I also was worried about how much candy we had to give out, because this is our first Halloween here and we had no idea how many trick-or-treaters would come by. (Turns out, not a lot. We have a lot of candy sitting around here.)

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This year Halloween was a little different. I guess that’s what happens when kids get older. The boy went to a party with friends. Luna stayed home and passed out candy. Only our little donut wanted to go trick-or-treating.

I wonder what next year will bring. I’ll still never forget their little faces when they looked like this on Halloween…

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~Genevieve

A New Year, A New Outlook

A New Year, A New Outlook

School has been in session for two weeks and my team, the students, and I are all trying to get in the swing of things. Routine takes time, and we’re trying to get it right. Overall, things are going well. I have a very chatty but overall good group of kids. It’s a big class (34 students in one and 33 in the other), but so far they’re manageable. I like my new partner, and working together is going well.

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Me by my tree, that changes with the seasons just like me.

I am really trying to keep in a good headspace this year. It’s so easy to get mired in the negative. Last year, I had a lot to mire myself in – including inconsistent leadership and kids that I was pretty sure were trying to get me to quit. Add to that  going back to teaching after 14 years off, seeing less of my kids, losing the daily support of my “mommy friends,” moving homes (and all the stress that goes with it)… it was a bit crazy, erratic, unstable, and sometimes I just felt ridiculously under pressure.

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This hammock saved my sanity on numerous occasions last year.

This year, I actually started out under a lot of stress. I was (am) taking online classes for a CLAD certification. At one point, I was taking three classes at once, while planning for the first week of school. It was very stressful, but thankfully I managed to eek out 2 A+s and am almost done with my 3rd class and so far so good. I’m still not getting enough sleep, and its something I’m working on.

What’s different about this year? Well, for one I’ve got one year under my belt. Instead of starting work 3 days after I got hired, I had a whole summer to think about things, and relax. I knew what I was teaching. I was somewhat familiar with my students and I knew who my partner was going to be, which is so helpful. I’ve also got a big support staff in my corner. Not only do I have two amazing aides in my classroom, but I’ve got my husband cheering me on, my girls telling me I’m doing a good job, my own parents supporting me, and my son who inspires me every day to be positive. He reminds me of the good things when I’m in a bad mood in the morning. The other day I was ready to snap and I was just getting in the car. He reminded me of a time a few weeks before when we ran into a friend who stopped her car when she saw us walking and literally told me that I inspire her. If that didn’t snap me out of my mood, I don’t know what would have! As my son got out of the car when I dropped him off at high school that day, I told him that HE inspires me.

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This kid… meditating at Vasquez Rocks.

I’ve found one last thing that makes me happy and helps me destress, which was completely unexpected. Last week, my husband brought home Coldplay tickets. He likes them and wanted to go. I admit, I was coming down with a cold and wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I did. We hadn’t been on a date in ages, and we haven’t been to a concert (not at the Hollywood Bowl) in years. (Probably the Police reunion concert or Flight of the Concords) Anyway…

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I’m just going to say it. That concert made a fan out of me. I’ve been listening to their music every day for the last week and it just makes me… HAPPY. I want to dance (and do) and I have to say, Coldplay may just get me through the stress of being a student and teacher at the same time. I’ve also been watching interviews with Chris Martin (or rather of Chris Martin… sadly he’s not sitting here with me 😉 ) and he is just SO positive. I have to remind myself to be positive and grateful, and thanks to not just Mr. Martin but my son, my daughters, my husband, my parents, and my teammates at work, I think this year can be a great one.

 

Hometown Tourists -Walking In L.A.

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I have lived in the greater Los Angeles area for 24 years. When I was younger and single, every now and then I’d do a touristy thing with friends, but for the most part, we worked and then we went to the beach or to hang out or dance at clubs or go shopping.

Once we were married, we did a few touristy things, like the Huntington Gardens, but honestly – not much.  “The Internet” wasn’t available as a quick source to find things to do, and I didn’t have a social media outlet that would let me see what cool things friends were doing that would give us ideas.

Now, with all of the above, and more (podcasts, vacation advisor sites, etc), we see things to do in our own area that we never knew existed. So, now every once in a while (especially during the summer), we find touristy things to do around L.A.

On Sunday we headed to the MOCA – Grand Ave. (Little did I know when I Googled “MOCA” that there would be so many options to choose from. What I didn’t realize was that it was so close to Angel’s Flight. I’m still waiting for them to open it again, and am so saddened at how horrible the stairs next to it have gotten – urine smell, what I think was human feces. Come on, Los Angeles… why is our city so horribly dirty? 😦

 

I enjoyed a lot of the art in the MOCA. This one in particular stood out to me. “Hourglass on legs” made a statement to me as a woman. THIS is what society wants from us. To be nothing more than an hourglass on legs. We are so much more.

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We walked a few blocks to a bookstore I’d heard about through friends on facebook, honestly.

We saw these cool Metro run bikes that you can rent to ride around the city. What a great idea.

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The bookstore was neat, but hotter than hot, as there was no air conditioning. There was a cool little knitting room, but sadly their collection of knitting books was paltry. (and no, they didn’t have my book, nor ANY of my knitting friends’ books)

We enjoyed the museum and the bookstore, but as a whole, L.A. can be overwhelming and depressing. We have been to other big cities – Denver, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City… none of those are as dirty or smelly as L.A. and none of them makes me more nervous than walking in L.A. can, depending on the day.

The next day the kids and I went to Griffith Park to do some sightseeing. We went looking for Bronson Caves (aka the Batcave from the Adam West tv series). There are no real signs letting you know, and there are lots of signs like these:

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Luckily, there were other people we could ask and we finally figured it out.

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Heading up, it was a short, 10 minute walk.

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Can you picture the Caped Crusaders pulling out of this cave in the Batmobile?

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The boy found higher ground.

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Once out of the cave, turn left and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.

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And just outside the cave are these rocks.

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After the caves, my youngest daughter had found some photos of “neat parks” and steered us to a place called “Shane’s Inspiration” that is a playground for kids of all abilities.

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I read while they played.

It happened to be right next to the carousel, which the girls wanted to ride. My son isn’t a fan of carousels, but he went so that the girls would walk up to the old abandoned zoo, which he wanted to visit.

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Happy girls.

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He is not amused.

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It turns out this is the very spot Walt Disney thought up Disneyland. I had read it before, but had forgotten.

We had lots of fun in the cages at the old zoo.

While Los Angeles has its ups and downs, it does have some great gems to visit if you have time. Wherever you live, I’m sure you can find gems of your own, and be a tourist in your own hometown.

~Genevieve

Leaving L.A. for Another Planet

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Leaving L.A. for Another Planet

Today, thanks to the suggestion (and urging) of our son, we headed up to another world to hike at Vasquez Rocks. We’ve been there once before, 3 years ago.

This time, we left pretty early in the morning to beat the heat. We weren’t the first ones there.

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The sky is unreal

There were two photo shoots/ filming happening, so we headed in the other direction. At first, it seemed we were headed far from any cool rock formations.

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But there were a few…

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These rocks looked otherworldly to me – as if they really could be on a different planet than Earth. I suppose this is why it made for an excellent other planet in Star Trek.IMG_1564

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I love that they walk like this, still.

Even the flowers look alien.

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My older daughter needed to stop, because she felt “a rock” in her shoe… turns out it was an actual rusty nail. Thankfully, after a thorough inspection of her foot to make sure it didn’t break the skin, she was fine, and we were back on our way.IMG_1586

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Relaxin’

We went up and down and around and finally came back toward the rocks we remembered.

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The boy wanted to climb.IMG_1619

So they climbed. I was very content to stay down below.IMG_1624

Until I wasn’t.

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Once we were up top, we enjoyed the view, then headed down another side (the easier side!) and the kids found themselves some comfy little holes.

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I tried to find some Zen (with a little help).IMG_1655

They boy found his Zen as well.IMG_1660

Going down was much easier than getting up!

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We saw a couple (?) who were taking photos in their Trek outfits. (Yes, those are the same outfits my husband and I own, thankyouverymuch.)IMG_1670

Good-bye, Vasquez Rocks…. for now.IMG_1673