Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Santiago de Compostela

On the day before Easter Sunday, the plan had been to drive west to Salamanca, Spain but the rain there was terrible too.  Instead we changed plans and headed north from Porto into Santiago de Compostela the capitol city of Galicia in Spain.

Santiago is best known for the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and is the final stop on the The Way of St. James, a well-known pilgrimage. Although the pilgrimage dates back to the 9th century, it gained in popularity for tourists in 2010 on the heels of the Martin Sheen movie “The Way”. 

The Cathedral is MASSIVE. 

Preparations were being made for the Easter service the following day.  Therefore we got to see Botafumeiro, the world’s largest incense thurible, which is only brought out for religious holidays.  It supposedly reaches swinging speeds of 50 mph.

The tomb of St. James
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The scallop shell is a symbol of St. James and is seen all over Santiago and is used to guide the pilgrims on their various routes.

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After the cathedral visit, we took a little walk through the old quarter and enjoyed a light snack.  It was fun to chat with the many people who had just finished their trek.  
Most of the “pilgrims” I spoke with had made the walk for personal growth or as an interesting travel opportunity rather than religious purposes.  Regardless though, it was very inspiring to watch them all arrive into the cathedral’s plaza – young, old, walking, biking. 

Although the clouds were ominous at times, we got through the day without a downpour of rain, our first in over a week.  At dusk we headed back to Porto, and I added St. James’ Way to my bucket list.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Who’s That Girl?

After 14 years of teaching, not a whole lot surprises me anymore.  We are ready to handle most anything a student or a parent or a colleague or an administrator hands (or throws at) us.  But sometimes…well I thought I had seen it all.  I thought I was prepared.  I had not expected this one.

On the first day of school, the students filed into the classroom and found their seats using the nametags attached to their desks.  This year, I have two sets of students with the same name – two boys named Sergio and two girls named Veronica*.  When they were seated, I took attendance and confirmed everyone’s name being sure to check my double-ups.  “You’re Veronica Rodriguez?” I asked the one closest to me.  She nodded.  “And you’re Veronica Fuentes?”   The little girl in the back of the room also agreed.  After double checking on the Sergios as well, we were good to go!

The other day while taking attendance, I found Veronica Fuentes absent.  I marked up the attendance sheet and sent it in, ready to start the day.  About an hour later, the phone rang.  It was the attendance office asking if I was sure Veronica F. was absent because she had a Mary* Rodriguez absent.  I told her that I had two Veronicas and no Marys and that Veronica R. was at school while Veronica F. was not.  She thanked me, and I went back to work. 

Not 30 minutes later, the attendance office called back again asking if I was sure it was Vanessa F. who was absent.  The office had called home to check on the reason for the absence and mom said she brought Veronica to school that morning.  I put the phone down and went to the other Veronica to, again, check her name.  “Are you Veronica Rodriguez, sweetie, or Veronica Fuentes?”  She, again, told me Rodriguez.  After explaining that to the office, she thanked me and hung up the phone. 

Twenty minutes after, the principal walked in the classroom and apologized for interrupting.  She quietly told me that Veronica Fuentes’ mom was in panic because the babysitter swore she dropped her off at school.  The principal went to the remaining Veronica and asked her if her last name was Rodriguez or Fuentes. Again, she answered Rodriguez.  At that point, the principal asked the class if anyone had seen Veronica Fuentes at school that day.  A few hands went up and those kids said they played with her during morning recess.  I told the principal she had not been in line when the school day began.  She thanked me and left on hot pursuit, both our anxiety levels on the rise.

At that point, it was time for recess.  The kids were lined up and led out to the playground.  On the way out, the yard supervisors, assistant principal, and other support staff were going from room to room looking for Veronica Fuentes.  The AP asked me about the situation and I again told her that there were two Veronica’s enrolled and pointed out the one who was in school that day.  “Polka dots!” she said with urgency, “Would they both be wearing polka dots?”  Apparently, she had gotten word from a student in another class who had also played with Veronica Fuentes that morning and she was wearing black and white polka dots.  Well, Veronica Rodriguez was ALSO wearing black and white polka dots.  But, when asked, AGAIN, Veronica said she was a Rodriguez, not a Fuentes.  The assistant principal took her up to the office anyways, hoping to figure it all out. 

I called up to the office after dropping off the kids to check in.  The office staff had pulled up both girls on the computer, checked the pictures, and realized that the Veronica in attendance WAS Fuentes and the Veronica who was absent was Rodriguez.  Stunned, I hung up the phone and left to pick up the kids on the yard.  Had I just been bamboozled by two six-year-old girls?

When they came back in the classroom, I pulled Veronica FUENTES to the side to discuss the situation with her.  When I told her Rodriguez was not her last name, she smiled, nodded, and said, “OK.”  As she walked to her seat I thought, “These girls don’t know their last names.”  I got her situated with new materials containing her real last name and continued with the rest of day.

The following day, the other Veronica returned to school and when I discussed the situation with her she responded, “She said she was Rodriguez so…” and shrugged.

Now that it’s over, my colleagues and I have had a good laugh about it.  The funniest part about the whole thing is when the principal asked if anyone had seen or played with her that morning about five students  nodded and raised their hands, but none of them noticed she was sitting, RIGHT THERE, in front of them.

I’ve never, until this year, had a student who didn’t know his/her last name.  They don’t always know how to write it, but after two years or more of previous schooling that has never been an issue before.  During the drama that morning, we were doing a math activity using the kids’ birthdays and only a handful knew the month and day they were born and only one knew the year they were born.  There’s something about not knowing this basic information that is quite telling about the population of students in my class this year.  Although, it has made for a good story!

*First names have been changed a bit.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Easy Lover

My 80s music taste tended (tends) to lean towards alternative, however I was a big Phil Collins/Genesis fan.  Imagine my surprise that he is the Saturday 9 musician this week.  I freaking love this song!

1) This song is about a heartbreaker who just can't commit. Have you ever fallen for an "easy lover?"  That term doesn’t really make sense to me, but ya I guess so; Heartbroken over the wrong person anyways.

2) This song is one of Crazy Sam's "earwigs." Each time she hears it, it bores in and stays in her head forever! Do you have a song like that? Barbie Girl by Aqua, the rap in What a Man by Salt n Pepa, and Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce.  Whenever I hear the song or even mention of the song it’s stuck in my head.

3) Both Phil Collins and Philip Bailey (with Earth Wind and Fire) have stars on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. Have you ever visited Hollywood?  Um, ya, I’ve been there a few times.  In fact, I’ve even gone to a couple star ceremonies.

4) Hollywood is the movie capital of the world. What's the last movie you saw in the theater? This month I’ve seen Two Guns with Denzel and Marky Mark which was quite clever, different.  I also saw Paranoia which was a good story with poor acting.

5) Phil Collins was a child actor in his native England, appearing onstage in musicals like Oliver! Can you think of another child performer who went on to entertainment industry success as an adult?  I can’t think of anyone.

6) Philip Bailey joined Earth, Wind & Fire while still in college, so he's been a performer throughout his working life, as well. Have you ever been tempted to try your hand at show biz?  Not ever!

7) Is there a profession that you never, under any circumstances, want to try?  Many actually…I could never be a housekeeper/maid because I don’t like chores.  I could never be a salesperson or telemarketer because I don’t like talking on the phone.  And I could never do anything medical because blood and guts make pass out and seeing people sick or hurt makes me sad. 

8) What are you looking forward to right now?  Winter break…is that bad? 
Actually, I am looking forward to a work-free weekend.

9) Do you suffer from trypanophobia (fear of needles/injections)? Or can you bravely donate blood or get a shot, without freaking out?  I don’t like anything to do with the doctor and only go because I’m supposed to.  I don’t freak out at shots but I hate every minute of it.  As badly as I feel about it, I don’t give blood.  The thought of it makes me queasy.

I’ll leave you with another fave.  Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Best Laid Plans

If you don’t have the time to read this whole post, let me summarize it in three words -  wahhhh, wahhhh, wahhhh.  I’m being a huge whiney baby, so read at your own risk. :)

With the absence of standardized testing in 2nd grade this coming year, I began the new school year with a different outlook.  The new Common Core curriculum is very different than what we’ve been teaching the last several years so the expectation that I could “do it all” this year is unreasonable.  I decided that work was not going to be my whole life this year, and other than Thursdays (when I plan and prep for the next week) I promised myself that I would leave school by 4:00 each day.  The hours we are paid for are 7:45ish – 3:15ish, and I use '”ish” because I don’t really know what our hours are since I’m there by 7:15 each morning and stay until after 4:00.  So leaving by 4:00 each day isn’t unreasonable.  That is, it wasn’t unreasonable until school actually started.  I followed my new plan for exactly two days.  By the second day, I was already so far behind with the amount of work and prep and projects that I took about 4 hours work home with me that night and stayed until after 6:00 on Thursday and Friday.  Frustration (meaning tears) kicked in on Saturday night when, after a quick dinner out with a friend, I came home to complete some more work.  I argued with myself about, less than a week in, not following the F#$&ING plan - The devil sitting on my shoulder asking why I keep doing this to myself and the angel crying that it’s not in my nature to do anything half-ass (or to say no, as I’ve mentioned a time or two). 

After being in a class until 8:00 tonight, I came home and had to take the dog out for her walk.  I felt bad about her being on her own for a 13 hour day.  Once it’s dark, the bunnies come out and Rigby’s herding radar is on.  A group ran by us at one point which caused her much excitement prancing and jumping on the leash.  I laughed and said something to her which made her even more bouncy and she bounced up and jumped right into the side of my knee.  Rigby’s not a big dog but she is full of muscle and bouncing force.  Whatever the joint she jumped into it made my knee buckle and sent me toppling over to the right, sliding across the asphalt, leaving me with a gnarly road rash on my outer thigh and hip.  Let’s just say that’s not helping things. 

Back in July I started Dan Brown’s book Inferno for book club.  I’m enjoying this fun read, but book club is on Thursday, and I still have 150 pages left before finishing.  Maybe this will force me to push the school work to the side for a couple of days.  We shall see.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Exercise in Futility

Over the last couple of weeks, CBS, one of the BIG THREE network television stations (Big Bang Theory, Big Brother, NCIS) and the cable company I use have been in “negotiations” about cost increases.  Due to a stall in those talks, the cable company has decided to remove all the network’s channels from its lineup in order to put pressure on them to settle.  In addition to the CBS stations, Showtime has also been pulled off the air because they are under the CBS umbrella.  Since Showtime is a paid premium channel, I am paying gobs of money for it and it’s not available.  I’ve been grumbling about the amount of money I pay for cable/internet services over the last couple of years.  This most recent issue pushed me to research other options.  Last Friday, I made the jump from cable to satellite TV.  So far, I’m not seeing any difference, other than the cost (which includes CBS) so it was probably a smart decision. 

With the removal of cable TV, I had the option of keeping the cable internet (and spending twice as much on it because it would no longer be bundled with cable TV) or switching to another internet provider.  I opted for a switch and it was installed tonight with an almost 50% savings. 

It wasn’t until after the installation that it occurred to me with the change in internet service, I would need to change my email address.  I will no longer have access to the cable server to access my email once I shut it off and return the router.  I registered for the new email this evening and sent off the change in address to my email address book.  Luckily, everyone’s email addresses are still accessible in Outlook.  What I didn’t take into account was changing emails on ALL those online accounts.  I’ve spent the better part of the last 3 hours combing through emails looking for all my online accounts, changing the address, entering passwords, and confirming those changes via the new and old email address. 

Initially, I thought this process would help me memorize this new email since the old one seems to be emblazoned on my brain at this point.  Instead, for every account, I had to type in the old email before typing in the new one.  The addresses are just similar enough to trip me up.  It made me so confused!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Some Organization

A little over a year ago I switched the office and guest bedroom around due to space.  While the guest room is used sporadically, I’m in the office all the time and the art supplies were taking over the small room.  The extra square footage has been nice, but I’ve since found the walls caving in on me.  (Look quickly while I hide my head in shame.)

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Due to poor organization and drawers/cupboards, supplies haven’t been easily accessible. Whenever I’m working on something, I end up pulling out everything I need and just leaving it out…hence the chaos. stuff 256

When the room was a guest room there were some small decorative shelves on the wall.  I started storing often-used supplies on them and decided I wanted shelves, lots of shelves.  A friend of mine built some for me this summer and installed them last weekend.  stuff 257 stuff 258

All my free time over the last week or so has been spent moving supplies from drawers and cupboard to my shelves.  Just looking at them makes me happy. 
stuff 267Now that the most used supplies are readily available, some of the drawers and cupboards are free.  My next step is to remove the less used materials into those drawers and cupboards and get rid of the rolling plastic carts.  stuff 265The best part about the shelves is clearing off the work table and having some room to work.
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If you’ll notice in the messy pictures above I couldn’t even find the table before. 

Rigby photo-bombed a few of my photos yesterday.  She’s such a kook, rolling around and growling while I photographed the room…
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Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Official

The worst part about the end of summer vacation is waking up to an alarm.  Equally the worst is when that alarm goes off, it is still dark outside.  

That's all...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Are We Really Related?

Edna Buchanan has said, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”  Thankfully, we have the option to choose our friends.  Family is, for the most part, forced upon us.  In fact, if we had the option of picking, we probably wouldn’t pick some of them. 

What is left of my family is fairly local.  Most reside in Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, about 30 minutes away.  However I have a cousin who moved his family to the state of Washington a few years ago.  He’s in town for a visit this weekend so a gathering at his brother’s house was scheduled for yesterday.  I looked forward to seeing my visiting cousin as well as my aunt, who I am also close with.  The rest?  Well let’s just say that I always have high hopes at the beginning of family get-togethers.   By then end, I remember why they frustrate me so much.  Between the excessive smoking, drinking, and internet gambling, the children who have had children they can neither afford nor do they want to take care of, the abusive (both mentally and physically) relationships, the dropping out of school, the lack of housekeeping skills, the amount of conversations that begin with “I posted on Facebook,” and the utter disregard of taking care of one’s health, my family is a mess.  I’m not saying I’m a prize, but by the time I leave a gathering like this I feel like I’ve just visited the Clampetts.

My family is very small – just my mom and I in the immediate.  I have an aunt and three cousins (along with their spouses and children) on my dad’s side.  That’s it.  Which is why, I think, I continue to make the effort with them.  Sometimes I have this overwhelming fear about losing my mom and not having anymore family left.  These visits don’t do anything to squelch that fear. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Douro River Valley

We were based in Porto for the remainder of the Portugal trip.  Porto sits on the mouth of the Douro River.  After a few days spent exploring Porto, we took a couple of day trips to some towns along the river.

The Douro River Valley is mostly known for it’s Port wine grapes and the beautiful quintas (wineries) that dot the hills.

GuimarĂ£es was one of our stops.  It is a sweet little city where it would have been fun just to get lost in…if it weren’t pouring down buckets of rain, BUCKETS!  Due to all the rain, these pictures were taken with my phone as it was too hard to keep the real camera dry.

stuff 018 stuff 038 stuff 058 stuff 063 stuff 084stuff 106 The Medieval Cafe is a nice place to dry off and warm up.stuff 099 stuff 104stuff 103
A local pastry – torta de GuimarĂ£es – and a hot cup of coffee was a nice way to pass the time.

Another day trip was taken to Lamego in order to visit  the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies. 

There are 611 steps leading up to the Sanctuary – that’s 1222 round trip!

The views from the steps (of both the city and the church) are lovely. The 1,222nd step!
Funny story about the sneakers…At the time, they were my workout/walking shoes.  Because they were incredibly light and comfortable I brought them as my main shoe for the trip.  I was wearing them on the first really rainy day in Porto, and within minutes by feet were soaked.  It was raining pretty heavy so I didn’t think much about it.  The next day I wore them in the light rain and had soaked shoes again after stepping into a shallow puddle.  When I got back to the room that night, I lamented about how wet my feet had been for two days.  I turned them over and realized that they were designed with several “air holes” on the bottom of the shoe. 
Ya, not the best footwear choice.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday 9

I haven’t done a Saturday 9 in quite some time…

1) “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees is about a guy who fell in love when he saw her face. Do you believe in love at first sight? I believe in lust at first sight, but not love…that takes me MUCH longer.

2) "I'm a Believer" is the best-selling Monkees song. Can you name another one? Not unless I look it up.  I remember seeing the show in reruns in the 80s so the music is familiar, but I don’t know the names.

On their TV show, the boys competed for the same girl. Have you and a friend ever been romantic rivals?  No, not seriously anyways.   

4) In another episode, the Monkees visited the circus. If you were confident there was a good strong net beneath you, would you walk across the high wire? Oh definitely, but I’d rather do the trapeze.

5) The Monkees show originally aired on Monday nights. Do you have a favorite day of the week? Friday, duh!

6) Davy Jones guest starred on an episode of The Brady Bunch. The plot revolved around Marcia's efforts to get him to perform at the prom. Share one of your memories from a school dance. Hmmm, that was a long time ago.  One thing I remember about prom when I was a freshmen or sophomore was that a senior brought his date to the venue in a helicopter.  Yes!  A helicopter!  That same person became a California State Assemblyman…as a republican of course. ;)  Oh, and a sad memory during my senior year was when a friend was killed driving home from prom with his date and his sister and her date.  They were about 2 minutes away from home, and he fell asleep.  After that the high schools in the area required students to go to and from prom on a bus.

7) At the height of their popularity, the Monkees' faces and logo appeared on a lot of merchandise, including lunch boxes. Which would you rather have for lunch -- chicken salad, tuna salad or egg salad?  Oh my goodness all three make me want to gag.  Tuna and egg and mayonnaise are probably my three least favorite foods EVER, then they go and mix them together, blech!  I’ll have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich please.

8) You have an afternoon all to yourself. Would
you rather spend it at the mall, checking out what's new in the stores and people watching, or walking through the forest, observing the birds and trees and leaves?  Hmmm, I could make a case for either.  If it were a nice day, I’d rather be outside.  If it’s hot, in the mall with the air conditioning.  However, I REALLY dislike the mall so I’d rather stay home (or go to the movies) in the air conditioning.

9) Do you have a good memory for names?  I think so, although I think it’s waning. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August is Here

It’s hard to believe that August has arrived and summer break is just about over.  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed being on vacation this summer, spending an awful lot of time sleeping just playing in the art room.

Here is this month’s calendar for The Kathryn Wheel Calendar Challenge.  I had a hard time photographing it so the background showed up. It looks kind of plain in the photo.  stuff 375
Some July journal pages...
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I finished the book I had been working in so created a couple of new ones.  I learned the binding stitches (double x and diamond x) from Mary Ann at Dispatch From LA.   stuff 378 stuff 379 stuff 380 stuff 381 stuff 382 stuff 383

The back-to-school count down begins today.  Happy August!