Wednesday, September 17, 2014

School Year

We're fully into our school year and almost all of our extra curricular activities have started.  Overall, I'm pleased with most of the choices we made for curriculum this year.  One mistake I did made was to purchase the wrong grades of our math program for Paige and Alison.  We switched to Singapore Math this year for them.  The day I went shopping, I grabbed the 5th and 7th grade books.  Paige is in 6th grade this year; Allie is in 4th grade.  Paige is able to do the 7th grade work because so much of middle school math is review.  Allie wasn't able to skip 4th grade and do the 5th grade work.  I returned to the store and picked up the 4th grade Singapore and an extra multiplication workbook for her.  Both girls seem to like the way the material is organized and presented,

Madelyn is doing Teaching Textbooks for her math again this year.  It's been a good fit for her.  She understands the content and completes the assignments in a reasonable amount of time.  Sometimes, my expectations are to high for math.  It's really difficult to love math and have children who don't share that interest/ability. I'm glad that we invested in this curriculum and will use it for Paige and Allie when they reach high school in a few years. 

Cheerleading classes were changed to Sunday evening, as well as an additional tumbling class.  Sunday night is my least favorite time for children's activities.  We love her coach and Madz is gaining many new skills, so we will continue the classes.  Paige and Allie have added cheer to their activities.  Their classes are on Thursday nights.  Madelyn helps coach the Thursday night classes, so at least they will all be at the same location. Mike has offered to help run them on Thursday nights this year. 

Joe is busy with cross country, driver's training, and school.  His senior year isn't shaping up to be what he wanted, but he's making the best of it.  Several of his AP classes were cancelled and the school offers no additional math classes for him.  He's taking welding for two hours in the morning.  The welding class is offered at another high school in the county, so he rides the bus for 1 1/2 hours for 30 minutes of welding class.  (Seems like a waste of time to me, but he's out of options.) 

Katie is back at Grand Valley State.  She comes home every week from Friday morning-Sunday night because she works at the local Home Depot on the weekend.  She seems happy with her classes and teachers.  She's rooming with one girl from last year and two new girls, both of them named Sierra.

Steve received several scholarships at SWMU which pay for all his music classes and private lessons.  We're so thankful for all the scholarships that he's received.  The private classes are very expensive.  He's still working 5 days a week at Dairy Queen.

Paige and Allie are taking dance classes at the same studio as last year.  I like the instruction, but the drive is a killer for me.  We did manage to have all the classes Saturday mornings this year, so hopefully it will be better this year.  The Saturday morning classes have been staggered which should help with the parking lot congestion.  The parking lot has also been partially resurfaced.  There are also fewer obstacles in the driving lane.  There were several accidents in the lot last year (including when I was rear-ended), hopefully these changes will make the parking lot less treacherous.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shark Aquarium Las Vegas Nevada Day 2





After our sojourn in the gardens of Mandalay Bay, we walked over to the Shark Aquarium.  The previous day, we had been unable to get a parking spot. Because we arrived an hour before the aquarium opened, we were able to snag a good spot.  Breakfast and sight seeing used up that hour pleasantly and we were able to see the sea creatures before the aquarium got to busy.

There were tour guides who walked with guests throughout the exhibit to answer questions.  There were people in our group wouldn't let anyone but themselves look at the exhibit while the guide was speaking.  When the guide moved on, they followed.  We weren't able to hear anything, so we quietly passed them by and walked through the aquarium at our own pace.

First stop was the Komodo Dragon.  He was quite large and a little intimidating to us non-reptile lovers.











 
We saw a vide variety of different types of fish. 



We were thrilled when we saw our first shark!  There were several different varieties of sharks on exhibit.

Katie was busy taking photographs.  Madelyn's camera/phone ran out of storage.


There was a shallow open tank containing rays that were able to be touched or stroked by visitors.  I was the first one in our party to touch one.  Madelyn refused to touch it.  


I spent a lot of time watching the jellyfish.  They were beautiful floating around the tank, opening and closing.

The starfish were huge inside the starfish tanks.

After a couple of hours, we left the aquarium happy to have enjoyed all the beautiful sea creatures while visiting the desert.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Las Vegas Day 2

We were out the door early and headed to McDonald's for breakfast.  I wanted to get some pictures of the pyramid and sphinx, so after we ate we walked a few blocks to get photos. 


There is a person repelling down the side of the pyramid. 

Then we walked back to the Shark Aquarium and enjoyed the gardens of Mandalay Bay.

The gardens were beautiful and truly an oasis in the heat.  There were several water features and many lush plants.

Madelyn had to do a flexibility pose in the center of the medallion on the sidewalk.  She obviously hadn't stretched out yet.


It was about 20 degrees cooler in the gardens.

Madelyn and Kaitlyn under one of the arches.



Our last view of the gardens before heading off to the Shark Aquarium.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dudley

Dudley has been part of the family for a little over a year now.  He's brought a lot of joy into our lives, but he's still a little rowdy inside the house.  He loves to play fetch with a small dog basketball.  After one of the kids throws it, he leaps over the ottoman and couches to chase the ball into another room.

When we first got Dudley, he was quiet and didn't bark.....ever.  He ignored animals of all types and loved to sit on anyone's lap.  Strangers were welcomed like one of the family.  One morning, Allie came racing into the house very excited because Dudley had barked at a bird.  (He didn't mind the cat in the bushes.)  Gradually, he became more protective of our property.  He still loves people, but he will bark and act intimidating when people arrive at our door.  As soon as the person walks inside, Dudley lays on his back waiting for a good belly rub.

This afternoon, Mike had Dudley out in the backyard.  Dudley was chasing birds quietly and playing with the girls.  After the girls came back inside to finish school, we heard Dudley barking loudly.  I couldn't figure out what was upsetting him.  Mike walked over and talked to him and removed the toad that was 4' from where Dudley was chained.  Dudley doesn't like toads or squirrels.  It seems bizarre to me that cats are no problem in our yard.  But birds, squirrels and now toads are a problem.  I wonder what he's going to do when he sees his first snake?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Las Vegas-End of Day1

We headed back to the hotel for a rest period.  The girls caught up with friends on their phones, while I read a chapter in a book that I had brought along.  Everyone was still wanting the pizza that we had imagined early in the morning.  I looked up the best pizza place in the area and discovered that we were only 20 minutes drive from Schoolhouse Pizza in North Las Vegas.  The drive there took us from some scary areas. 

One thing we loved was the art work on the sound barriers on the highway.  The city had put up metalwork in the shape of sheep, lizards, wolves, and rams.  There were also several different types of plant life created from the metalwork also.

The Schoolhouse Pizza place was in a small strip mall.  The inside of the restaurant had one chalkboard wall with the various pizzas and sandwiches listed.  The tables were covered with layers of white trash bags. After guests left a table, the employee would pull the bag up over the mess and in seconds a clean table was ready for the next patron.

The restaurant prepared a dough without commercial yeast.  The crust was crisp on the outside and very tender on the inside.  Instead of tomato sauce, the restaurant used a mildly garlic pesto that was delicious.  We ordered a sausage, mushroom, tomato and black olive pizza.  They used several different types of mushrooms, chunky tomato pieces and half olives. 

I had never had a pesto pizza before.  Now that my arm is healing more, I'll be trying various recipes to duplicate the crust and sauce.  We all love pizza and we really enjoy experimenting with different combinations.

The restaurant did a ton of take-out business.  The dine-in business was all males, except us.  The staff was great about explaining their menu and ingredients. It was a truly unique experience and some of the best pizza we had ever experienced.  They deserved the title of "Best Pizza in Las Vegas."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Las Vegas: More on Day 1

After leaving the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, we discovered that the car parked next to our rental vehicle was too close to open without scratching the door.  Katie climbed over the counsel from the passenger side and backed the car out into the parking lot, so Mads and I could get in easily.  That was the only time she was allowed to drive, because the rental insurance didn't cover drivers under 25. 

Katie and I wanted to purchase some postcards and souvenirs for our loved ones who weren't able to come on the trip.  We drove back down The Strip searching for a souvenir shop.  This is the first one we found.


Madelyn's cheer coach wanted the girls to do flexibility poses around Las Vegas and post them on the team's facebook page for everyone to guess where their teammate's location.  This is Madz first location.
Posing in front of our rental car.  The Jetta was a blast to drive.  The girls didn't think it was very comfortable, but I loved its smaller size and ease manovering.

We picked up some great postcards and headed back down The Strip.  We parked at the Bellagio Hotel and explored.  The fountains, plants, and art work are beautiful. 



This ceiling made of art glass was stunning. 
The girls wanted to pose in front of a palm tree in the more comfortable temperature.

I loved the covered pillars. 




After exploring the hotel, we went back out into the 110 degree weather and walked down to the M & M place.  Our cabdriver had recommended it as a great place for kids.  We all imagined that it would be similar to the Hersey tours in Pennsylvania or Cereal City in Battle Creek, MI.  It wasn't at all like them.  It was a giant store featuring M & M merchandise.  There were some unique items, but they would have been difficult to take on the plane and the candy would have melted immediately upon exiting the shop. 

This entire room was surrounded by bin holding various colors and combinations of colored M&Ms.  I really wanted to get some, but they would have been a mess.

Love the green tshirt.


Madz and Katie posing in front of the peanut guy.


We also managed to walk through the MGM Grand hotel.  It was also quite beautiful inside.  The MGM Lion mascot outside the hotel was huge.



And a few photos of some of the surrounding sights.



The girls wanted to visit the shark exhibit so we drove down near the beach party place.  The parking area was full.  We drove around and around searching for a parking space.  Finally, after narrowly avoiding an accident, we decided to head back to the hotel and try again in the morning. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Las Vegas: Pawn Stars

My hand is finally able to do some typing for more than a few minutes, so it's time to catch up on a ton of posts that have been delayed.  The girls and I arrived early in the morning and after several phone calls and another trip to the car rental place, we had a vehicle and were able to begin our vacation.  It took me a few hours to get used to the many lanes of traffic, but the drivers seemed to be more aware of what was happening around them and less focused on texting, talking on their phones and eating than in our small town.


Katie (above) and Madelyn waiting for the taxi to arrive at the hotel for our return to the rental agency.
We were starved when we left the Budget and headed off to find the nearest restaurant serving breakfast foods.  McDonalds appeared as soon as we reached "The Strip".  Before eating, we had to take a picture of our first palm tree.

They were so sweet to pose for me with growling stomachs!
We decided to drive through The Strip and get our bearings.  Katie really wanted to see the chapel where Britney Spears was married and I wanted to see the Gold and Silver Pawn shop from the History Channel.


We passed many, many chapels (some offering Elvis weddings) and Katie was sure that we must have seen the one used by Britney.  When we reached a shadier area of town, I mentioned that we should probably turn around and head back.  I was looking for a quiet street when we noticed the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop with a line of people down the sidewalk.  We pulled into the side parking lot.  No sign of the mural featured in one episode and got in line.

Notice the mist coming down from the building?  It sprays down on the people standing in line to help keep the tourists cool while waiting for their turn in the store. 

Madelyn and Katie waiting in line.
The staff person guarding the door/letting people into the building was friendly and welcoming.  He asked where we were from and mentioned that he used to live in Michigan also.  He hadn't heard of our town...but that's to be expected.

Once inside, we were surprised by the size of the shop.  It appears much larger on television.  The cases were fairly small.  It was fun to see some of the items that had been featured on the show.



There were a large number of works by Picasso and Manet in the rear of the building.  A large section contained overpriced hats and t-shirts with Pawn Stars or Gold and Silver Pawn Shop printed on them.  There were also several bobble-head dolls. 

The stars of the television show spend most of their time filming and not working in the shop.  Once a day, one of them will walk through the shop and give autographs and allow photos to be taken.  The time varies each day, so it's by luck to see someone from the show.  We didn't see any of the stars, but did see the dark haired girl who frequently works nights with Chumley on the show.