Sunday, April 27, 2008

Too Good to Be True? The Answer is YES.

Ok, I love my cats, but it is really a love hate relationship. Those of you who have had the honor of meeting Ziggie and Stanley know how lovable and adorable they can be, however you may have noticed Ziggie's allergy problem. That usually perks up when he is nuzzling next to your face. Then there is Stanley - who had a problem with marking in our old house. He has seemed to grow out of it, but I am always watching him like a hawk. So the first time Bruce proposed this automatic litter cleaner I was in, mainly because I love the cats more, it became my job to clean their litter.

So when I read the box and looked at the contraption, I said this makes sense I am sold. However, I quickly learned that it was too good be true. The rake was always getting stuck, so I was let trying to fix it on a daily basis. I wanted so much for it to work, that Bruce finally had to make me throw it away. Well I actually didn't throw it away, I complained to the company that guarantees the product - which sent me a new one which I quickly sold on ebay. So in the end it was like a $30 mistake instead of a $100 mistake.

So then I went back to scooping the litter on a daily basis. Yuck. Then Bruce sees that the litter maid has come out with the elite model. He is convinced that it will work, because of design improvements. I tell him absolutely NO WAY, will I fall for that trick again. However, if you know my cats, then you know Bruce and he is pretty persistent. He eventually persuades me after months of pestering that we should try it. How does he do this, he promises to attend to the litter for 6 months. What I don't have to worry about the cat's litter for six months? You will do all the work, even if the machine sucks and doesn't work? You will check on it daily as a slave to the cats. Well if you put it that way, I am in!!!!!

I must admit, I was fooled, both by my the new elite model and my husband. In Bruce's de
fense he did look at the litter more than he has ever in the past, but I did not feel that my duty was over. Because I am a type A+ personality as Bruce calls it, and his type not A+ personality does not have the same kitty litter schedule that I have. Which meant, I was still haunted by the kitty litter. And to top it all off the litter maid elite SUCKS just as much as the first one. The rake would constantly get stuck and you would still be left scooping, when it did work it would manage to rake most of the kitty litter out of the it, onto the floor - not into the plastic container as promised. Within a week, I was sorely disappointed in our purchase. I let my disappointment be know in the Holladay household, however Bruce was now the firm believer that this would work. It was the litter maid's fault it was our fault for the type of litter, it was the cats fault for not using it correctly.

I think back to the day we bought it and a friendly Canadian women in the Birchwood Mall Target
said to us that she just bought one and it was the best thing ever. I wonder if she had chucked it out of frustration. Yes, I said chucked the elite litter maid, last night after an hour of trying to clean the thing, it just stopped working, with it's rake halfway through the cycle. I will be calling the litter maid customer hot line number to voice my disappointment, with great hopes that we will be getting our money back. Or another new one to sell to some sucker on ebay. This contraption is one of those things that you have to find out for yourself is a piece of junk that regardless of the design will never work.

This morning we headed to Target armed with a $5.00 coupon for the Tidy Cat Breeze litter system (and it came with a $10 rebate so in the end it will cost about as much as a plane jane litter box.) Ok, I know what you are thinking this is a another gimmick that you both will be sorely disappointed with. And you are probably right, however, I hate this cat litter thing so much anything that makes my life easier, in the long run, I am willing to try. I will let you know how long this lasts, however I keep reading about all these cat owners who have trained their animals to use the toilet - I am thinking we are too late for that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Kansas City Here We Come!!!

So I got a call yesterday, well a message, I don't get calls during class. I checked the message and it was Tammy Brown, the Michigan state SkillsUSA director. She called to let me know that my second place audio production team was going to nationals in Kansas City. The first place team opted out and then that opens it up to the second place team. I would like to say that my students really deserve this opportunity because well they only lost first place by one point.

I am so excited for my students - who by the way are thrilled. Which is really cool, they are both seniors and they are great kids, who I enjoy. I am not going to lie, I had already talked myself into being excited for Bruce but excited for me to have a week to myself to clean my house and relax. I also had retired from my position as SkillsUSA coordinator after lots of work for the state competition. However, that was just a momentary thing, I am now just as excited as my students. Plus I get to hang out with Bruce in my favorite city: Kansas City! And this year the Michigan group gets to say in a nice hotel near all the coolest places.
Long Overdue Pictures from Europe

Old Town in Praha (Prague)

In front of the St. Charles Bridge in Praha
Looking at the Castle in Praha
Oh yeah - that's us...
More Praha
Praha goes Christmas - for the movies.
Bruce wakes up early to catch Praha waking up.
It's Bratislava!
A little less Western Europe a little more Communist Block - Slovakia is renovating, but in the mean time there are a lot of cement buildings that look like this - gray and the same. This is the apartment complex of our friends. The inside is much nicer than the outside.
The view from the penthouse - a.k.a Doug & Family's apartment.
More than 200K living in one square mile - those communist knew how to pack them in.
The crew: Bruce, Karyn, Meghan & I.
Our album cover...We like this one better. We all march to the beat of a different drum.
Our Harts in Slovakia!
Galileo School
The students than we worked with.
Bruce teaches editing.
I help with production.
Vienna, Austria
Lighting candles & slow shutter speed.
Beautiful day in Vienna
There are many more pictures but this is all for the blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Updating the Travel Map

So I figured it would be a good idea to update the travel map. I first saw this on Griner's blog, but tonight I was inspired as I was trolling myspace and ran across an old friend from high school, well we go back farther than that, my first memory of him is from the second grade when he asked me to be his Valentine and made me a shirt that professed his love. Isn't second grade grand - well anyways back to the travel map. It appears that I am still below 10% - despite all of my recent travels. Karyn mentioned it when we were in Europe over spring break, "did you know we will be in Europe three times in one year?" The answer, ummm no I hadn't really thought of it like that. Too bad I won't be able to sustain this much longer, especially after grad school is over and I really have no reason to go back. So I will be working on finding a reason to go back. Or maybe I will make that Bruce's job - Bruce get on that!

So I am looking back and it appears that I haven't really dove head first in exploring more of our travels to Bratislava. We went there to help a school. The school generously paid for our hotel and meals while we were there. However, the hotel wasn't quite what any of us where expecting. It was off in this neighborhood where NO ONE spoke English, which made it difficult because we didn't speak any Slovakian. The hotel was called: Hotel Rapid, and it was really just a dormitory for soccer camp. Outside our windows were soccer fields and the halls at night where filled with drunken soccer players. I would say the accommodations were minimalist. But we had fun regardless and I am still thankful that they picked up the tab because it really saved us some money.

The kids we worked with are very nice. I still get emails from some of the girls. They seem to be more excited about filming now than when we were there. Yes it turns out that students in
Bratislava are much like students in St. Clair county, they have to be excited about the project for you to feel like it isn't work. What do I mean? Well it turns out that the owners of the school were very excited about the project and their sons (who are in the gymnasium class) were very excited but the rest of the very small class, well they were not as excited. At one point, I pulled a typical "Mrs. Angry Holladay" move that ended up with me walking away and the students feeling guilty and getting back to work. I don't know what it is and I cannot teach others how to do it, but when I figure it out I will be able to make millions.

The best part of Bratislava (in my opinion) was hanging out with our friend Doug and his family. They are such great people and I had a lot of fun with them. They took us downtown, we hung out in their apartment, we went out to dinner with their kids. It was a grand time. Another fun part is that fact that Doug will be joining us in Switzerland this summer. So we will have a chance to reminisce about Spring Breatk 2008.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I took this on Sunday morning with my camera phone. It was the creation of one of my students. She did it on Saturday night after her SkillsUSA competition. She and her partner placed 4th in audio (it was really cool because she didn't even know she was going until Thursday because the other partner had to drop at the last minute.) Two of my seniors came in 2nd in the audio production competition! And I had another team come in 4th place in video production. I am so proud of all my kids. They really shine during SkillsUSA weekend. They are not only talented students, but they are great people. I enjoy hanging around them (I might enjoy it more than they do.) I did embarrass them slightly when I broke out the robot at the SkillsUSA dance. But hey, what can I say, a dance that good needs to be shared with many.

Bruce's kids did really well they came in 1st and 3rd in video production, that means they will be headed to nationals in Kansas City at the end of June. I must admit I am a little envious because I had such a fun time with my students last year. I know that Bruce will have just as much fun with his students.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Champions at Work

This weekend, I am traveling on a charter bus filled with 57 kids to Lansing. Well actually it's a chartered bus and a minivan. It's the SkillsUSA state competition. Now I am excited because it is really cool as a teacher to see your students step up and compete, however to be doing it the weekend after getting you got back from Europe - makes it a little exhausting. Yes Bruce and I don't do anything at half-speed, well I would but I married Bruce and he does nothing at half-speed. So right now I am waiting for laundry to finish so I can pack and frankly I am fading fast.

For me the SkillsUSA competition is a love hate relationship. I am one of two coordinators for our building. Which means I arrange the registration and hotel for the entire school. I am also the advisor for me students, which means I help prepare them for their individual contests. And then I am coordinator for the Television Production contest which means I help set the standards for the contests and find the judges. (Thank you so much Olive & Angie! Next fruity drink night the first round is all me.)All in all, I think I sometimes bite off more than I can chew. To be honest it always seems like a good idea at the time, but its on nights like this that I wonder what I did in a past life that makes me prone to self-punishment.

In other news as much as it sounds like I am whining right now, I really am not. I was just thinking about how lucky I am to have my job. I really really love working with high school students. Yes, I will admit they can be huge pains in my side, but in the end I am really grow to love my students. (Even the ones that hate me.) It's now my third year at this job and I am still enjoying it. I know I will have a great weekend, however, I am sure that Monday morning will require a large Tim Horton's coffee on the way to work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Up Without an Alarm

I woke up this morning at 5:40 am without my alarm. If you don't know by now, I am not a morning person. I sleep until noon on weekends if possible. So this time change back from Europe is changing my morning routine for now, like I am showered, dressed and ready to go and I still have time to blog. Usually I leave no time to do anything but shower, dress and leave, which in turns lets me snooze exactly twice with the alarm.

I went back to school yesterday. My classes seemed to have lots of energy, maybe they were revived from the break. Well I take it back my morning class seemed just as quiet and tired as usually, however, my afternoon class is always pure energy. So it looks like the break gave me time to forget.

My students enjoyed my pictures and stories about my trip. Well at least they pretended too, mainly because it was show and tell instead of work.

However, I am still kicking myself because in Frankfurt they were offering 600 Euro cash to be bumped off the flight. That is $960. Enough to pay for the entire trip. But I kept thinking I have so much to do this week, especially since this weekend is the State SkillsUSA competition which I am in charge of organizing for our school. But the kicker was when I was talking to my boss yesterday about the flight situation and he said, oh you should have done it, you had comp time. I was like doh - was he just giving me permission. Well note to self for next time, but I highly doubt there will be a next time. I had never heard of an airline offering cash to miss the flight instead of a voucher. Well I guess I should stop thinking about it, because me thinking about it won't get me $960.

It is nice to be home, however, I have so much to do (laundry) before I leave Friday morning for a weekend with 100's of high schoolers competing in the SkillsUSA competition. Ahhhhh! It will be fun, but I have a feeling it may be like three weeks before I recover from this Jet Lag. Don't worry, I have more from the trip including pictures, but they are on Bruce's computer so you will have to wait. Maybe tonight.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Post 400 From Bratislava*

I am taking a break from hanging out with High Schoolers to post the 400th blog from Galileo School in Bratislava. Our experience here has been interesting. We have been working with our friend Doug Harts** class of gynasium students. We have had two very successful days. However, I am enjoying a much needed break because as it turns out high schoolers in Slovakia are not much different than high schoolers in the US. And today they are more concerned about being cool than working, which can be exhausting. So I have put Doug and Bruce on the task. Overall this experience have been great and despite my slight frustration, I am having a blast.

Slovakia is a very interesting country. First, it turns out that I Slovakian is very much like the Czech language, which means I understand nothing. We have learned to say please - proism which sounds like pro-see-um. And then there is thank you, which I dont know how to spell correctly however I can show you how to pronounce it dock-kew-em. I learned yesterday from the students that Apache means -if you like. Other than that I might as well be a mute.

The architecture of the city is a very interesting mix. You still see major reminants of communism, with massive buildings made from cement. But there is still a very quaint Old Town - with shopping and historic building. Right now there is push to renovate the communist gray buildings, what they are doing is basically putting insulation and stucco on the outside and painting them bright colors.

Yesterday we ventured to Old Town with Doug and his family - Carolyn, Justin and Anja. We drank Schokolade - which is basically the richest hot chocolate you have ever tasted. It is delicious. I also bought my traditional keepsake from any country - a pin for the very extensive pin collection. Then we went out for Chinese food. Yes Chinese, we have been eating a lot of traditional food, which is basically plates of meat. It is good, but Chinese was a nice break.

Tomorrow we are heading to Vienna, though my German is poor at best, I look forward to being around a familar language. One that I can recognize and muddle my way through. Well I am declaring my break over, I should go out and work with the kids again. However, I am sitting next to three kids who are really enjoying the editing and it is very refreshing. So to say the least I am re-energized.

*Pictures to come, hopefully our hotel will have internet access in Vienna. Our hotel here is well I will save that for another post.

**Proper punctuation is very difficult on a Slovakian keyboard. They have extra letters that accompany the keys with apostrophes and I cant figure out how to make them work. So for now I will just stick with poor punctation.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Greetings from Praha

It's day two in Europe and it's raining. Yesterday we arrived to a very sunny Prague. However, we were exhausted, which means a nap was required. We ventured out our destination: Old Town. We figured out how to get a tickets for the public transit, which was more difficult than walking up to the machine, why, well it required change and we couldn't find any people willing to give us change. Then we went to the grocery store, where they sold us the ticket - which was much easier than looking for change.

Once we got to Old Town - we wandered the narrow pediestrian streets and window shopped. We saw the famous astronomical clock and we walked around. Then we went to a small restuarant and ate a very traditional Czech meal, which was called something like an Old Time Belly Burster aka as a plate of meat, a very delicious plate of meat with potato pancakes. We also had a Pilsner, which was invented in the Czech Republic. Then we were exhausted, well at least I was exhausted, so we headed back to our hotel for a good nights rest.

So what's planned for Day Two, well we are going to do some sightseeing, which means wet sightseeing, but it's all part of the fun. We will have pictures to come.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New Glasses

Now I hope that these are acceptable glasses. I had to get them in a pinch and it was such short notice that I felt that I could not even call my official eyeglass stylist (Olive) to help me. So Olive, I hope you approve. I took these wonderful photos with my isight on my computer - while I should be working on my homework. The second strange photo is so you can see the color of the glasses. These are a little darker than my last by they are still pinkish red.

Speaking of pink, I had the entire welding class convinced today that our SkillsUSA shirts for the state competition would be a nice color of Salmon with Seafoam Green embroridering. When they looked at me with concern , I said something like this, "You are man enough to wear pink - right?" I guess that it was the talk of the welding lab. They are still horrified.