Summer Beach Adventure!

One of the gifts I want to give my son as he grows older is a love for travel. In January, his dad and I took him to California for a long weekend. It was his first flight and he got to see his grandma and grandpa who live out there. The trip went well, so it made me confident we could do it again.

This time around, though, I’d be traveling solo with H as his dad was traveling overseas for work. I thought it might be a good distraction and help him not miss his daddy quite so much. He loved the beach in San Diego so much that I thought another beach adventure might be fun. I decided on Florida, specifically the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. I opted against Orlando because, honestly, the idea of Disney and all the theme parks sounds like my own personal hell.

We survived the flight just fine. Thank goodness for the Kindle loaded with Octonauts and Wild Kratts! Oh, and a giant ziplock bag of snacks.

We stayed in a cute AirBNB apartment across the street from the beach in the Treasure Island area of St. Petersburg. It was great to just walk out the door rather than packing up a car and paying for parking. Of course, the first thing we did when we arrived was head to the beach!

The next few days were spent playing in the sand and surf and checking out the kid-friendly sights in Tampa and the surrounding area. We checked out the Florida Aquarium, Zoo Tampa, Dinosaur World, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of Winter, the dolphin from The Dolphin Tale movies), and the Glazer Children’s Museum.

I learn something on every trip I take.  On this trip, I traveled alone with my son for the first time. I also rented a car for the first time. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but I almost always prefer public transit when I travel. But bringing a four year old who needs a car seat meant that my usual Uber wasn’t going to be a great option.

One thing that was interesting to me was that in the area where we stayed, there were tons of hotels but almost no chains. Almost every motel on the strip was an individually owned place, many with plenty of character.  There are a few high rises buildings, but most are just two stories. The result is a cute, little beach town that feels like a great place to relax.

Tampa was a great place for travel with kids. There were tons of things to do – we barely scratched the surface. I enjoyed going the B&B route as opposed to a hotel because not only was it cheaper but it also meant we had a kitchen and could eat breakfast at home each day. There are touristy things all over the place, even places to hold alligators!

In the end, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. While H was certainly not perfect, we had a great time. This mama was definitely exhausted, though, being “on” 24/7 for five days straight. We survived the flight home as well, though H may have set a record for going to the bathroom 4 times in a 3 hour flight (thank goodness the 13 year old girl in our row was a good sport about getting up so much)! We also learned about the unpredictability of Florida weather when we got poured on twice, once while we were on a boat ride to see dolphins.

And you know a trip has been a success when you ask your child if he had fun and he says he wants to come back in September, October, November. Happy vacationing!

Taking Time for Me – NYC Style!

As you might know, in my previous life, I was a music teacher. Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I also love musical theater and have even done a few shows in my time. And yet, I’ve never seen a Broadway show. That is, until a few weeks ago.

In early July, I flew to New York City where I saw six Broadway shows in four days. Yes, I said six. I was inspired by a high school friend who traveled to London with her family and saw a few shows there. It made me think about how I haven’t seen many shows lately and how there are so many good shows out right now. I also have been trying to take more time for me this summer (after working 50+ hours a week all last summer). I decided to book a trip.

I’ve been to NYC twice before, so I could skip most of the touristy stuff. I stayed near Times Square so I could walk to every show. I even braved the subway and the bus. I checked out both the Museum of Modern Art and a tiny bit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I also visited the 9/11 museum since it wasn’t built yet when I last visited.

But the best part was obviously the shows! The first shows I chose were Dear Evan Hansen and Waitress. I’d been listening to the soundtracks of both and couldn’t wait to see them (and they didn’t disappoint). I got to see Katharine McPhee lead in Waitress (she’s great!). I booked my trip the week after the 2018 Tony Awards, so I also booked The Band’s Visit, which had just won 10 awards, including Best Musical. I even got a picture with Tony Award winner Katrina Lenk!

The next show I chose was Hello, Dolly! While this one wouldn’t have normally been on my list, the role of Dolly Levi was being played by none other than Ms. Bernadette Peters. BERNADETTE PETERS! The legend herself! Not only that, she was playing opposite Victor Garber. I’d loved both of them since I saw them together in the Brandy version of Cinderella (which I still have on VHS, by the way). I added Kinky Boots because it seemed like a fun show (and it was). Last but not least, I actually didn’t buy tickets for Mean Girls until I was in New York and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t love the movie, but the musical is really well done.

This trip was a great little getaway for me (yes, I traveled alone). The timing was great because I submitted my final portfolio for my administration license program a few days before I left. I ate great food, including NY cheesecake and ice cream for dinner. I saw famous works of art and sites like Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall (yep, still a music geek on the inside).

Too many times, I hear people say they would love to do _______, and they never do. Obviously, we can’t all afford to do everything we want all the time. But what are the things you have always meant to do and could but haven’t? Maybe a trip around the world isn’t feasible right now, but maybe there’s a book you’ve been meaning to read or a restaurant you’ve wanted to check out. What’s stopping you?

We put other people’s needs before our own. We say we’re too busy. We say we’ll do it next week, next month, or next year. But why wait? If watching my Facebook newsfeed in the past few weeks has reminded me of anything, it’s that we only have a finite amount of time and we never know when that time is up.

So do the things that are important to you. Do them now. Don’t wait for that perfect time because there won’t be one.

ISTE Part 1: Sightseeing, Uber, and Conference Tips!

ISTE, where to begin? It was three days of listening, learning, meeting, and thinking. And I’m exhausted! Though I didn’t score much swag (this girl likes to travel light), I came home with pages and pages of notes; numerous tweets and retweets; loads of QR codes, Twitter handles, and websites; and dozens of photos of cool ideas I can’t wait to share.

First of all, I have to give some love to Philly itself. I’ve never visited before, but what a beautiful city! We walked almost everywhere and saw wonderful sites that I’ve only seeIMG_5575n in photos, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  We took a selfie with the “Love” sign and climbed the Rocky Steps. When we got into town on Sunday night, we saw the Violent Femmes, Colin Hay, and the Barenaked Ladies in concert at the Mann Center, a BEAUTIFUL venue for a summer evening concert. And to top it all off, we saw amazing Lego statues at the Franklin Institute (the artist was Nathan Sawaya – check him out!).  On Tuesday night, a group of Minnesota folks met up at a nearby Irish pub to meet and connect. I got to meet several folks who do what I do and pick their brains about ed tech ideas. And I even got to meet a few folks I’d only heard from on Twitter or Voxer (Hey Sharon and Chris!).

ISTE brought another new experience: Uber! Whoever invented this service is my own personal hero. As someone who values efficiency and ease, Uber is the real deal. For those who aren’t familiar, Uber is essentially a car/driver service. Using the iPhone app, you put in your starting location and where you’d like to go. You can see an estimate of how much your trip will cost, your approximate wait time for a driver, and select the type of car you want (there are different sizes and pricing levels if you want). And since your credit card information is in app, you don’t need to worry about getting change or carrying cash. Plus, no worrying about dishonest cab drivers taking a longer route with the meter running. We used the service four times during our trip and I’d highly recommend it!

ISTE itself is…..overwhelming! The convention center in Philadelphia spans about 3 city blocks and I think ISTE used all of it.  There was more than once that I was a couple of minutes late for a session because I had to walk from one end to the other. The ISTE app was extremely helpful, though, because it came with a built in map that showed where each session was when you clicked on it.

Okay, so here’s what I learned in terms of planning and logistics:

  • Bring a portable charger. You would not believe the number of people camped out along the walls with their devices plugged in trying to recharge. I never had to do that once because I had a power source in my bag. I have this one (though I did not pay $250) which allows me to plug in both my phone and iPad at the same time (assuming I remember to bring two cords).
  • Keep your bag light. I tried to do this, but my shoulders are still sore from carrying a bag for 3 days straight (plus 3 days of traveling before). I downsized my device by taking my iPad mini and leaving my MacBook in my hotel room. I took notes on my device using Evernote and took pictures where I could instead of taking physical items. This is also helpful when trying to avoid checking a bag at the airport.Posing with my favorite "educelebrity" Moby from Brainpop!
  • Diversify your sessions. I’m really interested in PD right now, but by Wednesday I had had enough for awhile. Instead, I went to a stop-motion session on Tuesday that was amazing (taught by Cathy Hunt, an amazing Aussie art teacher) and got a bunch of ideas for my art teacher.
  • Check out the poster sessions! Some were okay and some were great! I got so many great ideas just by walking around and looking and listening. And so many of them had QR codes or websites where they share literally everything. Carve out some time and be sure to check them out.
  • Share your learning. When I could (and the wi-fi was working), I tried to tweet my learning to others. Not only does this spread the learning love, but it helps you pick out the main ideas and be able to go back through them. On a related note, follow the people you learn from (formally or informally) and grow your PLN while you’re at the conference.
  • Do plan out your day ahead of time. The ISTE app allows you to add your sessions to your calendar. This worked well for me and then I added in time between the sessions to check out the poster sessions, playgrounds, and the expo hall. Because there’s really no down time at the conference, it helps to know right away where you’re going next, especially if you also need to hit the bathroom or food cart on the way.

I will be writing posts over the next few days about what I learned in sessions, but I’ll stop for now. All in all, a great experience and I hope to go to ISTE 2016 in Denver. See you there?

Evernote (Part 2: Planning & Organization)

Okay, so by now, you have probably figured out that I love Evernote for teaching.  It is my absolute go-to for organizing my teaching resources (see post here).  But I also use it both personally and professionally in other ways, particularly for planning and organizing tasks and information.

One way I use Evernote is for travel.  When my husband and I traveled to Italy in December 2013, I began researching various aspects of the trip: sights to see in various cities, train schedules, tips from various travel books and websites, etc.  I created a notebook in Evernote and collected all kinds of information in it that would be helpful as we planned our trip.  When we got closer to traveling, I created a note for each day of our trip; each note contained any pertinent travel information (flight times and numbers, for example), lodging info, tourist sites we were visiting, as well as the PDF copies of hotel reservations, museum tickets, and other documents.  Everything I needed for that day was right there at my fingertips.

I also use Evernote as a sort of “catch all” for any ideas, websites, blog posts, or other resources that I’d like to reference later.  Most of these are related to teaching, though not always.  These ideas are organized and tagged in a separate folder so I can easily find them when I want them.  I even use a site called www.ifttt.com that automatically collects any tweets I favorite in a special notebook in Evernote (IFTTT does SO much more than just this – check it out!).

Do you use Evernote?  In what ways have you found it useful?