March 18, 2009

Boppa and Grammy visit!

My dad, Steve (aka "Boppa"), and his wife, Cynthia (aka "Grammy") came to visit last weekend -- March 13-16 -- from Albuquerque. It was great to have them here! The weather was not terribly cooperative, unfortunately, but we got MUCH-needed rain. Being from the southwest now, they understood and didn't mind at all. And the weather didn't stop us.

We did the stereotypical San Antonio things first -- the Alamo and the Riverwalk, which is nice and deserted in cold mist. This was Katie's first time at the Riverwalk without the stroller, and she did really well even without a nap. It was also the kickoff for St. Patrick's Day weekend, which meant releasing "environmentally friendly" green dye into the San Antonio River. (As my friend Kim says, "isn't the river always green?" Just not as GREEN.) Katie waved at the giant walking Guinness glass as it went by on the dye-releasing barge.

On Friday night Cynthia and I went back downtown for the Alamo City Ghost Tour (our birthday present to her). We got to use cool equipment, which didn't really tell anything, and did a lot of walking through the downtown. We didn't see any ghosts, but heard fun stories, and enjoyed seeing everything at night. San Fernando Cathedral is really pretty at night. I was glad to be with a fellow skeptic! (We declined to use a dowsing rod to answer Ouija-board-type questions, if that gives you any idea of some of our fellow ghost-hunters.)

Dave joined us for the marathon tour of the missions on Saturday. It was nice, actually, to see all four (it's hard to count the Alamo anymore) in one fell swoop, both to compare them but also to get a sense of where they are in relation to each other. Dad and I both took lots more pictures. We capped the day with a concert by the UU singer-songwriter Jim Scott at the UU church here. The grownups really enjoyed it; I think Katie did, too, except for the late hour and no nap again!

The weather improved vastly on Sunday, so after jazz Sunday at church, we checked out the Spanish Governors Palace (see Katie with the hands-on kid instruments?), the interior of the Cathedral, and the Riverwalk. Everyone who hadn't been there Friday and Saturday came out on Sunday -- so much so that Ben & Jerry's ran out of ice cream! Thank goodness for the Haagen Dazs around the corner...

We miss Boppa and Grammy, but we're so glad they could see us in San Antonio!

March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all our friends and family! I'm really homesick this week because I should be performing with Callanish -- and I know they're doing lots of gigs this weekend/week. Oh, well, we'll all wear green today and listen to our CDs.

We have to brag sometimes

We went to a real grown-up concert with Katie last Sunday (March 8), and we were so proud of her -- she did great! It was a vocal jazz concert with the San Antonio Symphony, showcasing swing music of the 1920s to 1940s. (If you ever get a chance to hear 5 By Design, take it.) Katie really enjoyed the music (as did we), and wasn't too squirmy. She didn't like the fake gunshot in the Spike Jones number, but the rest was OK. And when the concert was over she asked to "talk to the mommy singers", so we did. Of course, they all thought she was the cutest thing. :)

It's also been fun to hear Katie start making up songs -- usually just words to known tunes, but sometimes new tunes. I don't know if all kids do that at some point, but we sure are enjoying it now!

Painting School

I found a cool place in San Antonio called "Paint, Paper, Scissors", which offers art classes for kids, but also has drop-in times several days a week. So for only $5, Katie can play at 6-8 different art stations for a couple of hours. Two weeks ago, we went with our friends Kim and Luke to check it out, and the kids had a fabulous time. Katie came home with a piece of "art" from every single station, and Luke painted at least five paintings -- all on the theme of blue. Here they are at the painting easel that first day.

They had such fun at what Katie calls "painting school" that we went back last week with Luke's older brother Jacob, on his spring break from kindergarten, and a couple of other friends -- and all the kids had fun. Katie spent more time painting (thank goodness we didn't have to bring home any more "bird's nests" or "headbands"), and actually painted a kind of representational painting. OK, it doesn't really look like the cat she said she was painting, but she was very intentional about each element in it. That one we're keeping.

We'll definitely go back at least once more before we leave. And I'll have to talk to some people in Lewisburg about doing something like this...

March 12, 2009

Day in Austin, March 7

We drove up to Austin again last Saturday, this time to have lunch and spend time with Dave's former student Dusty Schroeder and his wife Kaley. They're graduate students at UT-Austin. Katie insisted on starting the day as a princess -- here she is leaving our apartment in the morning.

We got to see a little more of the fun and funky town this time -- lunch at a brewpub, a walk in what had to be an ancient riverbed (now all rocks, very fun to scramble around on -- see Katie's smile?), and cupcakes from an airstream trailer with an enormous pink-frosted cupcake on top. Yes, Ingrid, we did get there! We were very proud of Katie; she tripped spectacularly twice but got back up both times. Her knees are now purple and yellow with scabs; she likes that they look good with her Curious George band-aids.

It was great to see Dusty and Kaley again, and we had a good time all day. We hope to see them in San Antonio sometime soon.

Big Bend trip

We spent the end of Feb/first of March on a trip out "west" to Big Bend National Park -- that's the big bend in the Rio Grande River in west Texas. It's a long drive from here, partly because it seems to be an hour between intersections -- I mean towns -- the farther west you go. Not country I could ever be happy in.

But it's starkly beautiful, and more so when we got to Big Bend. There we were in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, punctutated by mountains. Not a mountain range, since this was all ancient volcanic activity. So each peak was interesting and different geologically. It seemed very incongruous to see mountains and desert coexisting, to say nothing of desert and river. Yes, I know that's my East Coast bias!

We thought we'd do more hiking than we did, but the trails are really for backcountry hiking -- not possible with a toddler. But we did a bunch of long "walks" (over a mile each) to see several river canyons, some hot springs, a windmill-fed decidious tree grove. The water-themed trails were all easier than the desert and mountains ones. Plus we got to see into Mexico!

We figured we ought to do one of our hikes in the desert, so that was our long (6-mile) one. Being carried all afternoon really wore Katie out. :)

We stayed in the Chisos Mountains Basin lodge, really a collection of cabins and hotels with a common restaurant; it was a beautiful setting -- totally surrounded by mountains. We took advantage of some of the darkest skies in the US, at a ranger-led stars program. Very cool. We also saw antelope, lots of deer, a fox (might have been a coyote, it was that big), and a few roadrunners. No bears, mountain lions, or javelinas, but that's OK with us!

I'm glad we saw that part of the country, but one short trip was enough for me. I like small towns, but that's too sparse -- in people and plants -- for me. Takes a special person to appreciate it year-round, I guess.

March 5, 2009

The Bruces visit!

My great friend Ingrid Steffensen Bruce and her daughter Emma Bruce flew down during Emma's "spring" break (in February?) for a long weekend -- we had a great time! Of course it was the same weekend Dave had a meeting in Charleston, but that meant he got away from all the girliness in the close quarters of an apartment.

We really tried to fit in as much as we could in the time they were here, and we were pretty much on the go constantly. Poor Katie never got a nap! But she had such a good time with Emma and Aunt Ingrid that she didn't care. And we ate a lot of Tex-Mex, which also didn't hurt. I'll go in chronological order:

On Thursday we covered the must-see highlights: the missions, the Alamo, and the Riverwalk. It was fun to go with an architectural historian, and with a 10-year-old who not only is interested, but has a new camera... This is Emma taking a photo at the San Jose mission. After lunch on the Riverwalk, we took the fun boat ride, where Katie fell asleep. Luckily she stayed asleep (although it was a long walk to the Alamo carrying her!) and I could sit in the courtyard while Ingrid and Emma toured. I'm not sure which they liked better - the Alamo or the warm sunshine!

Friday was by far our longest day. We drove up to Austin. The morning was for the Capitol, where we could see clear signs of spring (yes, in February, so I guess this really was Emma's spring break), and the afternoon for exploring the famous parts of the funky city. We tried on cowboy hats, stopped in at the beautiful Driskill Hotel -- where LBJ and Lady Bird had their first date -- and explored the funky shops of South Congress Street. We didn't get the girls to bed until nearly 10:30!

Since Emma loves horses, we of course had to go to the rodeo. It was not any ol' rodeo competition day, it was XTreme Bulls! Too loud for a tired toddler (we watched on a TV on the concourse), but Ingrid and Emma had a blast. Katie loved the swine sprints again, and both girls wanted to ride every ride at the carnival (I think they each picked two). Emma convinced Katie to wear her cowgirl boots, so she fit right in -- even with her baby Margaret in tow.

We spent Sunday exploring the downtown history -- San Fernando Cathedral
(this is the main altarpiece), the Spanish Governors Palace, El Mercado, and La Villita. Emma found a beautiful painting of the Riverwalk for her souvenir -- not your typical choice for a 10-year-old. But she's no ordinary kid.
Here are Emma and Katie at the La Villita fountain.

It was such fun to have them here; we were sorry to have to send them back to the frozen north!