April 22, 2009

Viva Fiesta!

Fiesta is a huge deal in San Antonio. As best I can tell, it's nearly two weeks of big parties. There's really no other way to describe it, which is why, I now realize, nobody has been able to explain it all year -- even though we've been hearing about it all year. It's probably a lot of fun if you a) like big crowds, b) drink a lot, c) like to wear brightly colored, flashy clothes, and d) don't have little kids that need to go to bed early. Needless to say, we're not going to most of the Fiesta events -- which do all seem to revolve around eating (OK, we like that part), drinking, and music (we like that, too). Plus much of it is happening downtown, which means traffic and parking. Gee, I sound like such a crank! I guess I'll take our small-town Lewisburg Arts Festival any day (good luck this weekend, guys!)

But I wanted to try to do some of it and get into the Fiesta spirit this week. So on Saturday we took Katie to Fiesta de los Ninos (Kids' Fiesta, for those who don't speak any Spanish) at the old Kelly AFB. She loved the rides and all the bright colors. She also liked the "cascarones", which are colored eggshells full of confetti that you crack on people's heads. Here are Dave and Katie just after she broke one over his head.

And we went to Tamalefest, for the tamales of course. We did get a Fiesta medal there, another Fiesta tradition -- you collect or buy them and wear them during Fiesta. I think they show how many events you've gone to. Another big part of Fiesta is the "royalty" -- beauty pageants for the Fiesta queens, and big ceremonies to crown the kinds -- it's all wrapped up in long-time San Antonio clubs of one sort or another. I think it's like Mardi Gras krewes in New Orleans. Oh, and parades -- there are three, which we'll watch on TV. The Battle of Flowers parade on Friday afternoon is all the high school marching bands in the area; the parade day is a school and business holiday. Did I mention that Fiesta is a big deal here?

Dave's big part of Fiesta this year was the Fiesta Wildflower Ride -- he rode 66.5 miles on Sunday!! I was proud of him, and he was really happy to have done it. Not easy the day after all those tamales... Congratulations, Dave!

April 19, 2009

An eventful week for us - April 12-18

I went back to the pictures I took this week to figure out what to post, and realized how much we did this week! Of course Sunday was Easter, and Katie's first visit from the Easter Bunny. Rationing candy is turning out to be a bit of a trick. She definitely has her parents' sweet tooth, specifically chocolate. The flowers Katie is holding in this picture are from the UU church, where we also had flower communion.

Tuesday we went to a San Antonio Missions (minor league baseball) game with a bunch of Dave's colleagues. It was a beautiful sunny day with good hotdogs and a losing team. Oh, well. We all had fun. It felt like playing hooky (which all the engineers were doing, even if their managers were with us) -- nice feeling when you don't really have anything to play hooky from!

Wednesday night Dave and I had a real date, with a babysitter for Katie and everything. The highlight (OK, dinner was really good) was to see John Cleese speak at Trinity University. He spoke on creativity and how to cultivate it. He was interesting, and of course extremely funny. The best part was the last audience question: a young boy (10 or 11) came up to the mike and said "Would you autograph my killer rabbit slippers?" And Cleese did. It really broke up the audience. He's so amazing. We also thought it was cool that he thinks the best comedy writing right now is being done by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

And then Friday Katie and I went with our friends Kim and Luke to see a performance of "If You Give a Mouse A Cookie". It was really well done. The kids loved it, and there was a lot for the parents, too. Kim and I are thinking the kids might now be ready for the Peter Rabbit play we saw advertised...

It's also Fiesta time here, which means 11 days of huge parties, parades, etc., etc. throughout San Antonio. We're going to try to go to a few things that aren't downtown (avoiding the biggest crowds and traffic) -- so I'll post those later.

Cute kid

I take way too many pictures of my kid. Blame the digital camera, but I of course think she's the cutest thing there is. So I had to share some recent photos. Don't worry, Nana, she's getting a haircut next Thursday... Oh, and can you tell that she's decided she only wants to wear dresses?

April 17, 2009

Very cool instrument

Katie and I went to the Witte Museum again last week just for fun. We each came home raving about one thing. For her it was the Sphinx -- yes, really, and now we have a book out of the library about the Great Sphinx. For me it was this very cool "pipe organ" made out of brightly painted PVC pipe and played with the bottom of rubber flip-flops. Watch out, Margot, Dave and I may be pitching an Engineering 101 project for you (because I want one of these in my backyard).

April 16, 2009

Johnson City, April 11

We took advantage of more nice spring weather last weekend to drive up to Johnson City, TX, to visit the LBJ Boyhood Home. We finally learned more about how he got from the Texas Hill Country to Washington, DC. Really interesting, at least for the grownups.

And we also headed over to Pedernales Falls State Park to a little outdoor "hiking" -- OK, walking and scrambling on rocks. With the drought we've had down here, there wasn't much in the way of falls. But they're careful to warn about flash floods. Look at this cool photo contrast from a recent thunderstorm. Last weekend we didn't have to worry about that, and had a good time.

Sara's concert April 5

The Mastersingers give a concert annually at the Basilica of the Little Flower in San Antonio, usually on Palm Sunday. It's always called This year we highlighted Morton Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna" with just organ, and in that space it was sublime. It's been an amazing choir to sing with in so many ways.

This was Katie's first choral concert, and she did really well -- we were proud of her. I asked her afterward what was her favorite music (we sang 4 pieces in addition to the Lauridsen), and she said "the singing one". Yay!

Our little girl's growing up!

OK, I guess all parents say that, and probably every year. In our house Katie turned 3 on April 4! She is so excited to be 3. I'm not sure which was more exciting, being 3 or having a birthday. She really likes being a big girl. And she hit a bunch of milestones the week of her birthday, as if to say, "Look, Mommy and Daddy, I really AM a big girl!" All four of her 2-year molars came in that last week, she is now potty-trained (did you hear her parents' huge cheer?), and she moved into a toddler bed. Whew!

Here are some birthday pictures, both from her party and from home. We invited her friends Luke (just turned 3, too) and his brother Jacob (5) to the Children's Museum and the Rainforest Cafe for lunch. They all had a ball. And as you can see, they all loved the cake...

April 15, 2009

Trip to West Texas, March 27-29

At the end of March we'd planned to drive to Carlsbad Caverns (NM), but the trip got to be too ambitious -- so we headed to West Texas instead. Dave really liked the scenery/geology out there, and wanted to see more.

Our first stop was in the Midland-Odessa area, for the Commemorative Air Force Museum -- WWII aircraft. We also drove by the George W. Bush Childhood Home (make of that what you will) in Midland, and the Odessa Meteor Crater. But the CAF Museum was really well done; we all enjoyed it. It was a little hard on Katie, but she really got into the "teeth". We saw an exhibit of nose art, not for the prudish, but with several examples of shark teeth painted on the nose. We didn't see any restored aircraft "with teeth", but we did see this Jeep. That's what Katie remembers.

We stayed a couple of nights in the town of Ft. Davis, which we really enjoyed. We are such small-town people now! The town exists because of the 19th-century fort. It was interesting, and very different from Eastern forts, usually Revolutionary War era, that I'd ever seen.

We really went mostly for the McDonald Observatory near Ft. Davis. Anyone who has heard "Stardate" on NPR will know the name. No, we did not see Sandy Wood. But we saw cool telescopes, including the Hobby-Eberly that was built while we were at Penn State (it's a Penn State creation). You can see how big the mirrors are in these telescopes -- here's Katie lying down in a representation of their 107" mirror telescope. On our tour Katie got to push the button that opened the window in the dome. She was excited. We went to an evening program that was fun and interesting, and got to look through a whole bunch of telescopes at the moon, Saturn, the Pleiades, and the Orion Nebula (VERY cool). And I learned that it is possible to look through telescopes with a sleeping toddler on your shoulder. You can't star-watch before most kids' usual bedtimes.

The highlight for us was spending time with the family we had met at Big Bend the previous month. They live and work at the observatory, and we got in touch with them when we headed out. They invited us to a gathering of friends at their house on Sunday before we left to come back to San Antonio. We had a wonderful time, and think we've found some lifelong friends. How random, meeting in the dining room at the Big Bend lodge. Hi, Marc and Teri, if you read this!

April 4, 2009

Bluebonnet kids

Being at the LBJ ranch reminded me of Lady Bird Johnson's promotion of wildflowers and highway beautification. The state flower of Texas, her favorite, is the bluebonnet, and it is now (end of March) blooming on roadsides. My friend Kim -- a midwestern temporary transplant -- and I decided we should photograph our kids in the big bluebonnet patch in front of the elementary school across the street.

So here's our kids pretending to be Texans. (L to R: Luke, Jacob, Katie)

LBJ Ranch, Saturday, March 21

From the ridiculous to the sublime? I guess it depends on your political views. After the crowds, sun, and fun of Sea World, we took a quiet car tour of the LBJ Ranch, part of the presidential home park (part national park, part state park -- and two different sites about 15 miles apart). I'd been before, in 2002, but Dave hadn't, and I'm glad I went back. We forget, sometimes, with all the recriminations still surrounding the Vietnam War, how much good President Johnson did on the home front. Head Start, Civil Rights Act, Voting Act, just to name a few. It was edifying and inspiring to see the place that gave Johnson his sanity back after being in Washington, and where he entertained -- and worked with -- political leaders from around the world.

Sea World, Friday, March 20

OK, so we live within practically spitting distance of Sea World, and we haven't gone. I finally decided to suck up the money and buy a ticket - a one-day ticket can be a season pass, which for us is kind of silly. But Katie and I went on a nice (later hot) Friday morning. She really enjoyed it, and I did, too. Her favorite was the Sesame Street beach show, which we saw twice, and the kiddie rides. We will do the Shamu ride the next time we go; the line was about an hour long. (What was I thinking, going during spring break week in a state that seems to worship spring break?)

The killer whale show was interesting to Katie for about 10 minutes, then she decided it was way too loud. And it was. We'll have to try that again next time. And there will definitely be a next time; she has asked to go back at least twice since!