I had never been here before, despite being a bit of a history geek. I think its proximity to the landfills (and its party status in my never-ending litigation) has kept me away, but its really quite interesting. I was probably the most interested person, though.
The kids' favorite part was the blacksmith. Not only was he making a danger weapon - a knife! - but he was making it with Fire! And then there was his name... a blacksmith. As all little boys of a certain age can tell you, the LEGO ninjas pretended to be the Royal Blacksmiths in a recent episode of LEGO Ninjago. So the term "blacksmith" makes them all think of LEGOs and Ninjas and the fact that this Blacksmith had his own Ninja weapon, well, let's just say that the thirteen boys in Ms. Cowan's class were pretty excited.
It was hot at Pioneer Farms.
There are no water fountains, and the kids ran through their water supplies pretty quickly. We (the eight parents who came along) ended up pooling together to buy water bottles for all the kids. And this was March. I'd avoid the place in the summer, because there aren't many shady spots. December would be the perfect time to visit.
One of the few trees (and what a tree it was!):
After the blacksmiths and the teepees, the other favorite spot for the boys were the outhouses. They were FASCINATED. Nothing like official potty talk to excite eight year old boys.
Every year about this time, I start to have serious panic attacks about our plans for the summer, and just how we are going to make everyone happy by sending two boys to two camps that are both interesting AND have at least one friend (if not more) also attending. Adding in to this mix, I've learned that if we do swim team, then all day long camps out in the sun don't mix well with 7pm swim team practices during June. And that the overwhelming majority of our friends do swim team with the Balcones Country Club Sharks and not the Barracudas (damn their schedule which caters to stay-at-home parents). And that the Sharks practice at 10 am (for Alex's age) and 11am (for Ryan's age), so most of their friends don't go to camps in June since their swim team makes it impossible. Neither boy wanted a nanny for the summer - they love the camps and constant activity - and they also don't want to do the same camp, all summer long. I don't blame them - I hated it too, as a child. And, ideally, I'd like them to be at the same place, with minimal transportation time.Which is a very long-winded way of saying that it pretty much takes a masters degree to plan all of this out.
This year is no different, but I finally have our schedule nailed down, after a few upsets like the fact that the two Half-Blood Camps (ie, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief) offered around Austin for which they were eligible were booked up FAST! I'll have to be more on the ball next year, because Alex is dying, dying to do Book People's camp next year when he is finally nine (nine is the minimum age, and apparently you start registering for it in October, its that popular. OCTOBER, people. Seriously??). And I managed to squeeze in the other big ticket items on their wish lists: magic camp, and make a movie out of LEGOs camp which they saw at a camp fair and can NOT stop talking about how cool it was to make your own LEGO video. Big reminder to never take them to camp fair again!! It wasn't enough to just go to LEGO camp (which would have been easy peasy to schedule) but they needed "make a LEGO movie" camp.
And yet, I did it. Well, other than Ninja Camp, but since I couldn't find anyone offering a Ninja camp anywhere in the state of Texas, I think I did pretty darn good.
Week 1: YMCA at our school (only 3 days, with holiday and Carl and I are off Tuesday with jet lag)
Week 2: Cub Scout Camp, with lots of friends.
Week 3: Art Camps, a drawing-focused one in the morning and a dragons and knights medium-based one in the afternoons, led by their art teacher and open to kids at their school. So lots of friends, plus Papa Al is going to come pick them up for lunches in between each day. Alex has been asking to go o drawing classes, so I scored big time with this camp.
Week 4: Soccer Camp in the mornings, and then Carl and I will alternate afternoons with them at home. Hopefully we'll have some friends, but no one has confirmed this with me yet.
Week 5: Vacation Bible School at our church, and sharing a sitter with some friends for the afternoons. At least two friends each will be there.
Week 6: Camp Granny - my mom is going to take them and spent the week down in Concan again. Three cheers for Camp Granny!
Week 7: Crazy Week! Mornings are spent in RRISD camps, Ryan in a reading and writing one and Alex in a Junior Detective One. I'm already envisioning much turmoil here, but Ryan needs the reading boost, and Alex doesn't. Hopefully, their afternoons spent at "Make a LEGO Movie" camp will make it all better. This was the #1 camp they both wanted after a camp fair - they love, LOVE watching LEGO videos on youtube. Doesn't look like we're going to have any friends at either one, but I'm trying.
Week 8: YMCA at their school again. Several friends will be there.
Week 9: Star Wars Camp - its really a theatre camp, but the kids get to play with light sabers and dress up in robes and at the end of the week, they will perform in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Still looking for friends here, but if not, they'll be together. And they get to pretend to be Jedi, their absolutely favorite thing to do at home.
Week 10: Magic Camp and Camp Grampapa. The Magic Camp is only in the afternoons, in Round Rock, and would be impossible without our village coming in to help out. The plan for now is that the boys will actually spend the week over with Chris and Al.
Week 11: Family Vacation, TBD. I'm still working on all our England trip plans, so I can't even begin to think about this one yet. Soon. Very soon. Carl wants South Padre again, I'm thinking New Mexico, Colorado or Yellowstone.
Week 12: Camp Doublecreek (aka BB Gun Camp). Alex loves this place, and I've worked hard scheduling-wise, to get him there for a Nickel Dive Week. Hoping some friends will come, and Ryan says if no friends come then he wants YMCA. But since Doublecreek buses the kids from our school, we're only looking at one drop-off/pick-up, and I'm fine saving $150/week if he just wants YMCA. Doublecreek is expensive, especially when you add in the horse lessons (which they love).
Week 13: YMCA at our school, and the last week before school starts.
Ryan received his Level 2 Blue Belt on Friday, and its with a heavy heart that we have decided to stop his Taekwondo learning.
He's done a fantastic job, and we're unbelievably proud of him and his dedication.
Someday, he may return to it, but we learned last year that Scouts, TKD, and another sport (soccer/basketball/swimming) was too much to handle. Ryan made his choice, and soccer and scouts have won out.
I might jokingly (and okay, sometimes seriously) call North Austin Taekwondo a money pit, but we've been very grateful to how well they have taught our sons over the years. I don't have to worry about their safety quite as much, and I know they know how to stand up to bullying. I'll still worry, of course. Just only losing three hours of sleep, instead of six.
We made it out to the Austin Rodeo the last possible weekend.
The boys had a lot of fun playing on the tractors with their cousins.
And the petting zoo is always a big bit.
Of course, one can't go to the rodeo without eating food on a stick.
Corn on a stick.
Turkey legs on a (drum)stick.
And of course, corn dogs on a stick.
Then it was time to put those wristbands to good use. Things were complicated going to the rodeo with Connor. He wasn't tall enough to go on most rides unless he had an adult. And the kiddie rides he was tall enough for, then my kids were too tall to go on with him.
This train was one of the few the three of them could all ride, and I think Alex's expression sums it up pretty well (its partly due to the fact that he was alone in the backseat, having given up his front seat so Connor and Ryan could sit together. Sometimes its hard being the oldest cousin).
So it wasn't long before we had to go our separate ways, and Alex went off to ride a lot of the REALLY dangerous rides by himself.
Considering he's pretty shy, he did a great job bonding with some of the other boys.
We had a great time up until Ryan took his brother's advice and went on the Spaceship. Alex had been on it and loved it. Its one of those rides where you stand against the wall, and they close all the doors and spin you around, so we couldn't see what was happening inside.
An extremely unhappy Ryan greeted us outside at the end of the ride, and just like that, it was time to go home.
We spent a wonderful Easter weekend with my family down in Concan.
The boys love the Frio River - it reminds me of the Boerne and New Braunfels from when I was growing up.
We went tubing for the first time with the boys - turns out it was one of the longest stretches of the Frio, and we spent over four hours!
Mom was about to call the Sheriff for a search and rescue mission when we finally floated to our pickup point.
It was just beautiful there - not too hot - and truly, perfect springtime in Texas weather.
The Easter Bunny made a stop, as well. Alex did a slightly better job than last year in hiding his disbelief that the Bunny hid the eggs. Possibly because I dropped all pretense that it was the Bunny, and claimed to be working in cahoots with Mr. Floppy.
Since we were out in the country, I didn't put up much of a fuss when they wouldn't put on their nicer shirts for Easter. I suppose its the Bunny's fault for putting the much-desired Angry Birds t-shirts in their baskets.
We had a great time going for rides on Bobby's trolley.
And since this is my only blog entry about Easter, here are a few shots of my decorations back at home.