Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Viva Botanica!

It's Fiesta time in San Antonio and this year I was on the hunt for a safe, family-friendly event we could all enjoy.  The majority of Fiesta events are either too crowded, too expensive, or not explicitly family-friendly.  Last year we attended Fiesta de los Ninos, but even that event left a lot to be desired (it was way too crowded and although it was free to get in, almost every activity was overpriced-especially when you have an abundance of kids to entertain).  We have a current membership to the Botanical Gardens so we had nothing to lose by checking out its official Fiesta event, Viva Botanica.  To our delight - ding ding ding - it was a winner!!
Our first activity was: "Making Flower Crowns"!  Or should I say, "Watching the Volunteer Make the Crowns for Us". To be fair, some of the steps were a bit tricky for little hands to complete, but I had to chuckle when the volunteer blurted out "No no no!" and tried to snatch the tissue paper out of our hands when she saw Billy and me trying to help the kids make their crowns.  I guess she was worried about quality control, but we were only trying to spare her from having to make 5 crowns all by herself.
The crowns turned out beautiful and even the boys enjoyed theirs.  Daniel assured us that he made his using only "boy colors" and Adrian informed us that his crown was actually moose antlers.  He emphasized his point by spontaneously dropping to the sidewalk and loping around like a moose from time to time.
Our next activity:  Ladybug Release!  Nature girl Mikea was thrilled by her tickly little friend.
Here she is attempting to coax him onto a plant:
Sadly for Mikea and Joe, however, their ladybugs were uncooperative and elected to fly away instead of crawling onto a plant like they were supposed to.  Oh, the disappointment...
However, all was soon forgotten by the next event, the Children's Parade. The whole gang received ribbons and leis for participating.  Next year we'll be more prepared and actually make some floats for the parade.
After the Children's Parade the kiddos played in a couple of bouncy houses and then we headed over to the Conservatory for some more activities.  On the way, we passed one of several art installations placed throughout the grounds.  I had been reading aloud the names of them along the way, but as soon as Daniel saw this one he decided it looked like a giant noodle ball.  So, "Noodle Ball" it was. 
After marveling in the delights of the Noodle Ball, we continued our journey to the Conservatory where each child potted an herb.  We left with Spearmint, Cilantro, Chives, Stevia, and two varieties of Basil.  I've been wanting to start an herb garden for quite a while, so now I simply have no excuse not to!
Again, my Nature Girl was in heaven. 
After the herbs, the final activity was making a Papel Picado.  Papel Picado is a Mexican folk craft that means "perforated paper" and are used in the festive banners you see displayed throughout our city for Fiesta. 
On our way out of the Botanical Gardens we stopped at the pond and instantly became engaged in the drama of a bee who buzzed itself right into the water.  The kids were fascinated by its plight and we were all relieved when after a valiant struggle, the bee extracted itself from the water to join the hundreds of other bees swarming in the flowers nearby. 
All in all, Viva Botanica was a smashing success.  We will most certainly be back next year and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a not-too-crowded, fun, family-friendly Fiesta Event! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Holy Saturday at Mission Espada

Well, this little photo shoot almost didn't happen.  Billy and I had discussed taking the kids to one of the missions for Easter pictures but never made definite plans for when we would do it.  Mikea had been sick during the week, we had a last-minute visit from our new caseworker Friday morning, plus all the extra preparation for a holiday had worn us down, so Saturday morning rolled around and Billy asked if I wanted to do pictures that day. My first reaction was, "Ummm....when I have the opportunity to around and enjoy the one morning a week I don't have any obligations, instead do I want to bathe 6 kids, iron 6 outfits, and do 3 sets of hair?  Hmmm let me see.....that would be a big fat NEGATORY, thanks."  But Billy correctly surmised we'd probably regret NOT doing it and volunteered to give the baths (which he always does, by the way) so I got myself to ironing and I am SO GLAD we went for it! 
We hadn't been back to Mission Espada since 2008 when we took our tiny brood of 3 babies for Easter pictures.  Five years later our family has doubled Billy has halved.  See for yourself:



Without further ado, here are a few snapshots from our afternoon:

Here the boys are looking for trolls.  No really, they were looking for trolls.
The kiddos did a little exploring of the mission grounds.  All went well until Rebekah got her head stuck in a stone fireplace.  Luckily she extracted herself without too much damage, only a minor scrape to her forehead.
One of my favorites! Although Katy isn't looking that's ok because otherwise I really couldn't share it with the world just yet.  :)
Tree climbing time!  Mikea was determined to climb higher than the boys and she succeeded.
Joe didn't care how high he climbed.  He was just thrilled to be in a tree.  When's the last time YOU climbed a tree?
I am so blessed to be mama to these beautiful little humans!   

Show me your eggs!

Hey, who's this guy?  Only my best friend, the love of my life, that's who.

One more and then it's time to head home:
Happy Easter!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break in Bandera

This Spring Break Billy and I finally got smart.  Instead of traveling hundreds of miles from home we chose a destination a mere 60 miles away in Bandera.  Like previous years we found a cute cabin to rent with plenty of nature for the kids to explore, but without the hassle of a long road trip.  Instead of feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation, when we got home we were just regular-tired, not "what-were-we-thinking-we're-never-driving-hours-from-home-with-6-kids-again-tired."  You know?

When we arrived at our cabin, we had a few minutes to entertain ourselves in the yard before it was ready. Adrian kept himself busy by piling rocks inside the Suburban and Rebekah enjoyed soaking up the sunshine.
Here's Adrian taking a break from the rock-piling.
Joe and Mikea set up a restaurant in the front yard.
Then we took turns rescuing Woody, Elephant, Raccoon, and Spiderman from the trees.
The cabin itself was huge - room for 10 people to sleep! The five oldest kids all shared one room, which was problematic on the first night.  There was quite a bit of silliness to contend with and one child finally had to be removed to an extra bedroom in order to allow the others to fall asleep.
Adrian was thrilled to sleep on the top bunk.  Here he is clapping after I turned on a special night light next to his bed.  Such joy!
The next morning we gathered for breakfast around the massive island in the kitchen and remarkably, not a single child fell off the bar stools the entire trip. (Just me. No, no, I'm only kidding. It was Billy. Ok, just kidding again, neither of us fell.)
Then while Billy and I prepared for our hike down to the Medina River the kids spent some time with blocks.
 More block creations:
To get down to the river we had to descend a set of large, steep, rocky stairs behind the property and then hike across a short meadow.  At first I was just going to let Billy go with the big kids, but I'm stubborn and wanted us all to go together so we decided to just go for it.  Billy carried the equipment down first by himself and then we carefully guided the kids down.  It was a lot tricky but so worth it!
The kids took turns fishing, but no one had any luck.  Oh well.  They still had fun, as you can clearly see!
After we gave up on fishing we hiked a little farther down the river and the kids began chunking rocks into the river.  They could have done that for hours.
After hiking back up the bluff we took a quick drive into Bandera for lunch and then later that evening ate supper outside. 
The plan was to take the kids fishing one more time each by themselves, but we were quickly running out of daylight.  So Mikea got to go by herself with Billy and then the rest went with him in pairs.
These kiddos are growing up too fast.  I demand them to stop it!
 The final activity for our trip was roasting marshmallows and making S'mores.
As usual it was a hot, sticky mess.
Indeed. Mmm-mmm!