What I’ve learned so far…

I’ve had my daughters for two weeks and two days of our extended summer.  The past few months have been a little rough because they have all been sick off and on for most of this year, even to the point of my youngest needing to see a lung specialist.  In the first few days, the coughs went away and have not been heard since.  The first night was a hoot.  The two youngest were so wound up and anxious, they couldn’t fall asleep.  This general anxiety has hung on, though it appears to be getting a little better.  No particular cause for it.  None of the girls feel their mom listens to them.  I’m sure this is a common malady between most girls and their mom, but the general perception is their mom defers to her boyfriend and his daughter more than them.  All of this concerns me of course since my oldest is going into high school and my second is nearly a teen, but I don’t have a very good line of communication with their mother.  It is frustrating to say this least.

Why make it harder?

If the father of your kids wants to spend more time with them, why would you prevent that?  If you could have more free time, why not take advantage?  If your only weapon left is to use the other parent’s time, maybe you should end the war.

I actually had to ask for extra time with my daughters for Father’s Day.  Even more hilarious is that I got pushback and had to show it was permitted in the divorce decree.

Kissing Giantesses

So my cousin and her lovely wife Jane were at a pride parade being amazing in stilts and colorful costumes made by Regina Armenta when Jai Brooks captured this photo.

This was then turned into a painting by the talented Joan Cox.

This was in turn used as the cover for the cover of the Sep/Oct 2014 Lesbian Connection magazine.
And finally offered as a print, which I have since ordered.
And that’s the story of how it ended up on my wall. :^)

Mineral Wells for a day

We decided to take the day and head out to Mineral Wells.  The first stop was Mineral Wells Fossil Park.  It is a little tricky to get to.  The turnoff from 180 comes up quickly after the sign for Indian Creek.  You go down a bumpy road that turns into a dirt road and then you are there.  We go there and with no one around and had the whole place to ourselves for hours.  It had rained the day before, so the ground was still damp, but the surface rocks were easier to find.  The day was cool and overcast which was perfect for being out a while.  We found stacks of fossils, mostly Crinoid columns, lots of colored stones and deer tracks.  The girls loved it and it was hard to leave.

Our next stop was Mineral Wells State Park.  We made our way to Penitentiary Hallow up on a bluff where there are large rock walls, small canyons and caves to explore.  We had lunch and headed out.  We had a lot of fun and Abby is such a little daredevil, we need to keep pretty close to her.  It is a fine line between being and overprotective parent and just making sure your kids stay say when you are out there.  Things were going fine until Abby tripped and bruised up her leg.  Even that would have been fine, but I had brought my large flashlight (four cell) and had it zipped in my back pack.  I bent over to help and the damn light found the 4 inch opening I had left, slipped out and smacked her on the head.  Of course, it was the slightly sharper lens edge and gave her a little cut.  Some panic ensues, so I carry her up out of the spot we were in, mom takes her to clean her head and see what we are dealing with.  They come out and we decide it is not back enough to warrant going home just so we go back down, but to the lake this time where we mostly just sit up on a rock and look out over the water.

I felt horrible.  Watching that damn light fall on her head made me feel like an idiot.  She’s ok and the day was fine, but just dumb things like that put a huge wet blanket on an other wise perfect day.

We finished by going to the little shop there.  I got them each a little candy and we fed the ducks.  The drive back was fine with only a few arguments breaking out.  By then end, we were all worn out which was what I really wanted.

Down the Brazos

My father found out he has prostate cancer about four months ago.  As a result, he wanted to go down the Brazos river with his sons.  He had read the book “Goodbye to a River” and had talked about doing the trip with his dad, but did not get around to it before my granddad died.  So my brother and I put it together and headed out today.

We decided to keep it a little closer since we had not done anything like this before.  Travel tip, avoid Hillbilly Haven. While we did have fun, the price to value ratio was way off. $15 each adult for an uncovered tube and a REALLY rough ride to the drop off point. The bathroom facilities should have had dirt floors since the toilet seemed to be optional to some previous guests. I felt dirty just walking in and out. Next time I think we’ll do Rochelle’s.  I had spent the night there with my wife some months back when we headed out that way to camp without reservations.  Although the site was very primitive, the water was clear, cool and moving.  We had a great time there and I think it would be a fun time down the river.  Also, while I lathered on the sun screen, twice, and spent much of the time waist deep, I still got plenty toasted.

I also had a milestone while on the river, I finally wore a hole in my Vibram KSOs.  It is a small one and I am going to see if I can repair them, but it may be time to retire my first pair.

Time Off

A few months ago, my boss calls me in and tells me I have quite a bit of vacation left and that it needs to be used before the end of the year or I lose it.  Feeling like Richard Pryor in “Brewster’s Millions”, I start trying to spend a bunch of days.  I took most of them at the end of the year so from 11 am on Thursday December 23 until Jan 2, 2011, I have been off.  It has been weird to have so much time off; however, since I had so much time, we decided to do a family vacation.  Our first choice was to drive 16 hours to Arizona to see some friends and ring in the New Year with them.  Fate being fickle, they had an accident and we had to call that trip off.  I decided there was no reason to stay home since we were all set to jet and anything under 16 hours in the car was doable.  Since bad weather was heading north east, we headed due south.

For our family vacation we ended up in Burnet, TX.  The hotel stay was not great.  Low water pressure, hard bed and ongoing renovations blocking much of the parking lot made staying a drag.  Thankfully, we did not spend much time there.  Our first trip out was to Enchanted Rock.  If you have never heard of it, it is a huge out cropping of Texas pink granite.  I would suggest getting there early since it is very popular.  We arrived just after 10 am and there was a line to get in.  The largest rock goes up about 450 ft with a gentle slope most people can climb.  A few of our party had some vertigo going up, but I had to chase our youngest up since she apparently has no fear.  Once at the top, you can see for miles.  Texas is pretty flat so getting up a bit gives you a view a long way off.  Going down was not much easier.  We went off one of the sides to see a little more and get out money’s worth.  We arrived at a small alcove and had a snack, then heading down we went over an old rock slide with a creek running down.  I’m sure a trip out at night must be amazing.  It would love to be up there near the stars one time.

The monkey shoes made it.

 Life on a rock

The family

The original plan had been to go to the caverns the same day, but we had spent about three hours going up and down that massive rock, so we headed back to the hotel.  On the way back, we stopped at a roadside farm and got some local products, apple cider, honey and soap.  In Llano we got beef jerky, pralines and wine.  I wanted to eat out and go to the park near our hotel, but everyone else was a bit tired, so I went and brought food back.  The local food was not great.  There are signs all over for “Storms Famous Texas Food” which was about the same as a Braums without the ice cream and twice as expensive.  The next day was tex-mex and it was sub-par to the great restaurants we have around here.  

Heart shape in the branches

Later that evening, I took a walk to the town center which was closed up of course since it was a Wednesday after 5 pm.  There was one interesting feature though. There is a city block that is occupied by one or two churches. In between is Main Street Bethlehem.  Think Scarborough Faire meets christmas.  It is a pretty huge production which one would expect since this is Texas where our number one local product is churches.  I made my way to the park where they still had some christmas lights up.  I got a little Dairy Queen and head back to the room.  

 Season’s Greetings from Burnet, TX

 Beware of rabid snowmen!

Abandoned concrete bandstand in the park.

Our Next trip was to Longhorn Caverns.  The caves had been used at least 400 years ago by the local natives but hte park as it is today is available to us thanks to the socialist Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) .  I jest since my grandfather was a part of this project and we have many state parks thanks to the program.  Be aware, the “GPS directions” are a little off.  you need to head further south on Park Road 4 up a huge hill.  The map tries to put you somewhere in Inks Lake State Park.  The cavern was formed by running water, so it is a little different than other formed by water seeping in and dissolving the rock.  There are some unusual features like the Queen’s Watch Dog and Queen’s Throne.  The whole tour was about 1.5 hours and I made much of that carrying one child or another.  Deep in towards the end, it gets a little low and tight and feels a little claustrophobic, but everyone made it through ok.  We also saw a couple of tiny bats.  They used to fill the caverns, but stopped nesting there due to all the people going in and out.

“Queen’s Watchdog”


 Calcite crystals

 More crystals

 Rocky formations

 “Crystal City”

“Indian Counsel Room”

 My family underground.  Colored lights added.

 Entrance to caves

 Coming back out

 Brought to you by “socialist” programs

 Stone compass

View from the tower

So three days and two nights in tight quarters and strenuous conditions with the family. I really enjoyed the time we got to spend together with the mix of roughing it and modern conveniences.  One of the most useful tools we had were our phones with maps and interwebs and only lost service a couple of times in the most remote areas (or deep underground).  I look forward to more trips like this in the future.