Learning Notes– Texas Travelogue, Part 1

Learning Notes– Texas Travelogue, Part 1

Pensive Lucy on a plane.

Texas Travelogue Dec 9-19 2017

Technically this is not a learning notes post, but it sort of is: A day by day account of what we did in Texas, some of which was educational. Anyway, for some reason it’s the format my brain chose as being easiest to write and it satisfies me not to drop the learning notes completely, even if we left formal school work behind. I like to emphasize that for us learning is a way of life and sometimes that looks more like school lessons and sometimes not so much.

Saturday December 9

A very long day of travel. We woke early and left the house by 8. Our flight left Boston at 11:30 as the snow began to fall. (It was fun to see the de-icing of the plane.) We changed planes in Dallas and then had a short hop to Austin. With everyone recovering from our colds, the pressure change was brutal and there were many tears over the pain in ears that refused to clear. My own ear was hurting terribly, so I had a lot of sympathy with the little ones. Poor Ben had a sore ear that didn’t clear until the next morning. Mom and Dad met us at the airport in a rental van and we drove to my family’s favorite Mexican restaurant where we were met by my brother Tim and his wife. It was a jolly meal.

It took a long time to get the kids settled for bed. First they had to explore and run off a lot of energy. And then a not-unexpected night of bad sleep with the lingering cold symptoms: coughs, ear aches, etc. But the time change was on our side and that helped.

I forgot to bring any of our books with us so when it came time for bedtime stories I was afraid I’d have to rely on whatever my parents had. And then I had the brainstorm that we could read Howl’s Moving Castle as a vacation read aloud. It was a big hit and though the chapters were long we read at least part of a chapter every night and most nights the whole chapter. This did result in the children going to bed rather late. We were all off schedule in Texas.

Waiting for boarding.
Boys on the plane.
Buzzards on a tower welcoming us to Texas.

Sunday December 10

If we hadn’t gained an hour traveling westward I’m not sure we’d have made it to Mass. Mass was beautiful with lots of incense and Latin and a good homily. After Mass we wandered over to the parish school, which I attended from first to eighth grade. We couldn’t go into the buildings, of course, but we explored the grounds and the kids played on the playground.

After lunch at my parents’ house, I took the kids to the park, a brief walk from the house. While they played I dozed a bit on a bench and woke in surprise to find my brother and his wife had walked over to join us.

On our walk we discussed different plants and animals and rocks, a different landscape, ecosystem, new species. So we definitely got in our nature study.

At the church playground in their Sunday clothes.
Climbing Lucy.
Playground in church clothes.
My little brother Tim and his beautiful wife. I was dozing on the bench when he sat down right next to me and gave me a bit of a startle.
Bella at the park.
Children at the pond. It almost looks like a painting.
Across the scary bridge.
Scary bridge over the creek.

Monday December 11

We headed to Zilker Park to play on the fabulous playground and ride the Zilker Zephyr, a narrow-gauge railroad. The kids loved it. We had lunch at nearby Tex-Mex favorite, Chuy’s. After that back to the house for a quiet afternoon at home. Kids are loving the beautiful weather.

Boys on the Zilker Zephyr. The Christmas display in the tunnel at the end was the best.
Kids at Chuy’s.

Tuesday December 12

This morning’s outing to the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum with my Mom.

The centerpiece of the museum, recently unveiled, is the ship La Bella, which belonged to the French Explorer La Salle. The wreck was excavated in the Gulf of Mexico in 1995 and reconstruction was finally finished not very long ago. There was a volunteer docent who very helpfully told us a lot about the process, more than the explanatory placards and videos explained. There were many artifacts and the videos were well done.

We didn’t see everything in the museum, but focused on the exhibits which explored the founding of Texas, the war with Mexico, the Alamo, about which we watched a little video. Interested in the parallels with the American Revolution, which is a war we’re all much more familiar with. We enjoyed the hands-on section about the Native Americans and the buffalo with another volunteer, volunteer also told us a bit about the differences between Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar, the first two presidents of the Republic of Texas. We spent a bit of time on the cotton and the Civil War and the kids started fading. Then the 1936 World’s Fair in Dallas with a video about the fair and featuring a speech by FDR. Then a glance at the goddess from the state capitol building. Ended with WW2 and the space race and an exhibit about video games. We definitely skipped a lot of interesting things.

Lunch at Milto’s, a favorite Greek restaurant. Quiet afternoon at home ending the day at the playground for a playdate with a friend.

Giant map of Texas.
Sophie looks at the floor mosaic at the Bullock museum.
The reconstructed La Belle.
Hands-on buffalo artifacts.
Bullock Museum
Alamo movie.
Air and Space exhibit at the Bullock Museum.
Sophie tries on a cowboy hat at the museum gift shop.

Wednesday December 13

Lucy’s feast day. We needed a down day to rest and relax. And I’d promised that we’d have our usual feast day treats even in Texas. And that required a bit of planning and a special trip to the grocery store. So we stayed home and I baked special treats for everyone, allergy-friendly buns for Lucy and yeasty sweet bread for everyone else. The kids and I took a walk around the neighborhood. And then we had another lovely visit with my brother Tim and his wife, Amber.

Walking at the “Great Northern Dam” near my parents’ house.
Walking at the Great Northern Dam.

(to be continued)

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  • Isn’t it wonderful to travel!? Well, ok, some bits are bad, like ear pressure on planes! Still, such a gift to be able to take the family on such a journey 🙂

    • It really is. I wish I could figure out how to travel without illness. But oh it was so very very good to be home in Texas for a while. Five years was way too long between visits. And I’m so very grateful to my parents for making it possible. Such a gift! I have dreams of taking the whole crew to Europe, though realistically I have no idea how on earth we’d finance that. But I love travel and I so want to show them the world and also to see the world through their eyes. Being able to bring them to some of my favorite places in my hometown is a special kind of magic.

  • Next airplane trip have everyone with a cold use Afrin nasal spray a half hour before takeoff. Works like a charm every time!