A Frightful Camping Story

Growing Up Austin

Here are a few highlights from our family’s first camping trip together (plus one, with Noel’s friend too). We went to Neal’s Lodges in Concan, Texas last weekend, the weekend before Halloween. Blue Eyes says that, since we stayed in a cabin, we can’t call it camping, but I cooked on a fire twice, so I think it counts. Some would say I should have known this campground would be a little different, since Neal’s Lodges’ web site had a picture of two grown men dressed like Kiss on motorcycles, but hey, it was Halloween, right?

Neal's Lodges, Concan Texas

Photo courtesy of Neal’s Lodges

We arrived on Friday night and the girls had fallen asleep on the drive.  When we got to the cabin, I laid down with them, we were all snuggly and they were falling back to sleep when we heard heavy metal music blaring, followed by people screaming.

I explained to the girls that it wasn’t real. Neal’s Lodges was having Haunted Hayrides for older kids on Halloween weekend. It was all pretend, like a play or a TV show. The girls were partially convinced and it would have been fine, it the cycle didn’t repeat every twenty minutes. But it wasn’t too bad, as long as I stayed with them, it just took longer to get back to sleep.

The next morning Sparkles DOMINATED our hike. There were boulders along the side of a hill on the banks of the Frio River and Sparkles charged the hill like a girl on a mission to conquer a new land. She was focused and brave, a little too brave for me, as I followed and stayed close. She was also not impressed by all the long sleeve shirts and pants I packed. She wore her bathing suit bikini top, the one pair of shorts I packed and her cowboy boots. She was amazing.

On Saturday night, Neal’s had a dance, face painting and a costume contest. Blue Eyes, Sparkles, Buttercup and I all wore Wizard of Oz costumes. We were walking to the dance, with Buttercup leading the way, dressed as Dorthy. She was half-skipping, half-running, like three-year-olds do and the path she was taking looked a little like a yellow brick road. Being the Wicked Witch of the West, I felt compelled to raise my arms and make my hands look like claws and run after Dorthy, making scary witch screams. Dorthy/Buttercup laughed and ran faster and I chased faster and she ran faster and the other campers saw us and laughed. We might have won the performance art costume contest, if there was one. At the end of the path, Buttercup stopped laughing and turned around to look at me. She got serious and said, “I don’t want to play that again, Mommy.” I said, “OK.” She said it again, with all the seriousness she could manage, “I DO NOT want to play that again, Mommy.” I said, “DEFINITELY NOT” and we definitely DID NOT. I picked her up, gave her a kiss and carried her to the dance.

Neal’s had trick-or-treating for the kids, with the participating cabins marked on a map. The cabins were decorated and the people were in elaborate costumes. Then we walked up to one cabin, where we saw a very tall man on stilts peeing in the bushes, which is somehow funnier when the man is on stilts. Then someone said, “Kids are coming! Kids are coming!” in a tone of voice so I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the man peeing or maybe something else is going on too. There were a lot of people outside the cabin, it was a party really, where all the women were dressed in super sexy costumes. They realized they were out of candy and the super sexy nurse felt bad, so she went inside and brought out two Dr. Peppers for the girls.

On Sunday, we went to Garner State Park and hiked to the Crystal Cave. This time, it was Buttercup’s turn to DOMINATE. She kept low on the uphill climb, using her hands when it helped and charging forward with determination. This wasn’t the most ideal hike for a three-year-old who doesn’t always look where she is going, since it had elevation and it dropped off some on one side. But I kept close and she didn’t slow down until we got to the cave. The was magical, with itty-bitty crystals that sparkled in the light of the flash light.

I’ll always remember this moment. The little girls slept in the same room as Blue Eyes and I. Buttercup, my sweet Dorthy, woke up on Sunday morning and said, as clear as day, before she lifted her head off the pillow, “There’s no place like home. There’s is no place like home.” She said it twice instead of three times, but it worked anyway. We made it back to Austin, with great memories of our first family camping trip.


A Princess Picnic

Growing Up Austin

Sometimes it isn’t the fancy vacation or an expensive toy. Sometimes it is the dress-up clothes and an impromptu picnic, a special moment between sisters, that make me smile the most.


Top Five Activities at Laguna Gloria’s Second Saturday for Families

Growing Up Austin - Laguna Gloria

I can’t decide which of the many parts of Second Saturdays For Families at Austin Museum of Art’s Laguna Gloria location (11-3, $10 per family) is the best, there is so much to choose from.

5. Arts-and-crafts – It isn’t your everyday arts-and-crafts when the project’s theme is influenced by the current art exhibit and a professional artist is there to share ideas. This Saturday, June 9, the kids will build dancing wire sculptures and learn about balance, parts of the body and the way they fit together.

4. Move Your Body – Now and then, there is a free yoga-type class for the kids, so you can exercise your body and your mind. This Saturday, Miss Joan, with Creative Dance Adventures, will lead a dance class at 1pm.

Growing Up Austin - Laguna Gloria

3. Move Your Mind – The Laguna Gloria museum is perfect for kids because there is art indoors and out and it is right-sized for their attention span.

Growing Up Austin - Laguna Gloria

2. Hike the trails – You can walk the pretty trails behind the museum, through the trees and along the shore of Lake Austin. Sometimes you will even find an art piece hidden within the trees.

1. See the birds – Walk a few steps East and you’ll be in Mayfield Park where you can see pretty gardens and real-live peacocks.

Growing Up Austin - Laguna Gloria

My girls and I enjoyed all of this the other day, but after all that, they had the idea to play Duck-Duck-Goose on the front lawn. I didn’t know you could play Duck-Duck-Goose with only three people, but I imagine you can do a lot of things, if you don’t get caught up in the details.

I enjoyed doing both with my girls that day, the fancy art and the silly running in circles. If this sounds like fun, check it out this Saturday. Also check out AustinKidsDraw.com for more ideas on Seeing Art and Doing Art with your kids.