Father’s Day at Mo Ranch

We spent this past weekend at Mo Ranch with First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, which Dad McMains and Lana attend. The church hosts an annual Father’s Day Weekend retreat, which Kathy and Emily and I first joined in very shortly after our wedding. That was exciting for me, as I had grown up attending various church camps at the ranch, and it has long been one of my favorite places on earth. Thus, the prospect of the trip itself was exciting, but was made even more so by the chance to introduce the younger kids to a site that is both so beautiful and personally meaningful.

The trip was great, and too full to really detail right now, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Getting to spend time and celebrate Father’s Day with a fairly broad swath of the extended family, all of whom we enjoy a great deal and none of whom we get to spend enough time with routinely. The kids all picked out nifty little succulents for me from the greenhouse as gifts to supplement my fledgling cactus garden, and Emily gave me an awesome Sam & Max lap board she had created in art class this year. We also presented Dad McMains with a rooster sculpture for their front yard renovation project, the smuggling of which involved a good deal of legerdemain and hijinx.
  • We took a direct route across the hill country, rather than sticking to the highway, and enjoyed lots of beautiful terrain along the way as well as a visit to Stonehenge II, a delightfully eccentric, typically Texan project wherein the English Stonehenge was reproduced at about half scale. While it was privately financed and remains on private property, it’s open to the public for visits. There are also two reproductions of Easter Island statues on the site. When they sighted them, the kids, who had recently watched Night at the Museum, delightedly shrieked “Dum Dum! It’s Dum Dum!”
  • Late night talk, music, and slightly-illicit wine while watching lightning and/or the stars. (Which, as advertised, are big and bright [clap clap clap clap] deep in the heart of Texas.)
  • Getting to do a rendition of Will the Circle be Unbroken with Lana, Tim (Meara‘s significant other who plays string bass) and new friend Margaret for the Talent/Variety Show. It went over quite well, though given that much of the rest of the show was kids lip-syncing and doing cartwheels, that’s probably somewhat faint endorsement. Chris apparently received several compliments for his (non-existent) part in the performance, which I told him was fine because I routinely take credit for ENT surgeries as well.
  • Showing the kids one of my favorite little science experiments: smuggling a cup of milk out of the cafeteria to the catwalk that spans a gorge, and then pouring drops of milk out to fall to the ground below. Because of the Bernoulli effect, the pressure on the sides of the droplets decreases as their velocity increases, causing them to “explode” fairly spectacularly about halfway through their fall.
  • I took a couple of early morning walks before the rest of the family was awake, enjoying the opportunity to explore the bits that have been added to the Ranch since I had visited, to reacquaint myself with the more venerable sections, and to see the various fauna that was out foraging for their own breakfasts.
  • Walking a labrynth for the first time. With Maggie and Liam along, it wasn’t a totally contemplative time, but interesting none the less.
  • Playing in the river with the family. The slide and the “rapids” — a shallow, limestone-bottomed section of the river where the water has carved a variety of beautiful channels and pools — were among the best parts. I especially enjoyed showing the girls how, if you sit very still in one of the pools for a few minutes, the minnows and small fish will come up and start nibbling on your arms and legs, eliciting delighted giggles.

It was a wonderful time, and one I hope we can reprise annually. Thanks to the Mo Ranch and First Pres folks for putting it all together!