Summer Days Out

This has been a fairly quiet summer for us. We’ve had no huge adventures, as we’ve recently had to replace both a minivan and our home HVAC system, leaving us with very little money for substantial trips. I have, however, had the chance to take each of our children out for a day on the town — a long-time family tradition that is always a great deal of fun.

Liam’s outing was first. I planned a day in San Antonio for us starting at the San Antonio Museum of Art. (We didn’t actually make it into the museum, but used it as a base of operations because their free parking lot left us more money for other things.) We strolled down the new Museum Reach, one of my favorite stretches of the Riverwalk, enjoying the sights, reveling in the engineering of the new locks, chatting with the guy who runs the Segway tours (he once knocked Steve Wozniak off a Segway), and taking turns snapping away with the camera. We eventually emerged at the Alamo, got a snow cone, and gave ourselves a tour of that historical site and its historical gift shop. A visit to the Guinness World Records Museum followed a hamburger lunch at Fuddrucker’s. (My mom used to take us to the original one at 410 & Broadway; it’s neat to see Liam’s youthful enthusiasm for the burger place mirror my own, and to once again enjoy a giant burger smothered in that awful/wonderful cheese sauce.) We eventually wandered back to the car and joined my brother and our friend Jonathan for a minor league baseball game, which was tremendous fun in spite of the Missions’ hideous uniforms. A visit to Herbert’s Puffy Tacos capped a terrific day.

Maggie’s outing was next. She had not only lobbied hard to go to Schlitterbahn, but had actually put together an elaborate schedule to make the most of our time there. (“We’ll go to Dragon’s Revenge first, because the line will be shorter. Then we’ll go on the crocodile river, because you don’t have to wait for that…”) With that kind of investment in the idea, I couldn’t refuse. The staff makes subtle tweaks to the various attractions each year, so it was fun to enjoy the usual pleasures of the park while watching for improvements. The lines were punishingly long at times, but Maggie didn’t seem to mind waiting while we played various games and chatted. It’s a great place, and we had a great time, as we always do.

Emily and I returned again to San Antonio for a visit with Paul Soupiset at Toolbox Studios. Paul is a tremendously talented artist/graphic designer, and in many ways a kindred spirit. The time there was great for Emily, as she got another glimpse of what life as an artist could look like, and great for me, as I got to enjoy the company of an old friend while we shadowed him through much of his work day and enjoyed lunch on the river. Later, Emily and I slipped over to the Rivercenter to see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (better than I expected), and then dropped by Target and Panda Express before catching a bit of Brave Combo at their summer concert in the park. I particularly enjoyed this outing, as Emily and I have had a pretty strained relationship at times in the past, but are enjoying each other’s company a good deal more these days. Knowing that she has only a year more before she’ll likely be moving out on her own, and that this is possibly the last all day outing I’ll have with her as a member of the household made it that much more bittersweet.

Abigail and I bucked the southward trend and headed to Austin. We started with a visit to Tacodeli, to which neither of us had been before, but which immediately catapulted itself into the upper ranks of our favorite places to eat. The Build-A-Bear workshop was next, where Abby chose a panda with a UT bandanna. (She was considering an A&M bandanna to torment her beau, who is a huge UT fan, but eventually decided on the path of peace.) After a bit of mall-wandering, we ended up at Dragon’s Lair, a terrific comics and games store. As I had expected, Abby was very excited by the Doctor Who toys there, and I enjoyed browsing the games with her, talking about GURPS stuff a bit, and pointing out the comics that my friend Ross publishes. We then had an outstanding Thai Lunch at Madam Mam’s, followed by a viewing of Inception at the Alamo Drafthouse, the best cinema in the free world. The last chapter in our romp was a visit to Town Lake Park, which has an extensive and beautiful walkway along the river. We enjoyed the sunset while watching dogs play, seeing the kayakers paddle by, and issuing sotto voce encouragements to the passing male joggers to invest in less revealing shorts.

Reflecting on these trips, I’m once again struck by how marvelously blessed Kathy and I are to have such terrific, interesting, distinct, engaging kiddos. While the demands of parenthood are great, so also are the rewards. I know this chapter of intense daily involvement with these amazing young people will eventually pass, but until that day comes, I’m awfully grateful to have opportunities like these to make the most of the time that we have.