Friday, July 31, 2009

Closing of my elementary school

I heard on this news this past week that my elementary school is targeted to be shut down. I am saddened by this news. I attended Mary F. Huppertz located on the westside of San Antonio. I know from experience that if a school is targeted to be shut down, there is nothing that can be done. It is a victim of the numbers game. I fought hard to keep my daughter's pre-school Holy Rosary Catholic school open. That school was located next to St. Mary's University where I attended college.

I fought the good fight. I wrote articles why the school should be kept open. I was interviewed by the St. Mary's University Rattler newspaper. I met with the principle. I was fighting to keep the school open for my babies. I had seen the results in my older kids. I had planned on sending all of my kids to pre-school there. The school closed a few years ago. Now my elementary school is next!

As seen in the media reports the San Antonio Independent school district is not immune to the economic problems facing all Americans. The school district is trying to consolidate some schools and close others. The problem is that a lot of inner city schools are being forgotten about. Young families are moving out of the inner city and into the suburbs. The population of the inner city is becoming a population of senior citizens. There is no growth . All of the growth is outside of loop 1604. They inner city therefore becomes forgotten.

I am sad to see Huppertz closing. I still remember the principle Mrs. Anderson. I remember my P.E Coach Mr. Brown. I have fond memories of my 1st and 2nd grade teachers Mrs.Neely and Mrs. Passmore. I remember my 3rd grade teacher Mrs.Hill (My ears still hurt from my ears getting pulled. Was that legal?) I was in choir with Mrs Moczygamba. I remember the playground and the cafeteria. I lived close enough that I was able to walk home after school.

All of these teachers had a chance to mold me into the person that I am today. I will always carry the memories of this school with me forever.

I miss my lunchbox!

Do kids know the value of hard work?

My dad gave me a book a couple of years ago for Christmas. When I unwrapped it I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was his memoirs. In one of his chapters he discusses how his mother used to take him as a boy to the cotton fields of South Texas. There my dad and his mother picked rows and rows of cotton. They would get picked up each morning and ride in the back of a pick up truck and then get dropped off at their destination.

Picking cotton was back-breaking work according to my dad. He would have to carry around a bag of cotton that almost weighed as much as him. It really got me thinking how spoiled some of us are. I feel guilty working in an air conditioned office. I have been working in and out of different offices for the past 15 years. I often work bell to bell. That is nothing compared to doing hard labor in the hot South Texas cotton fields. I know a lot of Americans work outdoors as laborers. It also got me thinking about how some kids don't know the value of hard work. How some kids expect everything to be handed to them.

Do the kids of today know the value of hard work? I'm not sure. I know if my kids want something they have to earn it. My kids can earn money by bringing home good grades and by also helping around the house. We have been very fortunate, my kids have been bringing home good grades every grading period. They earn a allowance from getting good grades. It is enough to get the things that they need.

There are several things that we can do to teach our kids a good work ethic. According to the website Xomba there are 7 tips for teaching a good work ethic:

  1. Homework- Since homework is a daily task, strive to have your child complete all of it, including the studying (which for some unknown reason, kids nowadays do not consider as "homework"). Explain that finishing the work completely in a reasonable amount of time leaves them free to pursue other interests.
  2. Give them reasonable chores- As soon as your child is able, let them participate. Most kids love to clean. More than anything, they love to please their parents. Let your children feel this sense of accomplishment and participation on a regular basis.
  3. Take your child to your own work.-Parents have to work. Try taking your child to your own work. Explain that you have to report there during certain hours and exactly what you do each day. Not only does this let your child know were you spend your days, it also brings a better appreciation for the hard work of parents. This is a great time to explain that work is a part of every day, just like eating, sleeping and playing.
  4. Praise successes.-Nothing keeps a child coming back for more than praise from Mom and Dad. Thank-you for a job well-done and big hugs for hard work are the key to encouraging your child to continue trying to please you. Praise builds up their self-esteem and encourages them to continue striving to do their best.
  5. Fair share-Make sure you provide a reasonable amount of tasks in relation to other family members, especially other children. The lesson from regular tasks is not to build resentment. It's to encourage your child to complete a task from start to finish.
  6. Routine-You might feel varying the weekly or monthly routine of tasks for your child is great. But check with your child first. Some kids just don't care for change very much. Kids like familiarity and it helps them to know exactly what parents expect from them.
  7. Have your child choose his work- Including a child in planning and doling out the family chores helps build their sense of responsibility. The get to have an active role in the home. This empowers them to look more positively at their own tasks and strive to complete them well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Special thanks to all of you!

Just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone. Thanks for the words of encouragement. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy day to read my posts. With a blog it it gives you the liberty to write about anything. With a blog you will find your own voice and style. The reader will see who you are. You can see who I am with mine. I am in charge. I don't have to answer to anyone. I guess I do have to answer to my wife when she says to shut down the computer and get to bed.

Thanks to all of my daughters for providing the inspiration for some of my posts. I also need to thank my brothers, sisters and parents. With a huge extended family there are stories galore to write about. I encourage everyone to start a blog. We all have a story to tell. I'm sure some of you guys have more to say than I do. If you start a blog it just needs to stay current. Once or twice a week is fine. I just like to unwind after work and just type away.

Once you start a blog and become really dedicated, it is addicting. Of course you should not forget about your family and just keep to your blogs. I usually give myself about 30-45 minutes once the kids are asleep. This way I give my daughters my full attention when I get home from work. I then turn off the computer and give my wife attention (behave!).

I hope to cover more issues that will keep you guys interested. If you create a blog, let me know I would love to follow yours.

I'm a big fan of Calvin and Hobbs (Special thanks to Bill Watterson)

Till next time

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where is my flying car?

I have always been a big fan of Science Fiction. I watch everything from Star Trek to Star Wars. From Stargate Atlantis to Battlestar Galactica. If there has ever been a Science Fiction movie ever made, I have seen it. I am just fascinated by technology. I was about five years old when we first went to the moon. I used to have a toy lunar lander that my parents bought me. Ever since then I have been fascinated with space travel and NASA.

I know that back in the 60's I saw TV shows about flying cars , robots, ray guns. Where is all of this technology that was promised to us? I am not even sure if the jetpack has been perfected.

According to in the article 'The top 10 inventions needed" by Mary Bellis I am in agreement with her on all of the inventions she mentions. Some of the things I think we need now are the following:

1.Transporter- San Antonio traffic. Need I say more?
2.Replicator- We could order any food item or drink that we want. I would probably ask for the Chris Madrid Chedder Cheesy burger.(San Antonio burger joint)
3.Flying car- If I must drive in San Antonio I want to be able to bypass all of the tailgaters and broken stoplights.
4.Fountain of Youth - I'm not sure if I would want a drink from this. I know I would want to stay young. I'm not sure what age I would want to stay. Do I want to be a kid or do I want to stay my current age? Do I want to be the same age as my kids? Do I want my kids to drink from this? I would need more information.
5.Time Machine- I would love to go back in time and visit some events or people in history.
I think there might be a version of some type of flying car already. Probably very pricey. Oh well , maybe my kids or grandchildren might be able to try one of these inventions when I am gone. Sigh!
Read more from the Mary Bellis article

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Caught in the middle

My job was saved last December. My company went through some massive downsizing. The ironic thing is that I find myself stretching every dollar as far and wide as I can. I survived about three rounds of layoffs. I am grateful for that. What happened is that in different industries anyone who survived job layoffs took a big cut in pay to stay on. You hear and read about it everyday on all the media outlets.

I was talking to my wife about this tonight. We are one of those American families who are caught in the middle. We are breaking even. We don't qualify for any financial assistance because we make too much. Gone are the days of the disposable income. So we are caught in the middle inside today's America. Too rich to be poor. Yet too poor to be rich. Sounds like a country western song.

About a year ago things were very comfortable. Living the life of luxury I'm sure like many of you did before all the bailouts started to occur. Right now I worry if my kids are getting enough to eat. I worry if I have enough food in the refrigerator. I worry if I have enough food in the pantry. I work hard. I am a good employee. My wife works hard. We do without a lot of things. I do without a lot of things.

My kids have had to do without a lot of things that other kids might have. They have always had hand me down clothes since I have a lot of nieces. There is nothing wrong with that. This summer we found a cheap volleyball camp for my daughter that was a month long. She was happy about that. What hurts is that you see some of these backyards that have not only a large trampoline but they also have a nice looking wooden swing set. I wonder how some of these people afford this stuff. My little ones ask me when they can have one of those. I don't have an answer for them. My little ones ask me when we can go on vacation. I don't have an answer for them.

Daddy does not know when he will be able to afford a lot of things. I just hope and pray that we have no major mechanical problems with one of the cars or a major a medical expense. People caught in the middle are just breaking even. People talk about how different generations are supposed to be doing better than the generation before them. I don't believe this is the case with a lot of families. These are different times.

A job is suppose to give us a safety net. A job is suppose to give us comfort. A job is supposed to give us hope. I wonder how a lot of families like us caught in the middle are supposed to send their kids to college. I have no idea.

What is sad is that my older daughter realizes that we cannot do a lot of things that her cousins do. Like the trooper that she is she helps us by explaining to my little ones that they have to sit tight. She tells them to hold on. She is right. I expect things to rebound. We cannot put them in YMCA or in different camps. That is not possible. We are rich when it comes to giving them plenty of love. We are a close family. We are fortunate that everyone is in the A-B honor roll. We agree that an education is important. Maybe they can get a scholarship and keep pursing their education like their parents.

We are blessed in so many ways. The girls love their parents. They are smart. They listen. The little ones don't necessarily know the difference about being rich or poor. My heart breaks for my older daughters who know this has to do with the economy. I think my faith and my prayers keep me going. For some reason someone up above has always watched over my family. One day I will give my kids that trip to Disneyland that they so deserve. I will give them that trampoline and swing set that they deserve. I will give my wife that trip to Vegas or to Mexico that she so deserves. I am determined.

Are you caught in the middle?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Missing you 1980's video games!

I am missing my 1980's video games. There were some real fun video games back then. We used to go out for lunch my Senior year in high school. We would go to the local mall and play video games for lunch. So what if we went hungry the rest of the day. We were having fun. Some real cool video games debuted in the 1980's.

Some of the cool video games from the 1980's I remember playing quite a bit are as follows:

1.Moon Patrol -What was the goal here? You and a buddy cruise around in a moon vehicle and look for trouble?
2.Time Pilot - One of my personal favorites from the 1980's. You are a fighter pilot going against different planes and jets from various decades.
3.Galaga- You command a spaceship and you avoid aliens taking shots at you. The challenging stages are real fun.
4.Donkey Kong- Need I say more?
5.Missile Command- There was no joystick. Just a ball that was hard to control.
6.Tempest- This game had a cool knob that you twist. You are shooting at enemies at a distance and try to get them before they get you.
7.Defender -Space game. Aliens vs you.
8.Star Wars- The original game.
9.Super Breakout - Too cool.
10.Paperboy- You ride a bike and deliver the paper. You try and hit targets including people.
There are too many to mention. Oh well. I can keep reminding myself of how fun these games were. I wouldn't mind have my own personal Tempest machine!

Friday, July 24, 2009

My daughter is the Queen of texting

I bought my 6th grader a cell phone a couple of months ago. She is a very good student. She is in the A-B honor roll every year. I wanted to buy her a cell phone and add her to my plan. I figured this was a good reward for her passing all of her Texas mandated Taks tests this past year. She had also been asking me when she could have a cell phone.
I sat her down and told her with a cell phone comes responsibility. Not all kids are mature enough to handle their first cell phone. I believe my daughter can handle this responsibility with ease. I'm sure all of you parents have had the same talk with your daughters that cover some of the basics. Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Texting boys not allowed. Always answer when a parent calls .Always reply when a parent sends a text or email. After all , having a cell phone means there better be a prompt reply from your child. I also bought her a cell phone in case there is an emergency. She can contact me or my wife at work. She can also contact any one of her many aunts and uncles should something come up.

These kids are setting the world on fire with texting. At least my daughter is. We are talking Guinness book. For the first month my daughter racked up over 6,000 texts. Is this possible? I have not even come close to 6,000 texts. I don't think I ever will. I started asking myself who is she texting ? What can they be texting about?

I want to believe that middle school kids are pretty much texting about the latest 'Twilight," or "Harry Potter" movie. I want to believe that kids are also texting about TV shows like Hannah Montana or the latest Jonas Brothers song. I have witnessed my two older daughters texting each other while in the same room! They can't talk to each other across the room. They have to text each other? I have not received my cell phone bill this month but I'm thinking that my daughter will top out over 7,000 texts for the month of July.

OK. So how am I going to decrease and monitor my daughter's texting? Good question. I know my cell phone carrier offers parental controls to monitor not only the minutes used but also who can text my daughter. A parent can go on to your cell phone carrier's website and block unwanted incoming text messages from selected phone numbers. So parents are in the drivers seat when it comes to total control of your child's cell phone. Why not use this feature. Its free and it will probably save a parent heartache. I'm not sure if all parents actually go through their child's cell phone but all parents should be doing this. We should be going through the texts. I try to do this at least once a week. I also try and familiarize myself with the latest texting shortcuts that kids might be using.

I knew right off the bat that I did not want my daughter to have picture mail or the Internet. I did not want to mess with these two options. I have read so many horror stories about teens sending nude pictures to each other. I knew going in that picture mail was not going to be an option for my daughter. After a month of getting used to her cell phone my daughter asked me if I can fix her picture mail. I trust my daughter with her picture mail but I'm not sure I trust some of the kids at her Junior High. I think parents should also disable the Internet from their teens cell phones. Why would a teenager need the Internet on their cell phone? If my daughter needs the Internet she can come home and use it on the home computer where I can monitor.
I think all parents should encourage kids to put the phones away at some point during the day and just talk to their parents. Put the cell phones away and interact with your brothers and sisters. I think that if both parents are home the cell phones should be off. I think if the entire family is home nobody should have a cell phone on including parents. The home is for family. After a hard day at the office I want to know about my daughter's day. I want to tell her about my day. I want to find out about my wife's day. I know when I am driving my family around I'm pretty sure I hear some buttons getting pushed on somebody's cell phone. I have a new rule that there is to be no texting in the car . I also advise my daughter to turn off her cell phone before bedtime. I do not need anyone texting her during the night.

So far so good. I think I am getting my daughter's texting under control. I'm hoping to get her texting levels under 5,000 texts a month. I have a unlimited texting plan but that is not the point. I know we will need to take baby steps. Do I sound controlling? Probably. But as a parents we have to be. I don't want to be a parent that gives his child a cell phone and lets the cell phone become the baby sitter. I do not want that. What is funny is that I have a four and a six year old and I'm sure that they are watching very closely. They have their little toy phones that they play with. They can text on those all they want! They are watching to see how my older daughter uses and handles her cell phone. They are studying every movement. They are checking to see what she gets away with. I'm sure my younger ones can't wait to get their hands on their own cell phones. I'm sure the cell phones of the future will allow them to reach the 10,000 text a month level with ease. I think parent's will have their work cut out for them with these high tech phones of the future. My daughter is already asking me when she can have a Facebook account. The saga continues.

Do you really have to tailgate!

I am really tired of tailgaters on the road. I am not talking about the tailgating that happens in a parking lot before a UT Football game. Why does one have to tailgate? What about the people that tailgate and text at the same time? Do you have a deathwish? I normally drive the speed limit or faster depending on how early or late I am . But I really believe San Antonio has some of the worst drivers in the country. I'm sure many of you will agree.

I am talking about the people that tailgate on the road every morning. Is it necessary to tailgate? I am tailgated by men and women of all ages. Do these drivers have to get right up on my butt? Did anyone ever pay attention in driver's education about the proper following distance? You know who you are!

I can't believe that some of the tailgaters I run into are women. I have even been tailgated by women putting on makeup at the same time! I will never do anything intentional because I always have kids in the car. In fact I will move out of the way for you Mr or Mrs Tailgater! Some drivers don't even care if there are kids in the car. They will still tailgate you.

I have not even mentioned about people who swerve in and out of traffic. Don't get me started.

I feel better now. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Going a few rounds with Mia and Sofie's room

I have determined that I am in a losing battle with Mia and Sofie's room. I would say that they have close to a hundred stuffed animals. Several board games too. They also have a lot of those darn Happy Meal toys. These Happy Meal toys can be located in the house if you look hard enough. Open several of the drawers in the kitchen you will probably find some Happy Meal toys in there. I just figured out what Happy Meal toys are good for. They are good to step on and hurt yourself.

Mia and Sofie share a room together. Their closet is a place where their old toys and clothes hang out together. These clothes and toys are organized sometimes and other times mixed together like some sort of tossed salad. Their closet is a hiding place for them too.

Items you can find on the floor Mia and Sofie's room.

1. Crayons
2. Hair ties
3. McDonald's toys
4. Old coloring book pages
5. Old candy wrappers
6. Kids sunglasses
7. Clothes
8. Stuffed animals
9. Littlest Pet Shop junk.
10. Stickers from different sticker books (Don't get me started on these!)

I have tried to pick up the toys and put them in their place. I have tried to pick up clothes off the floor and put them back on hangers and in drawers. We have even tried to donate some of their gently used toys to charity. Somehow these toys and stuffed animals find their way back to the house.

Mia and Sofie's room will not make any children's magazines for best decorated or anything like that. But messy or clean, their rooms are where they are most happiest. I was most happiest in my room growing up too. I guess I will always be picking up here and there. But for the most part, their rooms will be their own little safe messy getaways.
PS The kids room pictured above is purely fantasy and does not exist...Just kidding I'm sure there are rooms out there somewhere like this one. Just not in our house.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Searching for my roots

For the longest time I had wanted to trace my ancestry. In my dad's memoirs he does a good job of providing documents on our ancestry. I knew my family came over from Mexico and had originated in Spain. I know tracing one's ancestry can be very difficult and confusing at times. But enquiring minds want to know! I also want to be able to tell my kids where the family came from. In a time where we live in a fast paced society its nice to slow down and reflect on how we all got here. Without trying to confuse myself too bad, this is what I have found.

Great Grandparent ( Lenor's Parents)
Eleno Martinez/Juanita LLamas
Villa de Noriega Nuevo Leon Mexico

Great Grandparent (Carmen's Parents)
Segundino Arguello/Ambroisa Torres
Lampasos Nuevo Leon Mexico

Grandparent (Paternal)
Carmen Arguello/Leonor Martinez LLamas
Carmen born 1900-Lampasos Nuevo Leon Mexico
Leonor born 1900-Villa de Noriega Nuevo Leon Mexico

I wanted to thank my dad for keeping such good records for us. I am very humbled looking at my Grandparents immigration paper work and Alien Registration cards. I see from these cards that they entered the U.S from Laredo Texas in 1906. To think that they came to this country looking for a better life. They came here in search of the American dream that some of us have and some of us are still searching for.I never had a chance to meet any of them. I think I was a baby when my last remaining Grandparent was still around. I wonder what they were like. I think my dad would carry around some of their mannerisims. I think I would too. I would love to talk to them today. I wish I could. I would tell them how thankful I am. How thankful that they decided to make a better life for us. How it has not been a easy thing to do. But we have done our best.

I would like to think that my Grandparent's and Great-Grandparent's would be proud of all of our accomplishments. I think they would be proud of all of my brothers and sisters and all of our families. I know they would love seeing all of the kids. I just want them to know that day in 1906 when they crossed the bridge in Laredo Texas was not in vain. That crossing set off a chain of events that led to their reward. We are the end result . We are their rewards. Each one of my brothers and sisters have been big contributors to our society and to their legacy. Now trying to find my mother's side of the family...Yikes....

Friday, July 17, 2009

One more Anniversary item!

I came across this poem that my dad wrote for my mom. He wrote it back in 2003 for their 44th Wedding Anniversary. My wife said that I should have read it at my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary. I will try to leave it in its original form. Here it is.

"My dearest darling a long time ago I lived in a poor neighborhood. The barrio was my home , better known as the hood. Gangs, knives, were common those days and I never knew if I would live to survive another day.

Then one bright and sunny day you happened to come my way.You changed my life and you took me away.What you saw in me I'll never visualize. What I saw in you was an angel in disguise.

When you are young at heart it's hard to realize that one day in the future you would be my wife. When you are but a teen it's hard to understand that god set you aside to be my queen.

You gave me the inspiration that I never had. You gave me the courage to see what's ahead. You gave me the class that best fits you.

You gave me your love and nine kids too.

You have guided my life all through the years, during moments of joy and moments of tears. I've had a thousand jobs. It's been a hassle just to accomplish my dream to build you a castle.

I could never repay you for the things you have done for me. The castle is our castle for now and eternity."

I think this poem is an example of their love and the bond that they have even today. I think the kids and the family are what holds everything together.

Very nice! (In my Borat voice)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A four year old daughter's list of questions

I ride to work everyday with my four year old daughter. She goes to the daycare right next to my work. I think I have answered just about every question that a four year old girl can ask. I don't claim to have the right answer all the time, but it is fun answering all of her questions. My work is located on the outskirts of the Hill Country. So along the way we run into farm animals as well as wild animals. We take some cool winding roads too. So without further adieu, presenting :

Sofie's list of daily questions (the ones I remember!)

1. Do you have any gum? (This is usually the first question)

2. Why are those two cows wrestling? (We pass alot of cows along the way and they are not wrestling if you know what I mean!)

3. Is the sun awake and the moon asleep? (Lucky I took a little astronomy in college.)

4. When I grow up will I go to a big school? (Common question I expect.)

5. The kids at daycare are mean to me. ( I tell her to let her teacher know.)

6. Which cloud is "Mamo" grandma on. (She passed away a year ago.)

7. Can I go to grandma's house instead of school? ( Her other grandma's house.)

8. Did you see that dog in the middle of the road? (It was a coyote)

9. Dad I'm keeping an eye out for policemen so you do not get a ticket. (I have her trained.)

10. Can we stop at McDonald's on the way home? ( We pass one every day)

I will keep you posted as I get them!

q8yr9gjf4n (Sorry I need this for technorati)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spurs getting back into "NBA title" shape

I am encouraged and hopeful about the Spurs off-season moves. I had read in the local paper that the Spurs lineup for 2009-2010 would be different. I love my Spurs. I have silver and black flowing through my veins. I was getting tired of the Spurs playoff hopes riding on a Manu Ginobili.

Gone are Fabricio Oberto, Kurt Thomas and Bruce Bowen. Oberto spent much of last season suffering from atrial fibrillation or a irregular heart rhythm. His playing time was very limited as a result of his heart problem. Kurt Thomas was another big bodied player that saw his minutes diminish during last years playoffs. Bruce Bowen will one day have his Spurs jersey retired and it will soon hang from the AT&T rafters with the rest of the Spurs greats. I will miss Bruce Bowen's "in your face" defense.

The Spurs brought in scoring forward Richard Jefferson, forward Antonio Mcdyess and the 37th pick Dejuan Blair from Pitt. Blair earned co-Big East player of the year honors. The Spurs also added a former lottery pick in Marcus Haislip, a forward-center who will add some depth to the Spurs backcourt.

Don't forget Duncan, Parker and Ginobili teaming up with this new group. These are all hopeful signs. It tells me that Spurs owner Peter Holt is investing in the team's future. It also does not hurt if the Spurs win another championship or two along the way.

Go Spurs Go!!!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Parents Wedding Anniversary. Post party thoughts.

The party is over. That was alot of work. A special thank you to my brothers and sisters that planned the party.
From the renting of the hall to the caterer. It all turned out well and very classy. My parents were very happy with everything. Yeah it was a late night. But it was well worth it.

The food was great. My daughter Sofie was a "hit" on the dance floor. I was a little nervous with the toast but I survived ( I needed my teleprompter like Obama!)

Is it just me or do most people leave right after the food, toast and cake?

Lots of pictures posted on my Facebook page.
Clean up was no fun :(
There were lots of leftovers. We were eating enchiladas, rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Government Canyon State Natural Area. San Antonio's hidden gem.

Hidden deep in northwest San Antonio is a secret gem that not too many people know about. A gem so rare that many locals are too busy to take the time to search for it. And yet it is right under their nose. It will relieve stress from a tough day at the office. It will let your kids blow off some steam. Government Canyon State Natural Area is located on 12861 Galm road just outside of loop 1604. The park offers several hiking, biking and running trails. According to the web site Government Canyon is located on 88% of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. The park is also a habitat for the Golden Cheeked Warbler and Karst invertebrates. There are several hiking trails for all kinds of people. For the casual hiker the front country of the park offers Savannah Loop as well as Lytle loop. If you are an advanced hiker, mountain biker or runner Wildcat Canyon, Sendero Balcones or the Joe Johnston route is for you.

Savannah Loop is a family friendly trail that offers hiking, biking, and running for all ages. This trail is 2.3 miles of Spanish moss and native Texas plants and trees such as Mountain Laurel, Ashe Juniper, Mesquite and Live Oak. If you look hard enough you might see a fossil or two located on these winding trails and dry creek beds. I recently took my kids on this trail and the kids had a blast. With my walking stick in hand and plenty of water we navigated our way through the winding trails occasionally stopping to gaze at the majestic Spanish moss trees. On this trail we ran into some people walking their dogs and some people choosing to mountain bike instead of hike. There is a bathroom located next to the parking lot right at the beginning of the trail in case the kids need to go before the hike. Don’t forget to put your trail permit in the drop box located at the trail head so the park staff can be aware of who is hiking.

The Wildcat Canyon trail is located in the back country of the park. This trail is 1.67 miles. This is the more difficult terrain which would be ideal for the more advanced hiking enthusiast. According to the Texas Hill Country Magazine (Summer 06 issue), the Wildcat Canyon trail takes the hiker or biker on a twisting trail that meanders down through the Wildcat Canyon Creek. On the other side, the grade steepens and you are taken up out of the canyon into the hills on the eastern side of the park. The other trails are more difficult and longer such as Sendero Balcones 4.5 miles and Joe Johnston 3.9 miles.

If you are tired out from your hike you can go into to the Recharge Park Store and relax and take in some of the items for sale. T-Shirts, biking accessories, caps, hiking sticks, educational books as well as energy bars and drinks are for sale. There are also vending machines on the property. Cost per person is $6.00 for 13 years and older. Kids are free. The park is open to the public Friday through Monday 7am-10pm. The park is currently under a burn ban. Visitors must bring their own self contained propane unit.

Government Canyon would also be a great resource for different businesses. It would be great for companies looking for team building exercises such as hiking. Businesses can meet at the pavilion or the exhibit hall. Just to get away from the office for a day and escape the stress would be beneficial for all employees especially during the tough economic times. We all can use a little escape.

For additional information please contract Government Canyon at 210-688-9055

P.S There are other hidden secrets out there. You will have to twist a employee's arm to find out the rest.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Buffer Zone Please

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I am the one with the problem. Every now and then this will happen. I go into a movie theater. I am the only one in the movie theater. Plenty of seats everywhere. Why does a stranger find it appealing to sit next to me in an empty movie theater? What about sitting a few seats behind me please? If I move seats that would be rude. Does this guy not know the buffer zone rule? If I walk into a movie theater and I see one person in there, I will not sit by this other person. If this person is near the front of the movie theater I am moving to the back. That's just me.

The other thing that bugs me is when I am in the restroom. Dude if I am in a stall and the bathroom is empty don't come sit in the stall right next to me. Give me some space. Do the courteous thing and leave the stall in between us empty. Don't come and sit next to me! There needs to be a buffer zone.

These are just my thoughts. Come on, give me a little breathing room.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A mother's hands

I will always be a little boy when it comes to my mother. I think there is nothing wrong with that. I am willing to bet all men, no matter how old they are, feel this way. I know my kids will always be my babies even when they are a little older. They will always be daddy’s girls.

I go to church every Sunday with my daughters. We sit next to my parents. I see my mother’s wrinkled hands as she touches mine to greet me. Her wrinkled hands bring back many childhood memories of those hands taking care of me, my brothers and sisters.

I could not help but notice my mother’s hands and what they have been through. What kind of life those hands have had. My six year old sat next to my mom at church. As I glanced over I noticed my six year old daughter playing with my mom’s wrinkled old hands. I see my daughter navigating the wrinkles and veins of my mother’s hands with her tiny little fingers. My six year old has the softest hands. When her hands touch my hands I feel like an angel is touching me. You can feel the soft little tap of her fingers. I’m not sure if my daughter knows that my hands will look old and wrinkly one day.

My mother’s hands at one time led a very privileged life. I am sure they were the most beautiful hands around. They were part of several elite social clubs. There, they danced the night away and held the finest wine and champagne.

Those hands also held me for the first time as a newborn. She carefully held me close to her chest. I was probably too young to know how safe I was. I was in the safest place any baby can be, in their mother’s hands.

Those soft caring hands have provided nourishment to me growing up. Those hands always provided food somehow and sometimes magically out of nothing. Times were always tough when you have a family of nine. Our bellies seemed to always be satisfied, she made sure of that.

Those soft caring hands sometimes wiped away tears when I fell or got stung by a bee. As tough as my mother may have seemed I occasionally saw her wipe tears from her own face with those hands. As a young boy you never know why.

Those hands even found time to take care of her husband during the good times and bad.

Today I look forward to visiting my mom on my days off and on weekends. I am comforted just by touching her wrinkled hands. I am also comforted by looking at her caring wrinkled face and can’t help but wonder how great her life has been. She has raised a fine group of men and women.

I look forward to the day when my own grandchildren sit next to me in church asking why my hands are old and wrinkly. I will tell them where my hands have taken me. Hopefully they will write a few lines about how my hands cared about them, fed and loved them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Farewell front lawn!

I've decided to let my lawn go. With the record setting temperatures this summer why should I water my lawn? Why fight a losing battle? It happens every summer. It is the same pattern. Here it is:

1. The grass starts to look brown.

2. I water it.

3. It gets green!

4. It starts to look brown.

5. I water it.

6. It gets green!

You know the pattern.

We are ready to hit stage three restrictions. Which by the way means watering on your designated day between the hours of 3-8 am or 8-10 pm. Yeah right. I am actually going to get up or set my timer for 3 in the morning! I understand that watering by hose is allowed on any day at any time. I am actually going to stand out in the heat with a hose!

While other people are out watering their lawn. I am inside drinking a cold one. I am also enjoying low water bills. What's the use. I know I might not be the best homeowner in the summer. I am actually a dam good home owner in the winter!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Take five minutes

Take five minutes. That is my only request. If nothing else in this lifetime it is ok to stop and look around. Just five minutes is all I am asking. In this fast paced world it is going to be ok. So go ahead and put down your Starbucks or fast food. This is what I see when I take five minutes to look around I see four daughters and a wife.

I see a family that counts on me every day to support them. I see a hard working wife trying to do her part to support her daughters and yet find time to love her husband. I see four beautiful daughters each trying with their own mischievous personality to please their parents and their teachers. I see a family just trying to make it in today's world not knowing what the future holds.

I wonder what kind of world I brought my children into. What kind of legacy am I leaving behind for them? I see them growing mentally and physically at a rapid rate. I wonder how they will cope in a world that can be cruel and unfair. I wish I can have them stay the age that they are now, ages four, five, ten and eleven. I wish they can stay these ages forever. I wish I could watch my four and five year just dance in front of the TV set as they try and imitate dance moves. I wish I could stay with them forever. I wish my parents could have spent more time with my children. My parents have missed so much of their grandkids. Busy schedules and school interfere with this. My children are growing at such an alarming rate. I can't help but wonder if I will be around to see my daughters' dreams come true. The eleven year old will probably be in sports. The ten year old wants to be Veterinarian. The five year old wants to become a cheerleader. The three year old wants to become a movie star.

If I take five minutes and look around, I would sign up again in a heartbeat to be a parent to four daughters. I would gladly do it all over again. I know I will have to leave them behind some day. It will not be my decision to do that. It will be up to god and what his plan is for me. It hurts me so much to know this will come one day. My advice is to stop and take five minutes to appreciate what you have. I will gladly take the little things all over again like the cut knees from falling down or the tears from a best friend arguing with them at school. Stop and think about all the pony tails that we have combed. What about buckling them up in their car seats? Stop and cherish all the nights that we tuck our kids and give them the little kisses and hugs that they want and need.

If I take five minutes and look around, I wonder if my kids will take care of me when I am old and gray. I wonder if they will give me the same care I gave them when they were babies. I wonder if they will support me and my wife if necessary without any problems. I wonder if they will feed me and change me if I succumb to Alzheimer's not knowing who they are. I hope they will stop and cherish the times they have to tuck me and my wife in bed. I am asking you to stop what you are doing and look around. Life is shorter than we all think. If you do not stop and look around, you will miss it.

First published for NPR "This I believe."