Holy Frio Bat Cave!

Two summers ago, we visited the largest bat colony in North America, coincidentally 20 miles from us in the Bracken bat cave.  It was a fabulous evening with 20M furry flyers, and is now sadly closed to the public.  With our great niece Laura visiting from Houston last week, we decided to pile into the old family truckster and head to the second larges bat colony in North America, coincidentally 90 miles from us in the Frio bat cave.  Only 12M bats, but still all kinds of awesome.

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The front of the Frio cave.  You can see the Mexican free tail bats swirling, ready to fly out of the cave at an unknown signal.  These bats are nursing mamas who will return to the cave as many as four times in an evening to feed their babies.  A mother bat will feed only her baby.  If Mama becomes dinner for a hawk – and the hawks circled above/dived on the bats ferociously – the baby starves.

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People of the Bats:  (l-r, clockwise) Hannah, Rachel, Lois’ boyfriend Alex, Lois, Keith, Laura, Julia.  Hannah didn’t feel so great, but still wanted to go.  Found out the next day she had tonsillitis and strep.  Lots of Gatorade and ice cream around here now.


Standing on the rocks near and above the cave – you could practically touch them. 

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Keith warned the girls to keep their mouths shut while looking up.

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Hard to see, but there’s a rainbow, and the sight of the bats silhouetted against it was just gorgeous.

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We were told to arrive by 7 p.m. – which we did – but we really didn’t expect the bats to leave until dusk – maybe 8:30 p.m.  Nope.  They were flying by 7:20.  Near dusk, they were trickling out, not funneling out. 

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Near the cave entrance is a giant kiln which was used during the Civil War and WWI to dry bat guano and produce salt peter for gun powder.  As Keith commented, ‘Wow.  This was a munitions plant.” 

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While the bats winter in Mexico, their guano is harvested for fertilizer.  Keith estimated each of these large bags weighed one to two tons each.

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And in contrast to all that poo – a cactus flower on the walk out.

So much fun, and the eight of us in the Expedition – also very “cozy.”  I think I may need the Google machine to tell me the location of the third largest bat colony in North America sometime soon.

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Sisters Day (Palooza) – Part Eight

The girls and I celebrated Sisters Day today – our eighth anniversary of Julia coming home from Russia.  Many adoptive families celebrate “Gotcha Day,” which focuses on the child being added to the family, but we weren’t too keen on leaving the rest of the girls out.  So we do Sisters Day, this year (1) a month late, because of their school/work schedules and (2) without Keith, who’s visiting his mom this weekend.

The girls decide (within reason) what we’re doing, and at Rachel’s suggestion, they chose painting.  Have you seen these (often BYOB) painting place popping up lately?  Ton of fun!  They announce weeks in advance what’s being painted (with instruction) at a two-hour session.  For a private party – you can pick your own design.  We had an absolute blast at Paint Palooza, owned by a now-retired AT&T friend, Shirley.  She hosted a private party for just the five of us, sparing others the hang-your-head-in-shame-because-we-are-so-talented embarrassment.

All four girls have always loved dream catchers. Hannah has 15 dangling from the bottom of her top bunk.  They wanted to paint dream catchers, and fortunately, Paint Palooza had that design available for a private party.

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Like with much of life – start with a blank canvas!  Lois, 20; Rachel, 23; Julia, 14; Hannah, 18; Me, mumble-mumble

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Patient instructor Beverly pointed to the sample on the wall, plus painted along with us. 

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Shirley also offered individual instruction.

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Okay, the colorful base is finished!  We started with the yellow (sun) in the top left corner, then moved into green tones (earth) and finally blue tones (water.)   Rachel’s base was about perfect, likely due to the influence of her “artistic head band.”.

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Let’s give the base a little help drying.

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Outline that circle that will become the dream catcher, first using chalk.  Hannah has always been good with spatial relationships.….

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….unlike her sainted mother.

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Lois’ feathers were a-mahhh-zing.  She’s always had a lot of talent.

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Julia’s feathers also really impressed me – light, wispy, looked like they were wafting in a summer breeze.

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Rachel’s braiding looked like braiding, probably because she braids her hair and Julia’s hair so often.  Mine pretty much looked like the small wads of Juicy Fruit one finds under theater seats.

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Hannah was the only one of us that mixed a true pink to incorporate in the design.  She also created more feathers.

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Two hours later – Ta-Da! 

The dream catcher pattern was perfect for us, since the girls love them so.

And because Julia – now home eight years – was the dream it took us 18 months to catch.

Happy Sisters Day, girls!  Now….where am I going to hang my masterpiece?!

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Three Down, One to Go

Hannah walked the stage last night, a week after her “Graduation Fiesta.”

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Fajitas, guacamole, corn salsa….all should be followed by cake.  A big, baked-in-store Sam’s sheet cake.  Sam’s and Costco make the best cakes, but only Sam’s sells the photo cakes (at least here in SA Town.)

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Houston cousins here for the party!  From left Laura, 10; Hannah, 18; Sarah, (mumble, mumble); James, 7; Julia, 14; Rachel, 22; Lois, 20.  Sarah is a kitchen whiz.  She diced pounds of tomatoes, onions, bell pepper and jalapenos for her famous pico de gallo , plus made heavenly guacamole.  Of which I might have eaten a pound.  Or dos.

We were sad when they left last Sunday, but Laura is finally old enough that we get her week this summer.  She’s a sweet, smart, respectful child and we plan to send her home corrupted.

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Hannah walked the stage last night with 700+ of her closest friends.  I deem an iPad (with reading apps) and a Zynga-loaded iPhone necessary graduation ceremony accessories.

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“Strike ‘em, Reagan Rattlers!”  Hannah is the one in green.

Hats in the Air!  Thanks to Rachel – who captures better content with her iPhone – than I ever have with an expensive Nikon.

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Rachel – Reagan 2009; Hannah – Reagan 2014; Lois – Reagan 2012….Julia’s turn is coming in 2019.  Sounds so far away, but I know it’s really a finger snap.  We went swimming Saturday afternoon; please admire Lois’ sunburn (and remind her that her mother really does know best, especially about sunscreen usage.)

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This afternoon I removed her yard sign…..

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…and hung a new flag.  Birds up!  Hannah joins Rachel at UTSA in the fall.  We are very thankful for such a great, local university.  Hannah is a born business major.  Maybe she’ll let me work for her one day.

We now return to our regularly-scheduled summer program.

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Informe de Progresso – 2014

The rest of our summer is a tangle of five jobs, four summer school classes, three trips in Texas, two summer camps and one graduation. – so we figured we had best scurry down to Nuevo Progreso while we could.  Note to friends who think we are insane to shop in Mexico:  We love it.  Yes, there is border violence, and no (sadly), we no longer shop in Laredo.   We shared a Brownsville Residence Inn hot tub Friday night with two federal agents who return bad guys to Mexico.  What they said, “If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.”  We don’t look for trouble.  We go early in the day, jostle all the snow birds who’ve not returned north yet and cross back by 4 p.m.  Though Keith was offered a “special massage” this trip, we’ve never felt threatened.

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Elevated Texas highways often feature beautiful stone inlays of local scenery – like these near-the-coast palm trees and birds. 

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I’ve got one of these shots going back many years.  The girls just sight and know to pose by the boundary sign.  “Let’s get this over with.”

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I understand these “Slaps” candies are all the rage.  Basically, you peel away their paper then “slap” them in the air to create a tropical-flavored lollipop.  A young entrepreneur at Julia’s middle school sells them for $.75@.  In Progreso – $.75 for a pack of 20.

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My brilliant niece Sarah wanted us to bring her vanilla – always a bargain.

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Pinatas everywhere.  Disney princesses and Spiderman seemed most prevalent.  Expected to see a Godzilla, but didn’t.  

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Gotta keep those fluids up!  These pineapples were a treat, but all of us know to keep slurping the bottled agua.  The sidewalk vendors often block any kind of breeze, and really, it’s hot.  Cool bottled water is cheap and always available.

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Pewter was way more “normal” this year.  Lots of pretty, practical designs, and tons of Christmas-theme pieces.  Some years, it’s been too much weirdness like horse heads, or golf clubs.  I saw some gorgeous little bowls with peppers on the edges I would have loved to have had for salsa, but truthfully, I’ve no place to store them.  As much as I love dishes (and I do!), I need to be thinning ours out, not acquiring more.  I struggle with my dish addiction.  

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It’s hard to tell how pretty this pitcher and glass set are from this picture.  Just beautiful little multicolored bubbles on heavy clear glass.   Lois and I both found the set enchanting.  Neither of us (her with a 450-sq-ft student apartment) have a place to put it.  But when she has a real home of her own – it’s coming across the border, baby.

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We don’t buy street food other than candied pecans, which all of us love.  Six bags of about one cup each = $10.  This year Julia was entrusted to carry/spend her own money without Mom’s interference.

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Far and away my favorite place this time – a rock store.  I didn’t even want to go in, but Lois did, so I went with her.  Fascinating.  She really stretched her birthday-gift-buying dollars here.  There’s nothing she’d get at Target comparable to these gorgeous necklaces for $12.  They have beautiful stones, sliced and ready to be custom-wired (copper or silver) for necklaces.  They also had (far more expensive) chunks of amber, and other stones such as…..

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…magnetic hematite balls, which Keith played with incessantly.  What happened to our “no toys at the table” rule??

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Lunch at Angels – oh so good!  Keith always orders Casadilla Flambeco as an appetizer, which the rest of us share.  This year I took Rachel’s advice as got the beef tacos, which were awesome.  Their salsa is served warm and has a deceiving kick at the end.   A very lavish lunch for six – $78.  Keith reviewed them last year on Trip Advisor.  Don’t let the “above the jewelry store” appearance deceive you.  This place rocks.  

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We crossed back Sunday for mani/pedis.  When the esthetician was scraping Keith’s calluses, Rachel quipped, “That’s what snow in h*ll looks like.”   He tipped that poor girl generously.  

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Six heavenly pedicures and three lovely manicures = $96 total.  “Manicure-pedicure-wax” and “Special price for you, lady” are long-standing family mantras.  

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My favorite find of the trip:  a tablecloth.  Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but we have my mom’s rock maple dining room table with two leaves, and it’s really hard to find tablecloths long enough.  Keith spotted these and we snapped up the colorful one behind the “table cloth” sign.  Omigosh, I love it!  So pretty.  And perfect for Hannah’s “Graduation Fiesta” coming up next weekend.  I imagine other than Christmas (for which we do have some tablecloths long enough), this will brighten up our dining room year-round.  Makes me happy to look at it.

The girls are already talking about “next year’s trip,” and I hope we have one.

In the meantime – I’ll just go stare at my tablecloth.  And mourn the pewter salsa bowls.

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