The Battle of the Alamo

Battle of the Alamo ScenarioWe did this a week or two ago, but I hadn’t downloaded the pictures and my friend I did this with has anxiously been watching for this to be posted, so here it is:
To start go to Junior General and look up their Alamo scenario.  From there you can print off their figures, or you can use the massive number of ones you have.  Or maybe that’s just me.  With 3 men in my house who love to act out battles, and one or two others in the house who have at least a cough cough mild cough cough interest………..  There’s a lot.

Battle of the Alamo defenders
In our version the Mexicans had about 65 soldiers divided into 7 groups.  Each group had a lieutenant who was in charge of moral (that determines if they can move forward).

The seventh group was held in reserve and didn’t have a cannon.  The first 6 groups did.
I won’t go into big detail about how each round went because the scenario did a good job of doing that on the site.  Our modifications:  Each figure could move 6 hexes if they were able to move, and there were 30 Texans at the Alamo (that is not the right proportions).
Battle of the Alamo Texans winning?

At first things looked good for the Texans.  They had several successful canon shots, and they were able to take down most of the Mexican lieutenants.  But, then both sides were out of canon fire, several of their canons had been destroyed and there was a breach in their walls.

Battle of the Alamo Texans losing?
But then, the Mexicans were able to start scaling the walls and the sheer numbers started to overwhelm the Texans.

If the enemies are able to fire 6 shots for every one you are able to fire it does not bode well for you.
(This shot is actually from earlier in the scenario, but it does have one of the kids playing the Mexicans looking mighty pleased with herself)

And then their heroes died.  Davy Crockett, Colonel William Travis, Jim Bowie.  One by one each of the heroes died to Mexican bullets.

The boys lost it.  They couldn’t handle the heroes they had fought with dying.  Which led to a great lesson.

We talked about how the Texans must have felt when they heard the Alamo had fallen and how only a few survivors escaped.  No quarter was given to wounded or sick.  This was a huge mistake on the part of Santanna because it becamse a rallying cry for all Texans.

At the final battle of the Texas the Texans yelled “Remember the Alamo!”  That cry led them to victory.  It’s amazing how much morale can be changed by a small thing.  Martyrs are a powerful thing.

Local legends

Do you ever investigate or look into local legends?  We have a local newspaper that does a semi-regular feature about local legends, heroes, villians, and the like.  I’ve found out about the guy that the street in front of my house is named after and things like that.




Well, this past week we went to Hutto, a small town near us and while we were there we had to pose at the famous Hutto Hippo.


Here’s where local legend comes into play.


There are several versions of how hippos came to be the town mascot.  I mean you don’t tend to think of hippos when you’re talking about central Texas.


The “official” version, or the one I usually hear goes like this:



Once a train stopped in town to reload and get water and such stuff.  Well, a circus was part of that train and they took the opportunity to water and feed their animals, and suddenly a cry went up, “The hippo has escaped!  The hippo escaped!”  (Now, I’m picturing this with crayon drawings, aren’t you?  Maybe like kid stick figures.)


Well, there was a frantic scramble, and the railroad station is suddenly sending a telegraph up and down line to Taylor and Round Rock to “stop all trains, there’s a hippo loose in Hutto.”  Of course there was some doubt on the other end, but they stopped the trains.


007Eventually the hippo was found in a local stream, up to its hocks in mud and quite happy.  After several hours of enticing the thing, it finally waddled out and back onto the train.


That’s the story I usually heard, but when I was asked by my in-laws how the mascot came to be and I looked it up to confirm I also found:


1.  Back in the early 1900s (same time period as the first story) their football team would take the field and being big burly ranch boys the other team took one look at them and said, “We can’t play them, they’re as huge as hippos!”


2.  The final one is that Hutto didn’t have jerseys and they went onto the field wearing feed sacks, and the opposing coach said they “looked like hippos in those uniforms.”  The Hutto players decided to make it a badge of honor.



I don’t know which story is the real one, but I think the circus one makes for the best story.  They really take pride in their hippos, you’ll see people with a hippo statue in their front yard, most businesses have one somewhere.  You can even buy your own hippo statue from the chamber of commerce.  If Jeff didn’t think I was crazy I’d be kinda tempted to get on, that and it’d be disloyal to our “round rock”….  round rock just isn’t as amusing a story.  Well it is, but it was like the fourth or fifth name choice the first few were taken.



Oh and as a side point, don’t you feel sorry for those girls?  The Lady Hippos?  I kinda do, but if you’re smart, you really don’t want to mess with a hippo, they are deadly.

Science Sunday: Armadillo

Science Sunday

Earlier this week Jeff told me he saw an armadillo as he was leaving for work wandering around our yard.  I was pretty excited, because armadillos are common to our area, but you rarely see them alive.


Armadillos have poor eyesight and their instinct when scared is to freeze and then jump up into the air very high to scare the predator.  That does not go well when the predator is a car, and they usually don’t survive………


So, you can imagine I was pretty excited when I saw one outside the next morning.  I got all the kids outside and we watch him run around and reviewed what we knew of armadillos.



Armadillos are nocturnal, that means they usually come out at night.  They can’t see very well, but can smell very well.  The bad eyesight was reinforced when we heard him bump into several things in the bushes.





Armadillos like to dig A LOT.  We looked at the holes in the ground he had dug last night, which you can see behind him.  I asked the kids why they dig, what are they trying to get, and they answered “bugs,” and they were right.  Armadillos eat primarily grubs and insects in the ground. 


When I asked how they dig, they said they have claws on their front feet like Mac (our dog) does.  He can dig tunnels like Mac tries to also.


One thing that surprised me was how noisy he was on the sidewalk.  His claws are so long in front that they clicked rather loudly in the morning air.


And of course Batman had to pretend to be an armadillo and move just like the armadillo did…….  It was great.


I was super lucky to go to Schlitterbahn twice this summer, so do I get to check it off my list twice?

Our first time was Schlitterbahn Galveston way back in May, but I packed them very well and they got all lost amongst the luggage.




For this one Jeff had a horrid sunburn, as did my brother.  The kids all heartily approved of Schlitterbahn Galveston.


And of course Uncle Sean had to be silly.  You wouldn’t believe the pictures I have of that boy over the years……..



And then for my birthday we got to go to the original Schiltterbahn.  The original Schlitterbahn, the one I’ve been going to since I was in junior high.  Best birthday ever!  Okay, I might have said that almost every year, but it’s always true.


I wonder if I could live at Schlitterbahn?


I’m super excited because they’re supposed to be opening one here in Austin, how cool is that?

History: Exploring a World War 2 Sub



First we explored a World War 2 Destroyer, one of two still in existence.  For the most part it’s not that intriguing except the galley, can you imagine cooking for 220 people in here?  I bet they were always cooking.  Nonstop.  And imagine the dishes…..


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The other intriguing thing was the bathrooms, and the sign about the bathrooms.  The kids were rather intrigued by the complete lack of privacy.  We pointed it out to the boys and then had to very quickly back pedal because Batman joked about going potty there…….



But, the submarine was the fascinating part.  Because space is such a premium almost every space doubled as something else.  So, 10 people slept in the same room as the torpedo room.  I kept trying to figure out how you slept with all of the excitement going on.  They also frequently “hot bunked,” which meant when you were on duty someone else was sleeping in your bunk.



And here again is the galley.  I was just intrigued by the places they had to cook in.  Probably because I spend so much time cooking.  There were two different cooks, a day shift and a night shift.  The night shift was responsible for baking all of the bread, deserts, a midnight snack, and an early breakfast.





And after all of that hard work of walking around seeing these old ships.  Actually I found out the destroyer was a ship, and the sub is a boat.  I don’t really understand the difference.  But, you need to go to sleep with your brand new “Explorer pack” knife firmly clutched in your hands to keep your brother and sister safe from any danger they might encounter…….

History: Rennaissance Festival


What would a year in our family be without Rennaissance Festival pictures?  And the cool stuff we learned there?  And the kids as always were super excited to sleep in a hotel.  I’m not quite sure why that’s so exciting.


Or course, there’s the non-historical just fun stuff like carousel rides.  I don’t know what the boys did while we rode, but Princess and I had a blast on the carousel.  Or she did, I had to stand, because she said she needed me next to her.


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We learned about pan pipes and how they make music (which is also a science lesson), and how people used to use those for their music.

I came so close to buying one for them….




There was much discussion about knights and how they dressed and what their armor was.



Superman hunted all over and finally found a store that had cuddly toys.  He got to stuff a dragon at a store very like Build-a-Bear.




Princess got a gryphon pet, or a bird.  It really depends on how she’s feeling for what she calls it.  She was so excited by it and thought it was the cooolest thing until Superman got a cuddly pet, then she wasn’t so excited by it.  But, it’s okay Mommy has a gryphon pet too, and she likes that her gryphon pet is my gryphon’s baby.




Batman chose an ax as his item this year.  Yes, we let him get it because we really needed more trips to the ER.  We had a very long talk about how and when to use it.  And so far he’s obeyed the rules.  It was fun to watch him madly swinging and fighting the invisible foes.  Especially amusing as we listened to “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” on the way down, and had just heard the chapter with the dufflepods and their being invisible.


My favorite part of the year was getting to see a demonstration of spinning, weaving, and carding.  It was fascinating, to me, not so much to everyone else.  But Jeff nicely herded them away and showed them something dangerous, like the smithy.  Or, maybe he just distracted them and kept Batman from hitting anyone with his ax.


All in all, it was a fun day of learning and game playing, and dressing up.  I personally found it amusing that Superman decided to wear his trooper shirt and say he was a knight, Batman wore his cowboy vest, knight shirt, and Santa hat and declared himself a pirate.


Oh and walking in a skirt designed for a hoop skirt without one is a little tricky.  I forgot my hoop skirt, and that was a slight problem by the end of the day………..


Now head on over to Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn for more fun Geography and History posts.

Fort Stockton, Texas


Our last day of the trip, while they were fixing my glasses, we went to Fort Stockton.  Jeff and I had lots of fun.  The kids were mildly interested.    Actually they were rather interested in the idea of chaining up prisoners and had a lot of fun investigating the chains, but had to be cautioned about swinging them around.

And then we went over the visitor center/museum and the kids took over my camera.
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And was taken away after that last shot where they were piling on top of each other.  Yeah……  That wasn’t so cool.

I tried to get what was going to be a really cool picture of the kids next to the soldier and his horse, but that didn’t quite work out.  They were too busy hugging the soldier.  However after talking about it for a while they could point out some of the soldier’s gear.  And then we had to put the soldier’s hand back on him.

While I grimaced and thought the kids were so horrible the lady working there said my kids were doing excellent, and so many parents had to leave with their kids because they couldn’t sit still through the movie or other problems.  So, I felt a little better.


I love visiting some of the less frequented areas.  The lieutenant there kept a detailed journal that had all sorts of amusing tidbits about life at the fort.  It was interesting to me they chose not to have a wall around the fort because you could see anyone coming for miles.    He also wrote a humorous story about his kids playing on a horse until the horse got tired of it all and ran off.  Leaving the poor kids in the dirt.

Oh, and I learned something from this.  I’d always heard the term buffalo soldiers and thought it was generic to the soldiers fighting out West.  But, instead it referred to the freed slaves turned soldiers because their hair reminded the Indians of the buffalo’s hair.  The fort had a lot of really interesting information about the Buffalo Soldiers.  So, I’d give Fort Stockton a big thumbs up.  Besides, they gave my kids a real cool pin for visiting.

I found my lap top, and am busy copying over files, so hopefully tonight I’ll be able to write up those other posts………  We’ll see.  3 loads of laundry down, it took the people at the car wash over 5 hours to get our carpets clean, but WOW is it clean!

Can you go home again

IMG_0138 Does that sound suitably cryptic?


I remember reading a Batman comic as a kid, in it Robin has grown up and is now Nightwing, and has come back the Batcave.  He looks to the new Robin and says, “I’d always heard you can’t go home again, I guess that’s true.”


And to those of you who are wondering, yes I am that much of a comic book nerd.


Well, today we’re staying in the town I went to college in.  And this evening we wandered around my alma matter, Abilene Christian University.


It was more than a little surreal to me.  Since I graduated they’ve added a couple of buildings and completely redone some of the buildings I spent most of my time in.  It was odd to see the redone campus center, and to see the giant building their creating right now in honor of the last president of the school.



The picture to the left is rather illustrative of my feeling.  When I went here there wasn’t really a need for a big huge map.  There were maybe 10-15 buildings total, and it was fairly easy to figure out how to get around.  This map had 40 something things labeled.


For all the surreal feeling for me, the kids had a lot of fun running around, and Jeff was rather indulgent.




I wandered around with a sense of unrest and not quite loss, and we wandered into the Bible building and climbed down the stairs and looked up at the globe.  Usually it’s lit up with dots of all the missionaries around the world, but today it was turned off.

As I looked up at it, and wished I could show the light of God spread around the world, another pair of lost people came in.  The Mom was in the process of having her son go over and stand next to the globe, and I asked if she wanted me to take their picture.  I found out she had attended a few years before me, and then transferred to UT in Austin.  I told her I lived in Austin, and found out she did too.  It was a nice feeling of “it’s a small world,” and helped me with my feeling of lostness.


So because of that moment of serendipity, you get to see a family picture.  Here we all are in the bottom of the Bible building underneath the globe. 

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What was going to be our final stop was the Quiet Rooms.  These are a section of study/prayer rooms in the Bible building.  I spent many an hour here in this quiet area studying and reading.  Come finals there was never a free room.  It was fun to read through the journals put there and see the prayers of different students in many languages (I have no clue what the prayer in Chinese said, but it looked pretty).  Batman added his own prayer to one of the journals.



We continued our way through the campus, stopping to splash in puddles along the way.  I still am amused at the “new Gata fountain” (new as in almost 15 years old now).  When I first started at the campus it was an actual fountain with water in it.  The tradition was on your birthday you’d get thrown in the fountain, clothes and all, regardless of the time IMG_0158of year.  Then, my sophomore year (does anyone else love that sophomore means wise fool?) they changed it to this new thing, where when Abilene isn’t in a drought it shoots up water, but there’s nothing to be thrown into, and not really much of anything for the Gatas to gather around and sing at Homecoming, but oh well.




Here the kids are “praying” in front of the praying hands.  My friends and I have posed for many of a picture in front of these hands, and it was fun for me to have the kids pose in front of the hands for me to take a picture.  Of course, they weren’t quite as cooperative in posing.


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I got a kick out of seeing the education majors are no longer relegated to the basement of the English building, now we get a whole building, complete with lots of cool statues the kids had fun posing and goofing off with.  It was a fun ending to the quick campus tour.

Geography: Williamson County Museum


So……..  A friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go with her and the kids she was nannying to a local paint your own pottery studio.  I said “Sure!”  What a chance to let my kids get creative, and I don’t have to clean it, SCORE!

So, we loaded all up.  You know, I’ve just noticed I say “so” too much, I really should work on that.  Continuing on.  We drove up to Georgetown, and went to the address the girl insisted it was at, and saw a Spa……  That was not it.  So, we circled around and found this:

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In case you can’t tell the sign says: “Coming soon 8th Street Art Studio.”
We particularly liked the fresh coffee sign in front of the barbed wire.  So, we thought there is no way we were going to take the kids there even if it was open.  NOT HAPPENING.

So, we wandered around downtown Georgetown and discovered this little museum, The Williamson County Museum, a small little free museum telling the history of the county with a few nice interactive exhibits.


They got to try and figure out how to use a drill from the natives in the area (I didn’t get much chance to read what the signs said, so a lot of this is conjecture).


Try to grind corn.  This was especially hard because it was a true original corn grinder, and made of real rock.  Very heavy for a three year old.


And, we got to talk about the less proud moments in American History.  My kids all agree they didn’t like the ghost man.

And, let me brag for a moment on my college.  Way back in the 20s, when Abilene Christian University, was Abilene Christian College, and still fairly small, a collection of KKK burst into chapel in full costume and walked proudly up to the front, and said “We like what you stand for as a college, and want to give you a donation.”  The president of the college at that time turned to him and said, “We don’t like what you stand for, and we will not accept your donation.”  I’ve always liked that story ever since I heard it back in college, and think it’s a neat story about standing up for what’s right.

After we finished up in the museum we continued around the square and saw a lot of cool historic building and ended up in a local bookshop which had this sign:
Duly noted, not leaving my kids alone.  No matter how much Princess might wish for a dog.

I love little museums like this, they’re fun to find, and I look forward to seeing if we can find any on our trip this summer.

Now, head on over to Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn to see more great geography ideas.

Geography: Inner-Space Caverns


So, I had just emailed Debbie and told her all about how I’m looking forward to getting back to our geography posts, when I realized this post I have planned is all about geography.  It’s the geography of our local area, and this local cave.


About 30 or so years ago they were drilling to make sure the area was strong enough to support an overpass, when they kept hitting air pockets.  Well, lo and behold they discovered there was a cave down there.  So a few years later Inner Space Caverns was born.

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The top of course has the usual museum gift store, designed to lure your kids in to spend money on things they’ll forget about in 5 minutes.  But, the cool part is the second picture.  They had several display cases of fossils they’d found in the caves and what they think they are.  The kids were fascinated to see a mammoth jawbone and dinosaur bones where they could almost touch them.


To get down into the cave you take a trolley down, sort of like a super fancy mine car.  The kids of course thought this was super cool.  Our guide was pretty tolerant of having so many pre-schoolers along, I think he thought it was preferable to the tours of elementary kids that everyone else was dragging through.



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Most of the formations down there are called living rocks.  That means the formations are still being created as the water drips through the porous rocks.  Texas is made up of mostly limestone and similar rocks, so we get all sorts of weird formations.


These are called soda straws.  They’re hollow tubes formed by the interaction between the water and the rocks.  If you broke them off you really could use them for straws.  It’s not recommended because, it’d taste bad.  And, besides it takes 100 years to get an inch of growth on one of those straws.



The guides have all sorts of clever stories to tell about the rock formations.  As you’re standing there you really can see the stories they tell, and the things they say.  And you take the pictures, of course later on looking back I can’t remember what story this was.  I think this looks kind of like a dragon, and that glowing light is his eye.


If you look way up there, that little dark spot in the middle of the picture, more or less, is the bat we saw. Of course my brother is playing it up like the bat is going to kill them, and they we see it and it’s maybe two inches across.  Seriously, there’s some times that brothers need to be beaten.



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Part of the way through the cave there’s this whole series of pictures of animals.  They had to add in a cement wall to prevent mud from flowing in and collapsing the cave, and they commissioned an artist to recreate as paintings the fossils they’d discovered here.  So you can see, they discovered a horse, a bear, a tiger, a camel, a mammoth, and some kind of anklyosaur (I think).  The last picture was put in to give a perspective of size.  The first picture is more of the fossils they’ve discovered.


This picture cracked me up.  So, this cave was discovered in 1963 (I may be off by a year), and they called this room the lunar landscape because they thought the moon would look like this.  Of course, we’ve since landed on the moon and discovered it doesn’t look anything like this.  But, I think it’d be much cooler if it did.


I wanted to get more pictures, but my camera was dying, and Chad offered me more batteries, but they didn’t fit my camera for some reason.  So, I gave up on getting kid’s reaction shots, because by the time the picture took they’d left the view screen or I got blurs.

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Edited to add these two pictures: Yes Uncle Sean was there, and for once he wasn’t the Uncle scaring/revving up the kids.  See Uncle Chad there in the corner of that second picture.  He kept scaring the kids.  Bad Uncle.  He was also a bad big brother who tried to feed me to a tarantula when I was five.


If the kids had been older this would also have made a great science lesson.  But in reality, this was more of a “caves aren’t scary” lesson.  They were all excited to go in when it was theoretical, but once we were in they spent most of the trip asking when they could leave.  Not so cool.  Oh well, I enjoyed it and laughed at the bad puns and the silly jokes.  The kids were there……..


Head on over to Debbie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn to see what others have done with geography this week.  I’m thinking I’m going to put continent studies on hold for now because it’s seeming a little much to tackle, but I’ll probably come back to it more later on.  We’re powering on in our state studies with Colorado, because our cousins are from there.