Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas Lights and Place Based Learning!

For the holidays, we were on vacation (working for me--I took along the laptop and Internet wifi to keep up with my online college work) in Texas. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there aren't as many tourist attractions open so we took advantage of placed base learning by exploring local options that were right near our little resort at Canyon Lake, Texas, about an hour from San Antonio. The area is known for outdoor adventures, such as tubing and hiking. The river rafting was shut down for the season, but we did enjoy holiday cheer and great views. While on vacation over the holidays, I did miss some of our traditional family activities, so was happy to visit the holiday lights while we were in Texas. We have been really lucky and can get 2 bedroom places with a living room, kitchen, and laundry facilities for about $200-$300/week through my parents' timeshare. We check out the deals and decide where to visit based on the inexpensive options. For a family of six, this is so much nicer than a cramped hotel room. The places aren't usually right in the middle of the action, so we might need to drive to some of the attractions and/or take advantage of the miniature golf, hiking trails, shuttle board, and other activities at the resort. There was a flyer in the activity center for nearby Christmas lights--what a treat!

Beyond seeing a typical yard in this area of Texas (rocky, little grass, etc.), we were invited into the spirit of the holidays with a tremendous light display. We parked and walked through the various winter wonderlands!

It was truly magical! What a gift to the community to spend countless hours lighting up a small piece of the neighborhood and allowing others to walk through ones gardens and such. The neighbors start the set up in October, working on it into December. The weather there is a bit milder, making it easier to put out lights in December. What a labor of love!

On Christmas Day we had dinner on the balcony with other families in our group, each preparing a few foods for our feast! I knew I also wanted to get outside, so the older boys and I went with cousins to explore some of the nearby trails. With a little trial and error (some nearby parks were closed for the holiday), we found a natural spot near a large dam and lake. They loved the tree, of course! 

There were great views along our straight path across the dam. While the turkey vultures are gone from Indiana, they are in Texas right now. I watched one glide through the air, never flapping, but just making slight adjustments as it rode the air currents for a few miles. How neat to observe them so closely! I must admit, we found a turkey vulture stuffed animal later in our trip at a "western" store. Our youngest clutched that for quite a time, thinking it was part of his Christmas money from grandparents. I liked it and wouldn't mind it either, but soon his heart turned to a pop gun which won out. I found it online when we returned--so cute! Turkey Vulture (aff link) 

We had a long paved path, high above the surrounding land. Kids ran up ahead and true to form hid nearby. We always play a game like this--I know where they are. As I get close, I say, "Hmm . . . I wonder where my kids could be. I can't find them anywhere!" Sometimes, I'll sit very close to "take a rest" while I look for them. All of sudden there are giggles and kids jump out of their hiding places. This happened on our First Day Hike, when we go to church each Sunday, etc. It's one of our fun family quirks, I guess! 

What a great view! 

After crossing the nearby dam, we looked at the trees and hiked down to the water. It's always neat to see nature in new places!

Of course, the kids wanted to try out the water--they always do! 

We also explored the nearby rocks. Many were very crumbly, easily crushed by another rock. My six-year-old enjoyed investigating (destroying) these. 


They skipped rocks and explored the outdoors. The overcast day yielded a nice time to explore. 

It was also curious to see erosion at work. We are in the middle of science fair projects and one son is doing a project related to dams and erosion so I snapped how deep the ruts were in some places as water trickled down the hill as we talked about the concepts.

While we enjoyed The Riverwalk, The Alamo, The Missions, Sea World, and other places, I really enjoyed just enjoying nearby nature and holiday traditions. Taking time on vacation to do some place based learning and engage in some of our favorite activities were a great addition to our festivities. And, it didn't cost a thing while we built great family memories!