CALF, if you don't know, is the Children's Arts and Literacy Festival, held annually in Abilene (the newly named Storybook Capital of Texas, go us!) every second weekend of June. Or at least for the last four years. It's pretty great. Every year, they highlight a children's book author and illustrator and there are activities over a long weekend based around characters from that author's books.
The first year I didn't go, but I believe the author was Dr. Seuss. Because who doesn't love Seuss? After that was Walter Wick. Last year was the third year and the first we attended and the author was William Joyce. I'd never heard of him, in spite of his being actually a pretty well known author. He's got an Oscar under his belt (I believe) for a short film adaptation of one of his books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (if you haven't seen it get some tissues first). He wrote the Guardians books that the movie Rise of the Guardians was based on, among many other books. His style is gorgeous and I wish I hadn't been only 8 weeks pregnant because I was so miserable that a few people who I sort of knew through MOPS gave me smiles and waves and the most I could do was grimace in their direction. I didn't make any friends last year. Austin and his parents ended up taking the boys to things without me on Saturday after I put in a half hearted attempt on Friday.
This year, though, I was determined it was going to be different. The author was David Shannon and I'd never heard of him either, but that didn't really matter. We were ready to go to the readings and do some crafts and see the balloon artist and some movies.
We started Thursday night with the parade. We saw a few people we knew in character costumes and they were great, even more so when you realize that as 5 and 6 year olds, they put them together themselves with limited assistance from their parents. We went on to Everman Park to get started on the photo scavenger hunt, a new feature this year. We took about half of the pictures Thursday night since they were mostly to pose with some of the many storybook statues now populating downtown. Austin met up with us around 7 and we headed home shortly after to eat dinner and rest, since I'd made the mistake of wearing thin flip flops AND Eden. I was a hot, sweaty, achy mess.
Friday, we were up bright and early and the boys and I hit the ground running. We heard one dramatic reading of "No, David" and "Too Many Toys" and Elijah made a David puppet, which he's been waving at me this evening saying "No, David!" Then we went to another dramatic reading, this time of "Jangles." Asher decided to run off at this point and I nearly had a heart attack trying to find him. He'd found a back entrance to the awesomely decorated room and was amazing the women inside with his reading abilities. An awesome dad helped me try to find Asher when he saw me holding Eden and with Elijah in tow. He went downstairs and looked around for Asher and was relieved with me when we found him.
After that reading, we went to the Paramount to watch A Bug's Life and the boys LOVED it. For the most part. Elijah can just about eat his weight in popcorn and both boys were thirsty but kept spilling their water, dropping their cups, taking off their shoes, etc. We thought we lost a cup, but as the lights came up we found it. Then we realized we were missing some sunglasses.
After the movie, we hit the balloon man's show and the boys of course made themselves known by dumping out more water (seriously, take and toss cups don't last forever) and then getting up and trying to talk to the guy during his show. After that, we were pretty well done. They were getting whiney, but we still had a couple readings I wanted to hit before we ended.
We hit the library for "Bugs in My Hair" and then went to the NCCIL (National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature) and got a few books. I let the boys each pick one, then one for Eden, then I grabbed one I thought they'd enjoy. There was a reading there, but it was too long of a wait, so we went home. The boys were excited about their books so they laid down with them to read and ended up going to sleep for about three hours before Daddy got home and they went to see Frozen at Frontier Texas. Eden and I decided to stay in a/c and comfortable chairs so went to visit a friend for the evening.
Saturday, we had so few things to do we hadn't done, we slept in a little. We started off by turning in a survey about the event and getting an extra button for doing the photo scavenger hunt, then rode the train around Everman Park. These boys love trains, so that was basically the highlight of the day. After that was "A Bad Case of Stripes" with another craft, a Camilla Cream (the main character) mask and then a trolley ride to Frontier Texas to climb on the giant cow skull and look at the animals in the petting zoo before hearing "Duck on a Bike." The boys were getting antsy at this point, and we had all our buttons, so we were debating just calling it a day. We decided to get lunch and see what happened next.
After lunch, we had a second wind, so we went to a brief part of the magician's show at the Paramount, decorated cookies at McKay's, and went to the final reading, "How I Became a Pirate." After that, we were done. All that was left was a return visit in a couple hours to watch Wall-E at the Paramount and munch more popcorn.
Along the way, we took lots of pictures for the scavenger hunt and I have no idea how to get them to myself. I didn't notice the "upload to facebook" option when we were taking them and apparently, you can't go back and do it later. I'm emailing with their customer support people in hopes we can get them, since I can see them on my phone but not save them. I'm skeptical, though. In the end, though, we came in 11th! Not too shabby. The number 1 team was only 70 points ahead of us, so I feel like we really did well. There were 30 missions to complete and we did them all. I doubt we'll win the "creative" prize, but I had fun with it, which is nice since so much of the stuff is really aimed at children. The best part is, a lot of the missions will be available permanently for people who want to do a photo scavenger hunt around town. This is the kind of thing I really enjoy, so I hope they come up with more for Abilene.
As tired as the boys are, they're still laughing and playing at 9pm on Saturday night. Eden's curled up in her crib, talking to herself, and Austin and I are resting. It's a lot of work to push kids around in strollers and keep track of stuff and remember where and when things are. I had a low fever Friday morning and almost no voice on Saturday, so I'm worn out. I have a lot to do this coming week, so we'll see how I'm faring next weekend. lol
All in all, though, CALF was great. We all had fun and I hope this is a tradition our family can continue for years to come. It's not too expensive and it's such a great thing our city does. Kids of all ages were having fun all over downtown. There's more activities than I wrote about because we didn't do all the craft projects or activities just because Asher and Elijah aren't quite old enough to want to. They like books and stories and movies and trains. Hopefully Eden's a fan, too. Otherwise, she's going to feel very out of place in our family.
If you haven't been to CALF, you should definitely consider it next year. The author is Mark Teague, another one I've never heard of, but I'm sure he'll be great, too. I kind of like discovering the author's books during the festival, so we'll probably continue that tradition.
As a side note, the people at the festival were awesome. All the volunteers were friendly and helpful, especially to the legion of parents pushing kids in strollers. I made eye contact with several moms with kids in full on melt down mode and smiled and said more than once "My kids are just like that. Don't worry about it." We helped each other look for lost cups and sunglasses and shoes and lanyards (your ticket into everything). Sometimes even lost kids. We helped each other get strollers on and off of the trolley and kids in and out of events. We watched each other's kids so we could go to the bathroom or to get concessions at the movies or to get food at the restaurants. We took pictures of each other so that mom got to be in the picture instead of behind the camera. Abilene really is a great place to raise a family these days. Maybe it always was, but when I was a kid, I really didn't like growing up here. I'm so glad that it's becoming more family friendly with new activities and events and parks.
Eden's Medical Fund