One of my dates with Kaspar this week took place at the Zilker Botanical Garden; we've been many times before, but we went yesterday for the garden center's 1st Annual Faerie Architecture Show. (I'm just going to put it out there right now that I feel really awkward and nerdy spelling fairy that way, but since it's the official approach taken by the gardens, I'm rolling with it when referring to the event itself.) Our family's been busily welcoming spring for the past couple of weeks, and I planned to do some fairy-house building with Kaspar (as a perfect, age-appropriate, seasonal outdoor activity) sometime soon. I knew he'd be into it -- which surely won't be the case in a few short years from now -- and when I saw the botanical garden's announcement of their own Faerie (wince) House event, I knew immediately that Kaspar would get a kick out of it, and that it'd give him some context for our own house-building project, later, at home.
We arrived about an hour and a half before Kaspar's usual nap time. The parking lot was pretty packed, as swarms of families, playgroups, kids of all ages and countless little girls wearing frilly dresses and fairy wings arrived at the gardens, clearly headed for the fairy houses, too. Despite the crowds, it didn't feel crowded. After paying a mere three dollar entry fee (the gardens used to be free, but there are few valuable things in this world that can be had for $3, and I'm happy to support this beautiful local fixture at this level), we easily found a parking spot and made our way into the visitor's center/gift shop to get our bearings. A (sweet, senior citizen) volunteer immediately highlighted, on a map, the path we'd want to take for the houses, and then led us -- along with another family who'd just arrived -- to a bright room in the back of the building with a few fairy houses on display. She clearly took genuine pleasure in watching the kids' eyes widen as they took in the tiny details, and then wished us a good time exploring the gardens, and the houses that were to be found there.
We headed outside, around the parking lot, and then down a small slope to the beginning of the looped path where the fairy house 'hood began. A large group of moms and kiddos arrived just before us, and the kids all started running down the slope; Kaspar got caught up in the excitement and ran down with them (then stopped abruptly to re-locate his mama). There were other families already making their way around the (large, wooded) loop, as well, but everyone quickly spaced out as kids and parents moved at different paces. It was fun to overlap with others, actually, as the kids would point the houses' unique features out excitedly, and then naturally sort of talk with each other and show each other things, while parents exchanged smiles, took photos and said friendly hellos. Kaspar really got into looking at the houses (some of them were pretty amazing), and then running to find the next one -- he found a few I'd have otherwise missed: little squat ones tucked under low-lying ferns. And he even started pointing to natural formations -- large rocks, knots in trees -- and announcing them as fairy houses, too. He definitely got the idea.
The gardens themselves extend much farther than the fairy house loop, but we've explored the extended grounds before and will do so again. Kaspar set our pace on our house tour, and completing the small loop took exactly as much time as I'd thought we should probably spend there before he petered out and would be ready for some lunch and a good doze. We sat in a shaded gazebo and sipped water, to mark our transition, and then made our way back to the car. On the way home, we talked about our favorite fairy houses we'd seen (he liked one with a giant pet turtle in a little fenced-in pen beside the main residence), and about building one of our own later that day. After his nap, we spent a couple of hours collecting materials like moss, rocks, and sticks from the woods behind our house -- in itself a throughly absorbing job for a small child -- and then Aaron assisted with the actual fairy house construction while I fielded a few of those aforementioned work-email-things. They'd (meaning Kaspar) deconstructed whatever they ended up building by the time I went out to admire it, but Kaspar stashed the materials back in the paper bag we collected them in, with the expressed intent of building another house at a later time. Since this sequence of adventures, he's continued identifying fairy houses in everything from extra-elaborate arrangements of tree branches to the most basic of bird feeders. His imagination is running wild.
The fairy houses will be set up at Zilker Botanical Garden through May, with a Starlight Faerie Trail Walk going down on March 15 (that's tomorrow!), a Faerie Tea Party on April 20th, and a Faerie Landscaping Workshop on May 11th. Whether you attend one of the organized events, or just go check out the houses freestyle, like we did, you -- and your littles -- will enjoy yourselves. Highly recommend.