Thursday, December 18, 2014


Dear family and friends near and far,

We hope this joyous season finds you all healthy, content, and rejoicing in the blessings our Lord has provided this past year.  He has been most gracious to us this year, and we are very thankful. 

Let’s start with the Wiese 4.  Leo started kindergarten at Vista Academy, a wonderful local charter school.  He is enjoying school immensely and is doing very well, especially with reading.  His extracurricular activities include Sunday School, soccer, and being sweet, gentle, and kind.  Leo is the family peacemaker.  His sister, Etta, is a little darling, still our crazy wild child.  She is enjoying her preschool very much and has embraced the structured academic world with an enthusiasm no one was expecting.  She would love to go to class every day if it was available.  Erika is enjoying her days of chauffeuring Leo to school and volunteering at least one day a week teaching art and music in several of the classrooms at his school.  Josh continues to thrive in the graphic design department at Irving Bible Church, and he has special moments with Etta as he drives her to and from preschool at the church.

The Cribbies are all doing great as well.  Precious Zoey is a 2nd grade teacher’s dream.  She is reading at least 2 grade levels ahead and absolutely loves everything about school.  She is social but very well behaved.  Ruby is in kindergarten, and both girls attend Vista Academy along with Leo.  Ruby also loves school and is making rapid progress.  I have the feeling she will be our math genius.  I am amazed at how academically advanced today’s elementary kids are compared to those I taught back in the 1970s.  In a few years I’ll have trouble keeping up!  Maggie Faye is our adorable little pixie, full of life and fun.  She, Ruby, and Zoey are becoming real gymnastics pros at Ms. Rhonda’s All Stars.  And then there’s Sam.  He is the most fun little guy, charming and sweet and funny.  He’s starting to talk a blue streak, and he adores his “Mimi” as much as she adores him.  Jenni artfully balances family, home, chauffeuring, and extracurricular activities with enviable ease.  Dave continues to excel as physics and robotics instructor at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas while holding down the daddy fort after hours.

Tony and I are contentedly sailing through retirement.  I do continue to work an occasional fill-in shift at Curves, and Tony enjoys building model rockets and doing a few people’s taxes at the first of the year, but mainly we fill our time with grandkids, home projects, and travel when we are able.  This year we spent a long weekend in the spring visiting the Leo clan in St. Louis, enjoyed a lovely week with the Wiese 4 at Blue Mountain Beach, Florida in May, and recently had a most delightful week in Jacksonville surrounding the November 15th marriage of our beautiful niece, Erin Deason, to Greg Taylor.  The wedding festivities were over-the-top fun from the bridesmaids’ luncheon on the rooftop at Black Sheep and rehearsal dinner at the Sandollar on Friday, the spectacularly magical evening wedding at the Jacksonville Zoo on Saturday, the after-wedding party at Lisa’s and Bob’s on Sunday, and everything in between.  It was great to spend good times with cousin Pat and her husband Jeff, Lisa’s high school friends Michele and Elaine, and other family and friends.  We also had a couple of very enjoyable spontaneous meals with my College Singers friend, Beth Thompson Doyle, and her husband in Amelia Island, and with my high school friend Beth Wilson DePhillip in St. Augustine.  It was truly an unforgettable week in every way.  And we’re all very happy Greg’s part of the family.

As we look forward to Christmas and the coming new year, we reflect on our abundant blessings and the many wonderful people in our lives.  Thank you for being part of the amazing life God has given us.  We wish you a very blessed Christmas season, a prosperous 2015, and plenty of health and happiness always.  May God bless you all.


Family photo, l to r: Josh, Erika, Etta (almost 4), Leo (6) Wiese
Tony and Mona Leo (Papa and Grammy/Bammy)
Jenni, Dave, Zoey (almost 8), Ruby (5¾), Maggie (almost 4), Sam (2) Cribbs

Saturday, May 3, 2014

May 3, 2014 Rocket Launch

Now we know how NASA feels sometimes.  Today's long-anticipated rocket launch was rife with problems.  Still, it was a glorious day, weather wise, and everyone had a good time.

Things started off less than optimally when we arrived at the field we like to use in Denton. Because our previous launch was in the fall, we didn't realize the field would be used to actually grow crops in the spring.  The nerve!  As we trudged from the street to the middle of the field, I happened to look down and noticed tractor tire tracks, tidy furrows, and baby plants peeking up through the soil.  We quickly reversed our steps, reloaded the car, and headed back to Lewisville where we know a tried-and-true, albeit smaller, field that is often used by remote control aircraft aficionados.  

Before we view the few photos and videos that were almost decent enough to publish, let me offer my......ahem, disclaimers (aka, excuses).  I am not now nor ever will be a photographer/videographer.  I love taking pictures and videos but I'm terrible at it.  Also, our ancient (more than 5 years old) Canon Powershot point-and-shoot camera is not the most dependable vehicle for quality media, particularly in the hands of a total technological dodo.  I should have used my phone.

That being said, here are some samples of our aeronautical adventures this morning.
The first rocket went up at an angle and we lost the nosecone section.  Permanently.  Bummer.
Zoey and Leo were poised to race to the point where the rocket came down because Papa always loads the payload sections with coins and candy.

I totally missed the launch of the second rocket, the one with the glider that detaches and sails to earth on air currents.  I simply wasn't ready when Tony sent it skyward.  It's just as well because the glider never disengaged from the rocket tube, so #2 was kind of a bust.
I did an absolutely horrible job on the third rocket because I totally lost it once it got off the ground.  This particular rocket has strap-on boosters and normally launches beautifully.  Sorry you don't get to see it.  After it reached maximum altitude, though, the two sections plummeted to earth because both parachute attachments burned from the firing engines.  Apparently my Rocket Man failed to secure them in enough protective packing material to prevent fire damage.
Dave helped little Maggie find one of the parachutes in the tall grass.

The last launch video is probably the best of the three even though there were, again, difficulties with the rocket.  It's apparently too long to upload to the blog because I keep getting error messages, so I uploaded it to YouTube instead.  I'm sorry about the extra step of having to open another screen to view it.  I'm what the French call "les incompetents" (first of two Home Alone references in one blog post).

What appeared at first to be a successful launch of Leo 5, the big rocket powered by 5 large engines, was actually a bust because two of the five engines failed to ignite, including the center core engine which ignites the second stage of the rocket.  It did go straight up, but instead of second stage separation, at this point the whole thing fell to the ground like so much lead.  Needless to say, Tony was pretty disappointed, but the kids still loved every minute.  Don't miss Leo's Kevin McAllister imitation as the kids run to find their coins and candy in the payload section!

One of the highlights of the morning was the unexpected arrival of two ultralight paragliders which landed during our time in the field.  We enjoyed visiting with the men, who had built their crafts by hand and piloted them from Rockwall, which is a hefty distance away on the far eastern side of Dallas.  They landed in the field because it was near a gas station, and they needed to refuel before their return trip.  Probably the best video of the day is the one where one of the guys took off after we finished launching.  Again, it has to be a YouTube video because it's too long to upload directly to the blog.

So, Tony has all summer to work out the kinks before we try again in the fall when our Denton field will be available after harvest and the Cribbies will be back from their summer at Kanakuk.  Today was pretty frustrating, but we have to remember that we are, at best, amateurs.  I love that Tony has a fun hobby that provides a learning experience for all of us.  One of these days the kids will appreciate more than the treats he packs for them.  Who knows?  Maybe they'll even take an interest in aeronautical engineering!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The launch of LEO 5

Since Monday was a day off from school and work, and since the weather promised to cooperate, we decided to attempt the maiden voyage of the Leo 5 rocket.  A few months ago Tony (aka, Papa) asked Leo how he should design and build his next rocket, and Leo told Tony to make it really big with 5 engines because Leo had just turned 5.  Tony's built many rockets in the past, and the most recent ones have been of his own design and construction entirely. But this next one was a tall order and a bit ambitious, even for an experienced "aerospace engineer" like Papa!  A 1-engine rocket is pretty powerful and will shoot pretty high, but 5 engines would deliver an almost nuclear explosion--and the rocket had to be large enough to accommodate them.
So Tony worked on the design for several weeks then ordered the parts and components he'd need for construction.  This is one of the joys of his retirement--being able to enjoy his hobbies at leisure while doing fun things with the grandkids.  When the rocket was completed, Tony handed it off to graphic designer son-in-law Josh for a custom paint job.  Josh chose shiny gold paint with block lettering for the name.  Upon return to Tony's "rocket room", the payload section was packed with 12 shiny half dollars (2 per grandchild), a bunch of M&M packets to enjoy afterward, and 7 bright orange whiffle golf balls.  The kids enjoy retrieving their treasures even more than watching the rocket blast off!
We found a large field in Denton far from any major streets or highways.  There were some homes nearby so wind direction and the angle of the rocket had to be factored into where the rocket was set up for launch.
Here is Tony clipping the igniters onto the engines.
Do you think this field is big enough?
A good spot was found and the rocket was set at an angle to launch into the wind.
The construction and excellent paint job up close.
And even closer!
The Cribbies and Wieses arrived for the big event.  It was quite a trek across the big field, especially for the little ones.
Zoey, Leo, and Ruby caught up on the latest cousin news while final preparations were made.
And then we all backed up a good bit to stay out of the danger zone.
A perfect lift-off!  Tony was so happy it actually got off the ground!!  :-)
The G-forces (or something--I'm beyond of my sphere of knowledge here) caused the M&Ms to pulverize inside their packets, so the kids noshed on little crumbs of chocolate and candy shell!
Then they waited expectantly for their shares of the half dollars and golf balls to take home.
Sam was fairly oblivious to the excitement, 'though not as oblivious as he was at last year's launch.  We all had a great time and are looking forward to the next rocket adventure.  Leo 5 will have to be rebuilt because it was pretty beat up when it hit the ground, and Tony wants to tweak a few things to make it go higher and further.  Stay tuned for future developments in the wonderful world of Leo aerospace projects!