Time after time we hear from people that Waco is a great place to raise a family, and we know that Waco is indeed filled with great families that live within our city limits and also in the neighboring communities. For this month’s Family issue, we introduce you to six families who live in different areas of our community — China Spring, Hewitt, Lorena, Waco and Woodway. They talked about what life is like in their neighborhood, what they value in their family and how they have fun together. While each family has their own unique flavor, you’ll notice some common ground as well, whether it’s favorite hangout spots, festive Halloween traditions or music-infused homes.
Hewitt 76643 | The Morgan Family
Shamonica is a licensed chiropractor and owner of Hillcrest Chiropractic Clinic. Robert is employed by the Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center as an administrative assistant.
They have three children: Malik, 21, Samiyah, 12, and Sarai, 6 — and a granddaughter, Chloe, 1. Malik attends McLennan Community College, while Samiyah goes to Midway Middle School, and Sarai will start first grade at Spring Valley Elementary School.
Lived in Hewitt: Three years.
Neighborhood vibe: Quiet, peaceful and kid-friendly.
Why Hewitt: Midway ISD
Favorite aspect: “The people and their willingness to help others. Service is clearly important to many individuals in Hewitt.”
Family culture: God-fearing Christians. Loyal. Loving.
Values: “Faith, family and work. It’s important that our children have their own relationship with God. At some point in life, we all walk into our valley during which time growth takes place, and it’s important for them to trust God and the process. Life is like a big merry-go-round; you’re up and then down. It’s important to have family because they provide love, support and a framework of values. And it’s very important that our children understand the importance of hard work as well as financial independence. Our children are taught to work to learn how to be appreciative of the many blessings they have. They also are taught to give back. God blesses you so you can be a blessing to others.”
Keeping happy and healthy: “Faith is the quality that we stand on for health, happiness, devastation, etc. There are so many obstacles that will enter your path, but one must be planted and stand firmly in their beliefs. Our family is rooted in faith.”
Most likely to be spotted at: St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church. Cameron Park Zoo. Suspension Bridge. Starbucks. Jewel Theater. Downtown Waco. Food trucks. Midway football games. Painting With a Twist.
Perfect Saturday: “Family time — grilling, playing music, being lazy and just enjoying the day.”
Waco bucket list: Canoeing on the Brazos and Waco Tours.
Lorena 76655 | The Williams Family
Taylor works full time at Allergan as a metrologist. I.V. owns Loaded Sound, a full-service AV rental/install and event production company. They have four children: Piper, 9, Braxton, 9, Emmy, 8, and Joy, 4. The girls go to Lorena schools, and Braxton goes to school in Georgetown.
Lived in Lorena: Six years.
Why Lorena: “We were gifted land here in Lorena, but we chose to build a home and raise our family here because of the small-town feel. Our children get to experience running around our property playing hide-and-seek, riding horses, shooting bows and not having to worry if we will disrupt the neighbors.”
Favorite aspect: “Peoples’ desire to help each other. There are two blessing boxes, a food pantry and Leopards Crossing, which is a nonprofit that provides clothing assistance to families in need. Our street has a Facebook group where people post odd jobs they need help with, pictures of found or missing pets and other things of that nature.”
Family culture: Close-knit. Fun. Inclusive. “We love to entertain and open our home to our friends and family. Music is also a big part of our family. Taylor is a musician, and all the children are learning to play different instruments, as well. Music is always on in our home, and even our home décor is music-themed. We have framed hymnals and a custom guitar frame made by Fratus Woodworks.”
Keeping happy and healthy: “The most important aspect of our life that keeps our family happy is worshiping together. We are very involved in our church, Faith Temple Baptist, and love our children growing up there.”
Treasured tradition: “Attending the Christmas in the Country Parade in Lorena the weekend after Thanksgiving. Then we take the kids to pick out a new Christmas ornament that represents something they have done or accomplished from that year.”
Most likely to be spotted at: Chillz. Hat Creek Burger Company.
Perfect Saturday: “Cook a big breakfast, head out to Cameron Park for some hiking or Pura Vida Paddle for paddleboarding, then cooking out for dinner at home while kids ride the horses and ending the night with a dance party and karaoke in the living room.”
Woodway 76712 | The Callahan Family
Robert and his business partner own a law firm, Callahan & King, PLLC. They specialize in criminal defense and family law. Mollie stays home with their three kids: Isaac, 10, Berea, 7, and Justus, 3. The kids all attend Midway schools.
Lived in Woodway: Three years.
Neighborhood vibe: “This is the friendliest neighborhood we’ve ever lived in. Usually, we’re the ones reaching out to make friends with new neighbors. When we moved in, people brought us cakes and bread, and many came by to welcome us.”
Why Woodway: Less hustle and bustle.
Favorite aspect: “We love the trees and hills. It’s a beautiful town, quiet and peaceful.”
Family culture: Fun-loving. Creative. Loud! Worshipers of God.
Values: “Everyone has value because we’re all made in the image of God. Listening and empathy have become lost arts. We want to make sure that our children still understand their worth.”
Treasured tradition: “When we bought our home, the previous owners told us that our house had hosted the neighborhood Halloween party for the past 30-plus years and that we had to keep it going. It was practically part of the contract. It’s become one of the highlights of our year. Our kids plan out their costumes months in advance — Robert does too! Forty or more neighbors come for games, fun and a cookout on the front lawn. The previous owners come too.”
Most likely to be spotted at: Common Grounds Woodway. Dichotomy. Hat Creek Burger Company. Mardel. Half Price Books. Golden’s Book Exchange. “Justus considers the bookstore his ‘happy place.’”
Perfect Saturday: “We like to take it slow in the morning. We usually sleep a little later than usual and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee. Then we like to get out as a family. We enjoy shopping, the farmers market, working in the yard. The perfect end to the day is dinner and conversation with friends or a date.”
Waco bucket list: “We’ve recently checked off riding the downtown trolley, taking pictures at numerous murals and visiting the Mammoth Site. Still on our list is the Doris Miller Memorial, paddleboarding on the Brazos, and the kids beg to visit Hawaiian Falls water park every summer.”
Waco, Old Oaks 76710 | The Snyder Family
Drew is a national retail manager for Vital Farms. Rae owns Infinity Pilates & Yoga in Waco, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in October. Twins Ella and Aubrey are 8, and their brother, Everett, is 6. They attend St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Downtown Waco. “Ella was born deaf,” Rae said. “She was 13 months when she got cochlear implants. We drove to Dallas twice a week to do auditory verbal therapy. And she’s totally amazing. You’d never know she was deaf.”
Lived in Old Oaks: Five years
Neighborhood vibe: “This is one of the only streets in town I’ve seen where you can legitimately sit on your front porch and let your kids run up and down the street with all the other kids.”
Why Old Oaks: “We wanted to live on a quiet street.”
Favorite aspect: “This is the prettiest street in Waco,” Rae said.
“The mature trees,” Drew said. “It’s like the set of a movie. And we’ve got the Fourth of July parade, which is the second-oldest in the city, besides Austin Avenue. We have a [neighborhood] Halloween party every year. We have a Christmas party every year. We do Pub on the Porch for St. Patrick’s Day.”
Treasured traditions: “I’m a huge Halloween fan,” Rae said. “We do a big party on the porch. They all trick-or-treat together and have a blast.” The family has themed costumes each year, such as “The Shining,” Candy Land, an old-fashioned circus, and Charlie Brown and his friends from the “Peanuts” comic strip.
In the community: Junior League. Family Abuse Center & Dancing With the Waco Stars. Baylor Alpha Tau Omega board. Hedonia.
Family culture: Snuggly. Big communicators. “Ever since Ella was born and we found out she was deaf and found out we were going to have to go through therapy for years, we realized early on that we would have to communicate way more than a normal person would with their child.”
Most likely to be spotted at: Cameron Park. Viking Hills Park. Cameron Park Zoo. Mayborn Museum. Hey Sugar. George’s. Moroso. The Y. When the Baylor football team is playing a home game, “we’re in the ‘Creekside on the Brazos’ tailgate group,” Rae said, with, among others, her sister and brother-in-law, Nichole and Glen Guthrie.
China Spring 76633 | The Cates Family
Shane is a district manager for Branson Tractor. He and his father-in-law own Spartan Equipment. Savannah managed a salon near Baylor and is now a stay-at-home mom. She will soon pursue a career in interior decorating. Shyanne, 7, is a first grader at China Spring Elementary. Skylar, 2 1/2, goes to Parents’ Day Out at Journey Christian Community in China Spring.
Lived in China Spring: Four years.
Why China Spring: “This is home,” Shane said. “I went to China Spring [High School]. She went to Bosqueville.” At China Spring, Shane was the state powerlifting champion in 2002, with a bench press, squat and deadlift total of about 1,660 pounds.
Favorite aspect: “It’s growing, but it’s still a small town,” Savannah said. “I still like seeing tractors on the road. Little things like that make it still feel like it’s the country.”
Together time: “Anything outdoors,” Savannah said. “They love being on the airboat. They like going fishing. They like going to see their horse, Sunny.”
“There’s a lot of nature out here, of course, with the river,” Shane said. “On our property, we’ve got a little creek running through with a waterfall.”
“Going to the river bottom and throwing rocks is my most favoritest thing to do,” Shyanne said.
Treasured traditions: “We have tons of Christmas ones,” Savannah said. “We try to do things through the whole month of December.
We watch Christmas movies all through December. I try to do some things my mom did. She always had an Elvis Christmas CD playing on Christmas morning. We’re a big music family. We always have music blaring. I grew up that way because my mom, [Sheri Price], was in music. She was on the charts and made it to Nashville. She was right there [in the business], but they said, ‘You can’t really take your kids on the road.’ And she
just said, ‘I can’t leave them.’ I didn’t understand it then; I understand it more now.”
Most likely to be spotted at: Urban Air. Movie theater. Cameron Park. Ninfa’s. Freddy’s.
Perfect Saturday: “When it is nice out, we take them to the river bottom and let them see the horse. And we have friends over with their kids. We make burgers and the kids play outside.”
Waco, Sanger Heights 76707 | The Stewart Family
Daniel is a stillman at Balcones Distilling. Haley is a blogger, author, podcaster and speaker. In addition, she is also the homeschool teacher to their four children: Benjamin, 10, Lucy, 7, Gwen, 6, and Hildegard, 10 months.
Lived in Sanger Heights: Three years.
Why Sanger Heights: “We like being close to everything. And it’s an affordable neighborhood. There are lots of families.”
Favorite aspect: “One thing we like about our neighborhood is just our neighbors. We have great relationships with the folks around us. It’s a diverse neighborhood. Interesting people. Good for the kids to meet and be around a lot of different types of people. The neighbors are always outside, so that’s been fun too, meeting people.”
Family time: “We like to go to Cameron Park. That’s one of the big things we like to do is go and hike up there as a family,” Haley said.
“I take the kids to the zoo once a week. We have memberships to the zoo,” Daniel said. “We went on a behind-the-scenes tour and loved it. We go to the Mayborn often.”
Treasured traditions: “I feel like a lot of them revolve around food,” Haley said.
“We have a lot of faith traditions with things like St. Nicholas Day, Easter time and Christmas time. The kids all like to help cook and so they get in the kitchen a lot,” Daniel said.
Hobbies: Gardening, beekeeping, running.
Most likely to be spotted at: Cameron Park. Cameron Park Zoo. Mayborn Museum. Rufi’s Cocina. World Cup Café. Central Library.
Perfect Saturday: “We’ll go to the farmers market. We’ll go to the dollar movie sometimes,” Daniel said.
“We like to do stuff with the kids in the garden. We’ve got a big vegetable garden and goats and chickens and stuff back there,” Haley said.
Haley and Daniel Stewart moved to Waco from Florida to study at Baylor University. After a move back to their home state for a few years, they came back to Waco and lived and worked at the World Hunger Relief Farm for a while before buying a house in Sanger Heights.
When Wacoan writer Kevin Tankersley visited the family at their home, they were preparing dinner. From the garden, they had collected tomatoes and zucchini; from the chicken coop, there were eight fresh eggs. Fish, sautéed vegetables and rice were on the menu that night.
WACOAN: How did y’all end up in Waco?
Haley: I came out for Baylor, and he followed me out here. We finished up at Baylor, and our firstborn, [Benjamin], was born out here. Then when he was about 15 months old, we moved back to Florida where all our extended family is. We were there for five years.
WACOAN: What prompted the move back to Waco?
Daniel: We were in Tallahassee, and I worked for a software company and hated it. We were kind of stuck. Tallahassee is not a super expensive place to live. I just kind of got stuck, always just keeping up. I wasn’t enjoying my job.
We came out here for a wedding for a friend, and we were staying with people who, at the time, worked at World Hunger Relief and talked about an internship. We were kind of thinking about what would we really want to do. We had a choice, and so we ended up selling our house, selling a lot of stuff, coming out and living at World Hunger Relief. I did a livestock internship.
WACOAN: Did you have experience working with livestock before doing an internship?
Haley: We had chickens in Florida, but that’s it.
WACOAN: Livestock are the big animals, right?
Daniel: Livestock is any animal, I guess. But I applied for the internship. I had been gardening for a long time. I had been overseas, working in the Philippines. I had some experience. I did gardening, had some experience with agriculture, but really wanted more experience with livestock. I learned a lot out there. It was a great experience. It made me learn that I did not want to be a farmer full time.
The internship was a year, and then I worked for another year [at World Hunger Relief] doing some marketing and things like that, the website. Then I was at Methodist Children’s Home for a little over a year. I worked at one of the group homes, with high school boys. I really enjoyed it. I was totally happy there. Then a position came up at Balcones.
Haley: It was kind of your dream job.
Daniel: We had been talking, and I was happy [at Methodist Children’s Home] and had been doing some classes and really talked about the only thing else in Waco I would do is work there [at Balcones].
WACOAN: What do you do at Balcones?
Daniel: I’m a stillman. I run the stills. It’s like a 14-hour kind of thing to run the stills all day. There’s a guy who comes in the morning and gets that going, and then I come in the afternoon and finish it out. I love working there. It’s a great, great experience.
WACOAN: And how long have you been there?
Daniel: Since February, so still kind of learning and getting used to it.
WACOAN: And when did y’all move back to Waco?
Daniel: The fall of 2015.
WACOAN: And did y’all move into this house then?
Haley: We lived in a little 650-square-foot apartment at The Farm. We lived on The Farm for that year, then bought the house the following spring and moved in that summer.
WACOAN: What drew you to Sanger Heights?
Haley: Our church, St. Louis [Catholic], is right up the way. We just wanted to be close to friends and where we could easily get around with one vehicle. Daniel just runs or bikes to work. And so we wanted to be close by for those reasons. We didn’t want to live way out in Woodway or Hewitt.
Daniel: Yeah, we wanted to live in Waco. Since we’ve been here, we’ve ended up loving this neighborhood and being here.
WACOAN: What are your favorite things about Sanger Heights?
Daniel: We love our neighborhood, and like she said, we can literally walk to our church. We can walk to Rufi’s [Cocina] down the street.
Haley: It’s the best.
Daniel: We can walk to World Cup Café.
Haley: We’re five minutes from the library.
WACOAN: How long does it take you to run to work?
Daniel: If I’m running late, I can run to work if I’m really booking it in 14 minutes.
Haley: But he runs ultramarathons, like 100-mile marathons. So you’re not a regular person like the rest of us.
Daniel: It’s 2 miles on the dot from my door to the trails in Cameron Park. So I can just run over there and get on the trails in 2 miles.
Haley: That was something else we looked at, how close are we to Cameron Park and the library.
Daniel: It is pretty crazy how awesome Cameron Park is. I don’t think people understand how amazing it is to have 30 miles of trails in the middle of the city, and you can just walk over there.
WACOAN: How many miles do you usually run a week?
Daniel: Between 30 and 50. I can make it to work in 15 minutes, which is like a normal commute. Of course for me it’s also nice because the still house is really hot, so I get sweaty anyway, so it’s not a problem.
WACOAN: Haley, tell me about your work.
Haley: I’m a writer and author, and then I have a blog and do podcasting. I do a little bit of traveling for speaking.
WACOAN: Your book about living on The Farm, ‘The Grace of Enough,’ tell me a little more about that.
Haley: It was about our move from feeling stuck in the rat race to reconnecting as a family, kind of through and informed by our Catholic faith, and then different lessons we learned that had to do with habits and practices like hospitality, slowing down to come together, those sorts of things that would be brought to our life in the city.
WACOAN: What do you write about on your blog?
Haley: Anything from literature to faith and motherhood, usually somewhere in there. Catholic faith, literature, motherhood and culture.
WACOAN: Is your podcast about the same things?
WACOAN: And when you speak?
Haley: Usually I speak at Catholic churches or women’s events. Last week I was speaking at a Catholic homeschooling conference, so usually where there’s lots of Catholic women hanging out.
WACOAN: Your book talks about simple living, less waste. What drew y’all to that way of living?
Haley: Maybe a little bit of Wendell Berry, the writer. Also, right as we were thinking about this move, Pope Francis came out with an encyclical called ‘Laudato Si’’ about care for our common home, the earth, that had a lot of things about that. I think Daniel wanted to do farming ever since he read the book ‘Ox-Cart Man’ [by Donald Hall] when he was a little boy. So I think you’ve always been interested in that, right?
Daniel: Yeah. My dad comes from Mississippi, and we would always go back because we had a cousin still on the farm. A lot of my views about it were idealistic dreams of farming.
WACOAN: You came to Baylor to study what?
Haley: To study Great Texts. I came out in 2004, and then Daniel followed me out here in 2005.
WACOAN: And Daniel, you were studying?
Daniel: I eventually studied Great Texts as well and Biblical languages.
WACOAN: When did y’all graduate?
Haley: I graduated in 2008, and Daniel graduated in 2009.
WACOAN: What was your faith before you came to Baylor?
Haley: My parents were going to an Anglican church. I grew up Protestant. They became Anglican right before I went to college. So I grew up just mainline Protestant, and Daniel grew up Southern Baptist. His dad’s a Southern Baptist minister.
WACOAN: So y’all kind of did this backward. You came to a Baptist university and converted to Catholicism. How did that happen?
Daniel: We studied ancient literature, starting with Greek and Roman and kind of working our way up through —
Haley: The early church fathers.
Daniel: And Middle Ages. For me, I grew up not having any familiarity at all with early church fathers or even knowing that term. I didn’t know there were writers in the early centuries of the church. So for me, a lot of it was reading these authors and connecting that with the Catholic faith. There’s a long version of this obviously; that’s the short version.
Learning about these early church fathers and kind of coming to believe that things like real presence of the Eucharist, that sort of thing, was true. And transubstantiation, the idea that during the Mass, the red wine is literally turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For me, that was always a very foreign idea, so to find it in the very early church fathers was the big turning point for me. I kind of went kicking and screaming. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do.
Haley: He was a reluctant convert.
Daniel: It was difficult for my family and friends and everyone I was close to.
WACOAN: What did your dad, the Southern Baptist minister, think?
Daniel: It was tough at first. We’ve had lots and lots of conversations about it. My parents are not only good Christians, but they’re reasonable people. He obviously does not agree with me, but we’re able to talk about this. They still love and pray for us. We have a good relationship.
WACOAN: So, changing the subject, what all is growing here in your garden?
Daniel: The garden is a bit of a mess right now. This weekend I plan to get a lot of it in order. We have a lot of tomatoes and squash. Some weird things. A lot of flowers for the girls. We kind of go back and forth between wanting to grow things that will save us money, like tomatoes, and things that are just fun for me, but then also fun for the kids.
WACOAN: What are some weird things you have growing?
Daniel: We’ve got some bitter melon. I’ve never tried it. We’ll see. These straw flowers. These are new for me. They feel like straw. Fun little short sunflowers. Cinnamon basil. Green corn, but I don’t know if it’s ready yet. Weird kale. Purple peppers. We usually focus on tomatoes and then flowers.
WACOAN: What are some things you like to cook?
Daniel: Benjamin, what do you like to cook the most?
Benjamin: Asian. I think it was the most fun to make the duck.
WACOAN: You cooked a duck?
Haley: Explain what the duck looked like the morning of the day [we cooked it].
Benjamin: Well, it looked like a duck.
Daniel: A friend gave us a duck, a live duck. Benjamin decided he wanted to cook it.
WACOAN: So how’d that go?
Benjamin: I think the hardest part was getting all the meat off of the duck. The feathers stick, not like in chickens. For chickens, the feathers just come out if you dip it in water.
Daniel: Benjamin had some experience from The Farm, and from here, butchering chickens. With chickens, the feathers are pretty easy to get off.
Benjamin: And we didn’t have one of the feather machines. Well, I think the hardest part though was getting all of the meat off the duck. So then when I had it all off, you get a big pan and you roast it.
WACOAN: Tell me about your animals here.
Daniel: We’ve got chickens, and we have two goats.
WACOAN: You have goats in the middle of town? How cool.
Daniel: Yes. Waco has pretty good regulations about that kind of thing. You have to keep the animals like 200 feet from your neighbors.
WACOAN: The animals, are they pets or …
Daniel: They’re livestock in our minds.
WACOAN: All of them.
Haley: Maybe not in all of our minds. I think the kids and I are hopeful that the goats can be dairy goats, but we haven’t convinced Daniel yet.
Daniel: I got them to help clear [the land], because we have a double lot. I wanted to clear some land, and goats are good for that.
WACOAN: The city just hired a bunch of goats to clear land down by the river.
Daniel: They do a good job of that. And I also personally enjoy goat meat.
WACOAN: Do others in your house enjoy goat meat?
Haley: Yes, we like to eat goat meat. Except that Sally and Gertie, the goats, are very cute.
WACOAN: You’ve named them?
Haley: We’ve named them.
WACOAN: Daniel, you might be fighting a losing battle because they named them.
Daniel: I understand. We’ll see. It’ll be fine. I also like milking goats. I did that out at The Farm. I don’t necessarily like milking goats every single day of my life.
Haley: But in a year-and-a-half, we’ll have a 12-year-old.
Daniel: All the kids are capable of milking a goat with some help right now. We’ll see if they’re capable of doing it on their own in a year or so.
WACOAN: This shows my lack of livestock knowledge, but if you have goats for milk, do you have to milk them every day?
Daniel: Yes. Typically you milk them twice a day. You can work it so you only have to do it once a day, but it’s still every day. You can’t really stop.
Haley: And that makes it hard to go to town.
WACOAN: After you milk the goat, does the milk go through a process, or do you drink it raw? How does this work?
Haley: You can just drink it raw, especially if you know what you’re doing and everything’s clean and if you drink it right away.
At The Farm, they used to have goats. They had to go through a whole process there.
Daniel: They had to strain it and then cool it down to a certain temperature. In Texas, you can sell raw milk as long as somebody picks it up on the farm. We would never sell it. It’s just for us. We love to make cheese. And I make soap, so we’ll probably do some of that.
WACOAN: Another dumb livestock question. Do you use goat milk to make soap?
Daniel: You can. It helps with the moisturizing qualities. At the farmers market you’ll see goat’s milk soap.
WACOAN: And do y’all have bees?
Daniel: Yeah, but not here. I have them out at friends’ houses that have a bit more land.
WACOAN: How many hives do you have?
Daniel: I have three.
WACOAN: And how many bees are in a typical hive?
Daniel: In the winter, it’s down to maybe 20,000. In the summer it ramps up closer to 70,000 or 80,000. Usually it’s between 60,000 and 70,000 here in Waco.
WACOAN: How much honey do you typically harvest?
Daniel: It really depends on the year. Waco is a terrible place to keep bees. Part of the problem is that these are European bees, and so their natural cycle is that they’re kind of self-contained in a small group in the winter. And then in the summer when the wildflowers come out, your cycle of bees is very low, and then it’s high at the peak of summer when there’s lots of wildflowers and then it kind of dies back in the fall when there’s less and less.
Here in Waco, it goes early spring where it ramps up, tons of wildflowers, tons of rain and everything is great. Then we have this big dip in the summer where everything dies and there is nothing and we have a desert for a month. So it’s terrible for the bees in that regard.
We’re really dependent on wildflowers, and with our weather patterns, last year we just didn’t get anything. So if it’s a bad year, you get nothing. If it’s a good year, it’s great.
I’m not making money really. It’s just mostly for us to last. We like to eat mostly honey for sugar if we can.
We get maybe 50 pounds [of honey] per hive. It didn’t quite last us this year. We kind of ran out. I was too generous. This will be a good year. I’ll get a super or two from each hive and fill up 50 to 100 of those little [bear containers] that we use. We like to share with friends and family.
WACOAN: Haley, you said you write about literature? Are you reading anything good right now?
Haley: Yeah. Daniel read it a couple of months ago: ‘Laurus,’ by Eugene Vodolazkin. It’s a Russian novel. It’s a modern novel that takes place in the Middle Ages about a healer from Russia, so there’s lots about Eastern Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodox, Christianity. I have about a hundred pages to go, but it’s very beautiful so far. You liked it too, right?
Daniel: Yeah, very strange. Very unusual.
WACOAN: What makes it unusual?
Haley: Part of it is the language. They’ll use very modern English and then it’ll switch to very antiquated, almost spelled like Old English. Also there’s a lot of almost magical realism, where there’s a lot of supernatural things that you’re supposed to accept as reality. It’s written for a modern audience, but I think it does a good job of putting you in the mindset of a medieval person, how they would have seen the world.
Daniel: It takes the medieval worldview at face value.
WACOAN: Daniel, what’s good that you’ve read lately?
Daniel: I just read ‘Empire of the Summer Moon’ [by S.C. Gwynne]. It’s about Quanah Parker, the half-white, half-Comanche son of Cynthia Ann Parker. She was captured in 1835 up near Mexia, back when there was no Mexia. Nobody lived here. She was captured from there, ended up becoming a part of the Comanche tribe and had a son who became a great war lord.
The Comanche empire were from here, [around] the Brazos. The Huaco were here, but they were farmers and they would give fealty to the Comanches really. And their empire stretched from here up to Kansas, Colorado. Huge. It’s crazy to think about.
There was actually a Comanche tribe member who came recently and talked about some of the old Comanche sites and speculated about a place of worship for the Comanches.
WACOAN: Can you tell me about your tattoo?
Haley: It’s Our Lady Star of the Sea. It’s Mary, holding baby Jesus, and then standing on the anchor cross representing Christ our hope. I got it after Gwen was born. I’d get really sick during my pregnancies, so it was my worst pregnancy so far at the time. Coming out the other side of that I wanted to commemorate being led through that by Our Lady and just the grace of getting all the way through with the Sea.
WACOAN: Daniel, tell me about yours.
Haley: Oh, dear.
Daniel: I’ve got a lot. Some of them have weird stories. I have a goose, for devotion to St. Pharaildis, the patron saint of sick children. It was when —
Haley: Lucy was a newborn.
Daniel: There was an illness, and we prayed during that time, and as gratitude, the goose. I’ve got a bear, and I have a large chest piece of our family crest. Some have a whole lot of meaning. Some don’t have a whole lot.
Haley: I thought it would be cool [for him] to have a whale fighting —
Daniel: A squid.
Haley: You like Moby Dick.