Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Houston: Smelly people, funny business names, and relaxed parenting

I'm b-a-c-k. And I'm very happy to be home. Not drugged happy or Paris Hilton-released-from-jail happy. Just happy. And relaxed. I'm not lying either.

I somehow survived SEVEN DAYS with no computer or internet access. Seven. Days. I should be sainted. I had to blog with PAPER and a PEN. This was mid-20th century blogging, aka "keeping a diary." I know, I'm a huge fan of mid-century design, but dudes I don't actually want to live in that era. I just want the cool furniture.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights. "Lowlight" isn't a word, I know, but I was in Dubya's home state and thought I'd invent a word, just like him.

Wednesday, 6/27
We're in the car, for the two hour drive to Dulles Airport (Washington, DC):

Elegant, "How many more minutes until we get to the airport?
Pete," I don't know."
Elegant, "How many seconds then?"
Pete, "I don't know times 60."

When we got to Dulles, we checked in pretty quickly and then had to deal with the security line:

Yes, that's right. Every single human you see in this photo is in line to go through security and this represents only about one-quarter of the mass of humanity.

The good news is, we were in line for only about 20 minutes.

The bad news is, we had to take our shoes off at the security screening point. It's relevant to note it was almost 100 degrees outside. The area immediately around the screeners and x-ray machines smelled very strongly of foot. Lots of them. And this was not an "I put sweet-scented powder in my Manolo Blahniks this morning" scent. This was the smell of many people on a hot summer day. It was a sucky moment and I was not happy. Little did I know what was to come.

When we got to our terminal, we stopped for a forced bathroom break. The last thing I want to deal with is a child who needs to pee as we're boarding or while we're in lock-down mode during departure. Elegant said she didn't have to go, nor did she care to try. I told her to stand outside my stall where I could see her. I went into the stall, hung up my backpack (yes, I'm one of THOSE travelers), and turned around to sit. There, in front of me, was Elegant's Croc-clad foot -- stuck under the door so that I'd have a good visual on her.

We had dinner, our flight was delayed, so we bummed around the terminal, bought overpriced magazines, blah blah blah.

Finally, we were on the plane, where we were delayed another 30 minutes, during which time, the plane had some sort of electrical glitch, la la la, not to worry, so the pilots turned off the plane and everything associated with it. This included the air conditioner. Remember, it was almost 100 degrees outside.

Yeah it sucked.

So, here's a seemingly unrelated reminder to the entire world: When you're going to be flying, put a little extra effort into your personal hygiene. People of the world, I beg of you, please go for an extra swipe of deodorant under both arms and lay off the onions before the trip.

The man in front of me on the plane -- the man behind whom I ended up sitting for almost four hours -- had a bit of an, um, hygiene issue. I still do a mental stomach heave when I revisit this part of my trip. During the thousands of painful seconds I spent behind this man, it never ever got easier. Every time he moved -- and he was as active as an eight-year-old boy with Mountain Dew coursing through his veins -- a fresh waft of his personal eau de onion drifted behind him and up my nose. Oh, and the air conditioning got flaky halfway through the flight.

No, there was no alcohol on the plane.

Yes, it sucked.

Eventually, we made it safe and sound to Houston, where we were greeted by Pete's sister Amy, who is one of the nicest human beings ever. It was late at night and there she was to pick us up and drive us to their mother's house. Oh, and she had stopped by Whole Foods and gotten some essentials for us since the house has been empty for months.

Amy rocks.

Thursday, 6/28
Our first task in Houston was to clean some old food out of the fridge and then restock with stuff that didn't resemble a science fair experiment. We headed to the grocery store, which is always an interesting experience with four people in on the project. Pete bought lots of beer, the girls lobbied for frosted cookies and chocolate Pop Tarts, and I bought two packs of Starbucks bottled mocha frappuccinos.

While Pete paid for our supplies, the girls tested some lawn furniture in the front of the store. The photos of Elegant bouncing up and down are a bit blurry, but I did get this one of Graceful:

Take a moment to note the pack on Graceful's waist. This is the Nancy Drew sleuthing kit she assembled a couple of weeks ago. The girl has worn it EVERY SINGLE DAY since then. When she gets up in the morning, she immediately gets dressed and then there's the audible CLICK when she snaps on her gear.

After we took the groceries back to the house, the Mother Ship called us home. And, holy crap, the kids' area now babysits for an ENTIRE HOUR. Much better than the measly 30 minutes offered by the one in Virginia.

Pete and I got so much done. We've been planning to get a couple more chairs for the living room and our research at IKEA! showed us that we have more thinking (and shopping) to do. One chair that I wanted proved not to be as comfortable as my ass remembered it. Another chair that Pete likes has been temporarily recalled. We also looked at furniture for the girls' bedrooms -- All with the idea that I'm going to do an Extreme Girls' Bedrooms Makeover while they're at my sister's house next week. But that's an entire separate blog for another time.

After we left IKEA!, we went to spring Pete's mother from assisted living. She's doing SO MUCH better than she was when Pete saw her in February, although she's still not where she was before the strokes. She was so happy to be in her house, albeit just for the afternoon and evening.

Friday, 6/29
Good news! My friend Melissa, the better half of the Dynamic Duo of Shoe Shopping, had her baby, who is perfect and healthy and I can't wait to meet her tomorrow. For now, the baby shall remain Jennifer Junior on this blog, unless I receive permission to mention her name, which is just lovely. And, no it's not Jennifer, although I tried, really I did.

Meanwhile, the residents of Jenworld were introduced to the culinary delights of Luby's -- a chain of cafeterias that holds some fond memories for Pete and his siblings. From this point on, I shall refer to the eating establishment as Loogie's, as I was not as impressed as the others were.

When we got in the car, Elegant sighed happily and said, "I love Luby's food."

Then, the real fun began, we went to see Amy and her husband's new warehouse for their business and it was so cool. If Justin had been there, he would have let the kids all drive the forklift. Yeah, we're good parents, all of us.

Instead, we traipsed off to the Children's Museum of Houston, which is one of the best children's museums in the country. We were there for a few hours, which seemed like mere moments for the children and an eternity for the adults. My personal eyes got real heavy and tired-like within 15 minutes, but I managed to stay awake. Well, except for that two minute catnap while Elegant was playing with water:

Hey, what can I say? It was in the upper 80s out there and I was already sleep-deprived from the night before.

We all parted ways and Pete, the girls, my MIL, and I went back to the house. Everyone came back over that night and we ordered pizza. Pete also fixed me a ginormous rum and Coke, which was basically rum colored with a bit of Coke to make it a little darker. That drink helped things enormously, as I was feeling the effects of too much family togetherness and too many late nights. I love 'em but there's only so much love I can take.

Oh, and my nephew Joseph (age 7) is the funniest kid. He doesn't say his R's, so words come out funny. He and Pete were trading fart jokes, only he calls them "fawts," which makes us all laugh even harder. We are indeed a classy family.

Saturday, 6/30
We picked up Pete's mother again and everyone assembled at Pete's brother's neighborhood pool, where we commenced wearing out five kids ranging in age from three to ten.

Here are four of them:

What an amazing group of children. Obviously quite smart and talented and well behaved. They're clearly destined for Ivy League schools.

At one point, Graceful was hanging all over her uncle Steve. When Pete suggested that maybe she shouldn't choke the love out of him, Graceful responded, "I'm just having some quality time with Uncle Steve."

Proving his worth as an uncle, Justin turned himself into a human amusement park ride:

Jeez, first the cool warehouse with the promise of forklift driving classes and now this. It can't get any better can it? As a matter of fact it can. Read on.

More great food tonight. This time, various kinds of meat, fish, and fowl sacrificed on the grill. Why even bother with vegetables?

Sunday, 7/1

We slept in today. Oh, how we needed it. Then, a trip to Eurway, a store we'd heard about that carries modern furniture that's right up our alley. The girls were really into it and kept testing out chair after chair. Graceful said she prefers modern furniture over "old fashioned stuff" and, pointing at one red chair said, "Mommy, I'm grooving on this red."

We got in the car and Pete said, "What did you think of this store?"
Elegant replied, "Eight thumbs up."

After that, another trip to the Mother Ship to check out a few more things. On the way, we passed a tanning salon that, so help me, was called "Darque Tan."

Then we picked up my MIL and headed off. This afternoon's food fest was at Amy's and Justin's house. As I mentioned, Justin and Amy have a warehouse and a forklift. They also own some big vehicles:

Yeah, that would be the children riding up on the tailgate. Yes, there were adults around supervising. Well, drinking beer.

Monday, 7/2
We went downtown to check out Houston's tunnels and have lunch. The weather is often hot and humid and miserable so there's a whole network of tunnels under downtown. These aren't dark and nasty rat-infested burrows. On the contrary, it's like being in a fancy shopping mall, complete with lots of marble. Much fun was had by all.

While making the drive, we passed a place called "Smoke 'n' Toke." I did a double take. Pete told me that it had been around forever and that, even though pot isn't legal -- well, duh, Texas is a conservative state and the home of a certain dumb ass President of the U.S. -- the store somehow finds ways to sell the various supplies needed to get high.

After hearing this information, I said, "That just blows my mind. [pause] So to speak."

More family togetherness for dinner and a another ass-kicking rum and Coke made by Pete.

Tuesday, 7/3
We got up and got busy. Stripped the beds. Did the laundry and put away the clean towels and sheets. Cleaned the bathrooms. Emptied the fridge. Took out the garbage. Thrilling, I know, but the house isn't normally inhabited and we need to leave things nice for the next time visitors come into town.

Amy again showed how terrific she is by driving us to the airport. On the way, we passed a place called "Hobbit Hole Sports Bar." I don't know about you, but I didn't get a real football or basketball vibe when I watched the "Lord of the Rings" movies. In fact, one would think those big hobbit feet would get in the way of running and kicking with the pros.

The airport was a breeze to get through. No problems anywhere. Well, the airline had our seats scattered around the plane, with no related adults sitting next to Graceful or Elegant. That was easily solved when I went to the gate agent and explained that it really wasn't fair to put innocent adults next to a six-year-old with unmedicated ADHD. The gate agent called up the two people seated next to the girls, explained the situation, and asked if the adults would like to change seats with Pete and me. I wasn't privy to the conversation, but from my vantage point, it appeared that the adults in question were nodding "yes" as soon as they heard "seated next to a child."

But, to be fair, the girls are amazing travelers. They are well behaved and this behavior is helped by the repeated appearance of the Trip Fairy. For once, I let the girls look in their bags before we got on the plane. Pete had gotten them some vintage Richie Rich comic books and I added more Rainbow Magic fairy books to their collection.

This is pretty much how Elegant spent the next six hours:

Yep, utter silence for an hour in the terminal, three hours on the plane, and two hours in the car on the way home. In fact, as we crossed the parking lot to our car, I had to say, "Elegant, if you don't close your book and watch where you're walking, I'll take the book away until tomorrow."

So we're back. Whew. I have to say, Houston did not suck the way I thought it would. In fact, I'd have to say that it was the best visit I've ever had there. I even liked Houston this time and no I wasn't heavily medicated or drunk when I was liking it. There's a lot to do, including a thriving Museum District. Lots of great architecture. Really. Even the weather cooperated and wasn't hot and humid. Weird, I know. It was almost like being in some sort of alternate universe.

Well, the mosquitoes are still as big as Buicks and I have to bites to prove it.

Some things never change.


Suzanne said...


I must say I'm inordinately impressed that you cleaned & closed up your MIL's house, flew back east (losing several hours), and still managed to post TWO trip-related posts while bathing two girls and laundrying and unpacking, etc.

And even though I knew you were going to be gone a week, I still kept checking your blog hoping you would log on at some point in Houston.

Glad you had a good enough time to make it a whole week with no internet. I don't know that I would be able to be so strong... though a couple of Pete's rum & Cokes would certainly make it more bearable, I'm sure!

MizMell said...

sounds like you had a good trip. But it is always nice to come back home--even with the laundry and such.

Aims said...

Welcome back! I wouldn't have been able to handle a week with no 'net. You did good! Mmmm...I feel like a cold rum n coke now!