Last night a big storm swept in over Galveston, lashing the remaining trees and pelting the windows with hard rain. It pretty much lasted all night. I haven’t slept so well in ages.

What is it about driving rain that makes you feel so relaxed and sleepy?

I know. I know what you are thinking.

Uh…don’t you live in Seattle? Where it rains all the freaking time, lady?

So, yeah. It does rain all the time. It’s awesome…..buuuuut…in the new place our windows are indented in a sort of mini box around the outside of the building , which keeps rain from really pounding on the windows, plus the general merriment on the street like the constant ambulances and police cars and the occasional Lifeflight helicopter going to the big trauma center at Harborview and the every once in a while sound of broken glass or a gunshot, all keeps us from having that quiet 4 AM waking and hearing the wind moan and the palm trees whipping in the wind and the soft but persistent tap-tap-tapping on the windows.

That’s all Galveston.

So, we headed to the airport well-rested (we’ve established that) and faced off with a surly Continental gate agent who was telling me that Baby J would need to ride BY HIMSELF in between two strangers because we had only been assigned middle seats. We bought the tickets in SEPTEMBER and his ticket was purchased as a two year old.

If he said impatiently WE ARE COMPLETELY FULL, MA’AM/MA’AM, I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO, THE FLIGHT IS FULL once, he said it a thousand times.

They told me that I would have to walk up and down the aisles and ask other passengers to “trade” a window seat for a middle seat for a four hour plus flight.



The last time I did that was when M was two and D was a newborn and I got cussed out up and down the plane because I was delaying the departure and I was sweaty and literally begging strangers to trade places with me. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

Fast forward to today, I waited until the entire plane was loaded and then when they tried to make us get on (our luggage was loaded at this point) I smiled and said that we could not get on until the baby had an assigned seat next to one of his parents and that if they couldn’t provide the ticket that they had sold us, we would need to take the next flight.

Panic ensured. If we don’t go, then our luggage would have to be pulled from the aircraft and the place was already late taking off from Houston. After frantic keyboard tapping and lots of whispered gate agent conversation punctuated with hostile glares at me, Baby J was promptly assigned a window seat next to me and off we went.

CHA-CHING! Score one for the moms out there.

Chalk that one up to post 9/11 FAA regulations and Mom being a little older and wiser.

Now, we are home. All of downtown is draped in Christmas lights, the air is fresh and misty, cool but not cold, and the absence of Square children appears to have induced only slight neurosis in the cats.

Life is good.



Without further ado…I present:

The Texas Renaissance Festival!


Let’s talk about Houston.

I’m a little harsh about Houston, generally, because the only time I go there is to shop at the Houston Galleria and environs, which has excellent, world-class shopping but one major problem.

You must shop alongside wealthy Houstonians, who I think must be the single tackiest and most over consumptive population on the planet. The shopping, the wealth…it’s perhaps the most extreme place on earth for conspicuous consumption. It makes New York look frugal. Really. Conversations overheard in Houston are the subject of hilarity for months after I return to Seattle. Every time I go, I always look around and think Who are these people? The outfits, the nails, the accents….I can’t handle it. Plus, it’s a maze of freeways, it’s insanely humid, it seems to lack cohesion, it has gigantic suburbs, everyone seems to drive an SUV, etc, etc.

Everything I hate, Houston seems to love.

However, today I discovered a secret that Houston has been keeping from me….all those over exercised, over manicured, over spending women lunching at Neimans are really doing something with all those charity balls.


Today we loaded all seven of us into my father-in-law’s SUV and chugged north into Houston to see the Faberge show at the Houston Museum of Natural History.

When we walked in the front door, we spotted their jaw-droppingly amazing collection of dinosaur bones.


(Special note: these are not cast molds of bones to re-create a skeleton. These are the real things.)

Tyrannosaurus Rex, below.

D admires a therapod.

Baby J directed his grandmother around to see everything.

Jeff marvels at the Tyrannosaurus legs…

Daddy Bill observes the full Brachiosaurus skeleton.

This skeleton was about as tall as a human. I tried to imagine it stalking you, ready to pounce. Creepy.

Mastodon, below.

About the size of golden retriever, early predecessor to today’s modern horse. M was amazed.

The one on the right is a real dinosaur egg, the one one the left is a modern ostrich egg.

One of the things that amazed me the most was that this great collection was in Houston….the buckle of mid-west bible belt thinking. Conservative Christians hate dinosaurs and evolution and science and museums.

But then I remembered….oil money built this museum. Oil money comes from the work of geologists, who know for damn sure that god didn’t create the earth six thousand years ago and leave dinosaur bones as a test of faith. Oil money is derived from science. This realization was like taking a warm mental bath.

I found this whole experience very comforting. The museum was packed — absolutely packed — with people and they were taking science seriously, in a part of the world that I sometimes assume has been run over by wingnuts who want to secede from the union and who think that evolutional science is a grand fraud by thousands and thousands of atheist scientists.

The kids didn’t understand any of the nuance, of course. They just think dinosaurs are cool.

After the dinosaurs, we went in to the Faberge exhibit. More oil money.

No photo were allowed but it was an amazing show, especially to a Russian/Soviet history buff like myself.

Baby J was not at all interested in the exhibit and howled loudly in protest DINOSAURNS! MORE DINOSAURNS!

We took turns to get through it.

The Big Oil honor roll. below. You can tell what makes Houston tick, can’t you?

After a quick snack, it was time for bugs.

I know it sounds like a bad disaster movie but one drop of this frog’s venom can kill four full sized humans.




M and D love bugs.

J’s favorite? No question about it.

Giant cockroaches. I mean, who *doesn’t* love giant cockroaches?

Jeff’s former pet while in high school, below.

The Mexican Red Leg tarantula. Her name was Atilla.

He wonders why his social life didn’t really take off until college.

Hummm. Anyone? Anyone?

Bugs + two year olds = happiness.

While we were looking at the scorpions, I remarked to Jeff that this was cool, that I’d never really seen scorpions except on tv or in books.

He replied, Yeah, they have really mild venom and they makes great pets.

That was my cue to sweep the older children away before their father gave them any ideas.

Butterfly hatching, below.

Into the butterflyarium, below.

I had this idea that I’d get a zillioon spectacular butterfly shots for you but….uh….butterfly photography is for those with more time than I had today.

They were everywhere, fluttering and flying and eating and drinking. Butterflies don’t like to sit still. It was quite an beautiful sight.

The only resident of the butterfly house that was interested in a portrait was Chorro the Iguana.

On the way out, the children talked their grandfather into buying insect candy.

After that rather exciting and robust excursion, we drove to a part of town where the houses are modest and the street art invigorating.

We went to the ORIGINAL Ninfa’s….which had been talked up on Chowhound. It did not disappoint.

J was worn out from the dinosaur/bug/butterfly excitement and had to catch some zzzzz. I drank perhaps the best margarita I have ever had.

Chile…rellenos. I wanted to weep when I took the first bite.

Houston, I was wrong. While you are indisputably tacky in areas, yes, you are also a city of hidden gems. I was wrong to judge you by the women in the Neiman’s shoe department buying $500 Malano Blanik sandals as “pedicure shoes” (true story).

Houston, I’ll be back. After this, I can’t wait to see the art museums.

Sincerely, pondering the complexities of conversion,