(a quick disclaimer: I forgot my camera for this trip! So all pictures are from the internet, taken by smarter people who remembered their cameras!)
I briefly mentioned in my last post that my husband and kids ventured in to Houston last Thursday to check out the Museum of Health & Medical Science. Unfortunately, the museum turned out to be quite a dud, but at least they went on the “free family night”. We learned that Houston’s Children’s Museum also has a free family night every Thursday, so maybe next time we’ll head there instead.
On Friday we packed up as entire family and went back in to the city, this time to use up some free hotel points and stay the night. Baby Elijah has been very fussy lately (due to his teething and what I’m sure is his angry reaction at all the Christmas chocolate I’ve been eating!), so I was a little worried at how he would travel. He surprised us all by being completly charming and very easy-going. We didn’t do much in the city but explore by car. Our hotel was one block from the Galleria, and the girls and I made a date to come back in the future and explore the giant mall properly.
Since they had been through the Museum District the day before, as a family we decided to try to find Houston’s famous Theatre District. We wandered all over the downtown and decided it was a lot prettier than we had expected. So green and such beautiful buildings – everything designed so wonderfully! We saw the light rail trains and thought they looked a lot sleeker than Portland’s Max system (although, I have to say that I LOVE the Max and miss a light rail system that is so extensive through the metro area!). We finally found the Theatre District and were awestruck. It’s so beautiful! Again, the girls and I planned a future trip to come and walk the blocks to get the full experience. We voted this as our favorite downtown sculpture:
After craning our necks to see all the tall buildings from the car and oohing and aahing at all the lights and people, we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Since the hotel room had a kitchen, we brought our own food to cook (thus making it an even cheaper trip!). We had two rooms, and after dinner the kids settled down to watch TV in one room, and my husband, the baby, and I hung out in the other. Not long after we separated, we heard a terrible, TERRIBLE scream through the wall between our rooms. The scream got closer as one of our daughters came running out of their room and started towards ours. I have to tell you, this was the kind of scream that makes you want to roll up into a ball before you even know what’s coming for you. I seriously thought that whomever was doing the screaming was missing a limb or digit or had some sharp metal object protruding from somewhere. My husband grabbed her from the hallway and she was clutching her left eye, screaming “No! No!” Here’s the short story: she was on the floor, another daughter threw a bean bag on top of her, our son went to kick the bean bag, but missed the bag and made solid contact with our daughter’s eye. The eye was bleeding from a cut, and swollen and black/purple/blue. She was in a LOT OF PAIN. I went to get the other kids from their room and we held a quick and serious family meeting (while my husband got our daughter an ice pack and tried to calm her down). Without trying to scar them for life or tell them it would be the end of fun as they knew it, we all discussed how accidents can happen, even when we have the most innocent of intentions in our play. Our son was bawling for his sister – he felt so horrible. Our other daughters got teary once they saw the extent of the damage. It was not such a great moment. We got everyone calm and quiet in their respective corners, I got the baby down to sleep, the injured daughter decided she could (after all) still see from her eye, and I was finally able to take a deep breath.
My husband and I didn’t want this to define the rest of our adventure, so we asked our daughter if she thought she might have the “Pirate eye advantage” if we played a game of Life (the Pirates of the Caribbean version) as a family. This perked her up a little, and the other kids were glad to get back to a lighter sense of family. We played until late at night, and I’m glad we were able to turn the night around.
Saturday morning we got up and headed south to Galveston. We drove straight to the downtown, and were very pleased with the quaint main street and all the historical buildings. (The kids were also speechless when they saw the Carnival cruise ship docked in the harbor near downtown. That puppy was HUGE!) There are a lot of great things about downtown Galveston – the shops, museums, life-size chess board, the replica of a British phone booth, and horse-drawn carriages.
We bought some treats at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company, and my husband and kids checked out the free Galveston County Historical Museum while I stayed with the baby. We had just enough time after downtown to make it to a free tour of Galveston’s NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) seaturtle research facility. They have what they call the “turtle barn” where they house hundreds of turtles, big and small. They help rescue them, protect them, and study them. I never imagined we’d get to see so many of them, and get so close. It was an informative tour, and just an incredible opportunity.
You can’t be on the Gulf of Mexico and not dip your toes in, so after the turtles we drove down to the Galveston sea wall. It was a chilly day, so not too many people were out. I was very impressed that we could simply park right along the seawall, hop onto the beach, and get straight to the water. It was COLD, of course, and the kids were all a little shocked by this (they had dreams of a warm gulf!), but we spent our five minutes well and found some shells and frolicked just a bit in the sand.
One of our standard adventure credos is “Never Go Back the Way You Came!” so we left Galveston via the free ferry over to Bolivar Point. We waited perhaps 30 minutes for a 15 minute ride, but it was worth it! What cracked me up was that some cars got off the ferry, then simply flipped a U-ey in order to take the ferry back to Galveston. As for us, we stayed on the other side of Galveston Bay and traveled up the peninsula (eventually cutting back up to I-10 and heading west again). We found the peninsula terrain very interesting. I’m not sure how to describe it. Marshy, maybe? We also thought the many stilted houses were unique. Huge, three-story houses on big ol’ stilts (their elementary school was up on stilts as well!). We saw signs for the wildlife area and other points of potential interest, but we needed to bring our adventure to a close.
It was at about this time of our travels that Elijah “hit the wall,” so to speak. He had been such a willing trooper, but it was as if his baby self had seen enough, and he went completely haywire. He screamed and sweat and went purply-faced for a good 20 minutes of our drive before finally passing out. The other kids all fell asleep, too, and we had a quiet and peaceful drive back to our western suburb of Houston.
Aside from the fun of spending so much time together, it was also nice to feel the relief of “home” as we neared our city (and eventually our house). I put “home” in quotation marks, because I still don’t think of this as where we belong, but it felt good to come back from traveling and know that our own corner of comfort was waiting for us. I’m sure that feeling will get stronger as we spend more time here and develop more ties, and hopefully as we have more grand (and grand-er) adventures.
(FYI: the yellow line indicates the route we took):