Tuesday, January 27, 2009

80 Degrees in Houston, 3 Inches of Ice at Home

Okay-it's a good thing we went on to Houston today! It was cold and drizzly with mostly rain in Dallas, and we were hovering at about 30 degrees. Amazingly, the farther south we got-the temp reading on the van got warmer and warmer, until we got into northern Houston-yep, it made it to a BiG, fantastic 80 degrees! It was awesome! We rolled down the windows, yelled, waved our arms around, and said, "Thank you, God!!!" (yes, Really!) We were so excited!

We stopped by our new room, yes, Residence Inn again-if you can believe, it's the same layout, but a little nicer/newer! As soon as we got into the parking lot, we all jumped out, grabbed Ethan's new ball (remember from Wal-Mart?), and played on the tennis/basketball court. We kinda played volleyball. We got so hot! I was thrilled to be sweating! : ) Clay even whined about being hot! Wow, in January. We were so glad we drove farther south-even the kids were thankful now for that extra four hour drive! : O They've decided they want to move to Texas-near the Children's Museums and the warm weather.

First, we got to our room, devoured 2 quarts of strawberries we'd gotten at Sam's, then changed into the coolest clothes we had. Then, we went into downtown Houston and visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science-uber cool! We took tons of pix of dino skeletons, geodes, all sorts of exhibits (power/electrical, oil/drilling, energy/motion, rocks/sediment, Earth changes/geology, etc.), the kids outside by the beautiful pansies and waterfall, etc. I will post after we get home as I don't have my power cord to upload my photos. (I actually ran my camera battery down today
-shock, shock!, and started taking fewer pix) Next, we went a little farther north to the Downtown Houston Aquarium. We went in to the Aquarium restaurant, ate-ohmygosh-amazing and beautiful! The restaurant is a circle around the tanks in the middle (3 stories), and entertained the kids with sharks, huge mammoth fish, stingrays, etc. The food was good, and Ches says expensive. Well, we'll only go once! It was weird to look at/appreciate the things we were sitting there eating. One of our appetizers was calamari-and it was all still in the shape of the squid-body and all-I mean legs still attached. It was weird. I was grossing out (in my head). They just fried the whole darn thing. Ugh. And Clay was making it walk around-disgusting.

Then we got the little extra armband to go and do all the outside stuff at the Aquarium: train, ferris wheel (scary!-up over Interstate 45), the carousel, etc. Finally at dark we went into the actual Aquarium (they're open till 10pm) and explored! There are fish (of course), a python that I was actually scared of (I think his biggest section was bigger around than my body-I knew he could swallow me easily-yep, that'll scare ya!), piranha, crocodiles, sharks-several types (including the most aggressive-the White Tip Reef Shark), sting rays (we touched), horseshoe crabs (touched, and Clay got to bring home one of their old shells-they molt), poisonous frogs, birds, and two white tigers-Ethan's favorites. He kept saying, "Open, open". He wanted to go in there with them!

Last, we headed toward the hotel at about 8:15, stopped by Target to refill supplies (food, videos for the drive, and another set of clothes for each child), then back to the hotel. It took them longer today to settle down. They are asleep now-11:18pm. Finally.

I only packed three outfits for each child, thinking we'd be back on Wednesday. But, seeing how conditions are not any better at home (see below) we'll be staying down here a little longer. Maybe we'll drive back on Thursday or Friday. We reserved this room in Houston for one more night (there's so much more here to do, and it's warmer!) and changed our Dallas room reservation for Thursday night, just in case.

Back home, it appears to be devastation. Mom is now on her rotary phone only, since the power went out early this morning (after she made her coffee, thankyouverymuch!) and her cellphone has gone down. She's using her gas logs in the fireplace, and seems to be quite happy. They have food, are warm, and she's perfectly fine at home! I'm sure Dad is going stir-crazy! : )

We've been watching the 40/29 News on the internet and getting the weather and pictures daily. It's just awful. Out of the 47,000 AEP customers in Washington County, 40,000 don't have power. It's expected to be back up by Wednesday night at midnight. People can't get out for all the ice (3 inches!) on the roads, and all the trees/branches in the roadways that have broken off due to the heavy ice. Mom has talked to lots of family and friends, and each is making it in their own way. One friend is in the bathroom using the heat of the water in her bathtub
(repeatedly filling it as it cools-gas water heater) to keep warm, another is using their stove burners (gas, again) to keep their kitchen warm...Another is running the car in the garage to use a nebulizer, and some running cars to charge their cell phones. She's invited them to stay with her, but they can't get out. It's just crap there.

I'm glad we got out when we did-we knew we couldn't keep much space warm with our fireplace. We have high ceilings, and it just wouldn't work. It's hard to have lots of fun down here (yes, really) knowing most everyone back home is freezing. We just all have to do what we can when we can for our families. Fortunately, Ches' classes have been cancelled (at the UofA), and he can work online from anywhere. He wouldn't have had internet (or have been able to keep his computer charged!) at home. It just worked out for us. The schools have also been closed, and it was posted this morning that they wouldn't have school tomorrow either. Thursday is up in the air for us. We will drive back towards Dallas that day, and we'll see whether we drive on home, or stay in Dallas until Friday. We'll probably go home by then since it's forecast to be 19 degrees on Saturday, and we should get back in by then. We don't mind being home, but having no heat or power with three young children isn't so wise. We will probably cut our summer vacation a little shorter, but it's been fun. Nothing like a surprise vacation to keep you warm! : )

**New info: As of 8pm, AEP has over 200 lines down in NWArkansas, has called in extra help, but even with all the help, they only estimate having 95% of the power restored by SATURDAY at midnight instead of Wednesday midnight. Looks like we may be here longer than we thought. Maybe we'll avail ourselves of all the shopping in our free days-for more clothes! We'll keep calling our home phone until our machine picks up-then we'll know we have power!**

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