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Dragonfly
Dragonfly

BUGS

Cockroaches

We had two the other night, one in the garage and one in the living room!! I killed them both with Davison’s shoe. They are big and brown and have a lot of guts.

There are two major/common kinds. One kind, the wood cockroach, is big and brown, and often comes into a building at night, looking for water. It is attracted to light, and isn’t so shy about being seen. So far, this is the only kind we have had in our house.

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The other kind is the German cockroach. This is the kind you don’t want in your home. They get into your drawers and cupboards and containers of food. So far, we haven’t seen any of these.

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Before we moved to Houston, I studied up on ways to repel these little beasts. The method that seemed to have the best success was to use bay leaves everywhere, and make a bay leaf tea to spray around inside and outside the home. If I am faithful with this, it seems to keep them…at bay. Ahem.

Ants — now they are another story. We have fire ants and little…ants. Thankfully, the fire ants have had the decency to stay outside so far. The little ones…not so much.

One day, I noticed a few ants on the floor in front of the fridge. “Oh, no!” I thought. “They’re coming from under the fridge!” But, no. I noticed a few others near the corner.

I bent over, following their little line, hugging the wall, and traced it back around the corner, into the front dining room (piano/sitting room, currently), behind the piano, all the way around against the wall to the front door, where they were pouring in from one corner. Opening the door, we discovered they were marching all the way across the wide porch from the flower bed. I wondered how far, in human scale, their entire trip would have been.

I worked half the morning at repelling them, all to only partial avail. When Ben came home, he brought some ant killer gel, and between that and adding my ever present bay spray and some cinnamon, we finally succeeded in convincing them to stay out.

Fire Ants
Fire Ants

Our Wildlife

There are lots of little lizards. Every time we walk down our front sidewalk, two or three (or five) little lizards scamper into the bushes. At least twice we have had a lizard in the house.

Funny; the kids (and I) think they’re cute, while the bugs give us the creeps. Heidi caught this one and kept it for a couple days.

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Some of these are chameleons, and do change color somewhat. Some have the bulgy – flarey neck balloon (?!) that they puff up, if that makes any sense. They can crawl vertically up walls and upside down across ceilings. They all sport unique color schemes. They range in length from about two inches to maybe six, with most being in the smaller range.

Spiders

Now, these can be freaky. They can be big. They can be poisonous, as in Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders. I shudder. Thankfully, we have not yet run into one of these charmers.

Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spider

Most are non-poisonous, but that doesn’t keep them from being big, like maybe an inch or two across — on the body. Again, encounters with these have been happily infrequent.

I’m sure we will have many more experiences with many more of these little beasties!

The birds! I’m not sure what kind they all are. One is extremely loud, and has the most unusual sound I’ve ever heard from a bird. It sounds like a machine or the buzzing of an electrical plant!

Here is a link to a beautiful document by the Audobon Society on birds in the Houston area:

http://www.houstonaudubon.org/html/CommonBirdsofHouston.pdf

I saw that the Kingfisher makes a rattling song. Maybe that’s the bird I’m hearing. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a Kingfisher before this. What I heard the last few days was ever so loud.

Update: We now wonder if the noisy critter is a lizard. We haven’t been able to get a good look at it, yet. We figure out which tree it’s in, go to peer up into it, and the racket dies away!

Hummingbirds: they love the flowers here. They are a pleasure to watch.

Hummingbird
Hummingbird

And this is a much prettier way to end this post, rather than with a picture of a bug.

Following are some pictures from our living room in Houston, with our new Living Room furniture. We found these in the clearance area of an upscale furniture store here. By clearance, I don’t mean free or cheap by any stretch, but doable. In fact, they were more expensive than a new cloth (microfiber) set we were considering, but should last much longer.

Here is the couch, chair and ottoman set.

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And here is the Leopard Skin Recliner Chair that Lori really liked, and sort of matches…

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And here is a view toward the front/fireplace of the living room, where our TV (brought from Calgary) is mounted on one of our ubiquitous, really sturdy white book boxes.

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In other news, it was pretty hot here today and I got my Texas Drivers license yesterday.

-Ben

Over the weekend we found the Battle Cry game, and unpacked it. Davison and I have had fun playing it a few times, including when I got home from work today. The scenario in question today was Pickett’s Charge from the battle of Gettysburg. Davison’s (Union) men were entrenched behind some revetments across the center of the board. Pickett’s division never really got any sort of a charge happening, although Davison’s Center was used back and didn’t take advantages of the revetments. All of the action in the battle happened on the two wings. At one point, I picked up through reinforcements a Calvary division which charge around Davison’s right flank, but then despite about three attacks were not able to do any damage. The battle ended when Davison played a Bombardment card and his three batteries made short work of the cavalry and an infantry division. Davison won seven to four, but Dad lived to fight another day.

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When Rett was a younger lad, he and I had fun with the game, so it was fun to be playing it again. Strangely, the girls didn’t take much of an interest in it.

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Many folks, both here and in Calgary, have been asking how we are adjusting to living in a different place.

We thought we would share some observations and experiences with you.

About Houston/Texas

The Lone Star State has a flavor and style of it’s own. It is big. Everything is done bigger here. Who hasn’t heard of Texas Longhorn, Texas toast, Texas-sized donuts or chicken or…? Dodge, Ford, GMC, Nissan, and Toyota all offer a Texas Edition truck.

You can find just about anything fashioned into a Texas shape: signs, rugs, decor and accessories, stickers, bbq molds, baked goods…hey, even Texas-shaped blocks of cheese and Texas-shaped tortilla chips. I kid you not.

The tallest building in Houston is the J.P. Morgan Chase Tower, which at 75 stories high, rises to 1,002 feet (305 m). It is also the tallest building in the state of Texas, and the twelfth tallest building in the US. It is an impressive sight!

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The city of Houston is a far more multi-cultural/international city than I realized. You see all shapes and colors here, and hear any accent you might imagine. That Southern drawl is present, but not to the degree I assumed it would be. How sad! I love hearing that. Ah, well. I still get to hear it sometimes. ;)

Zoning here is interesting. Driving along a major thoroughfare in our area, one might pass by a gated community, then an industrial area across from a swanky office building, then a ranch, farm, or acreage complete with various livestock, then a shopping center, a small forest, a strip mall, another housing subdivision…

“Y’all” is, of course, what everyone associates with a Texas dialect. It’s actually a very useful word. While it replaces the much more tedious,”you all”, as in, “Are y’all watchin’ the game tonight?”, it also stands in for “you” (“Do y’all want a drink?”, or “I saved y’all a donut”) and “your” (“Is this y’all’s house/book/keys?”). I hear “you’s guys'” serves the same purpose in New York.

The rain: truly, when it rains, it pours. I’ve heard that if you’re driving, and you notice everyone in front of you quickly pulling off the road onto higher ground, do the same. Flash floods are that possible.

The heat, of course, is the first thing everyone thinks of. Yes, it gets hot (100 degrees today). No, I don’t like the heat. Yes, I love our air conditioning. Sitting by the (community) pool (or being in the pool) is an effective way to handle the heat.

In Calgary you stay inside most of the winter, and when you do go out, you mostly go from heated house to heated car to heated building. In Houston you go from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned store/building. Some grocery stores are downright cold!

I understand that even in winter, folks rarely actually turn their home’s heater on.

We did have a huge heat scare a few weeks ago. On a Saturday, Ben was working in the garage. He had the garage door open, both cars out on the driveway, and he was in and out of the house. Suddenly, someone noticed that Brock was in Ben’s car, and that though it was unlocked, he couldn’t get out. As it was 97degrees or so, and as he was pretty traumatized, he was one hot, sweaty, weeping boy. What a shock to realize how quickly tragedy could have struck.

After picking our hearts up off the floor, we cuddled the little guy and gave him a bath. We are so thankful that the Lord led us to notice his whereabouts.

Another common question is how we’re doing with the humidity. Well. When we stepped off the plane upon arriving in Houston, we felt like we had entered a sauna. It was a unique breathing experience. It was weird.

I doubt that you could say we have acclimatized, but the humidity isn’t quite as bad as we feared. It can be close, but a dry heat, in my opinion, is almost harder on one’s body than a humid one. The only way I can think of to describe it is that a humid heat is a softer heat. However, we prefer air-conditioning to being out long-term in either kind!

Houston is flat. One man said that that highest hills in Houston are it’s overpasses. That’s pretty close to the truth. However, on the flip side, it’s very green.

We couldn’t have picked a better cul-de-sac to live on. We’ve met almost all of the nine families on the street, and there are kids galore for our younger three to play with.

One of the oddest things about Houston: there’s really no such thing as cold tap water -at least in the summer. My guess is that the heat (sun), in warming the ground, in turn warms the underground water supply. It’s a little inconvenient at times, actually.

Blessings!

So for those who are curious, here is the living room in Calgary after being converted to bachlorhood:

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The left side of the living room: Our new media center, with awesome TV, TV stand, well utilized speakers, and xbox.

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Right side of the living room, with our new lamps, and wall decorations.  The waterfall/Chinese lantern lamp has a real nice glow to it that keeps things feeling cozy.

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Far right of the living room: Elissa and I found this great leather recliner for $15 at Salvation Army. It’s in great shape, with no tears, and the padding still nice and poofy.

And that’s what our living room looks like.