Mr. Monkey and Timmy the Otter
Mr. Monkey and Timmy the Otter

Mr. Monkey quite enjoys his reading lessons with Timmy and Cool Alligator (not shown). Sometimes Cool Alligator has to hold the book in his jaws, making it hard for him to talk. Timmy seems to talk a bit without opening his mouth.

Mr. Monkey is doing well. He is learning his phone number, address, the days of the week, the months of the year, etc. He is also learning to count by fives and tens, and adding up to 10.

He is reading well, working most recently on words that end in “y”, like “funny” and “penny”.

He particularly likes bananas, strangely enough. Well, and raisins and milk.

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:

Click to access 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.

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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!

Sky over Houston Sky over Houston

Last time I shared the ups and downs (literally and figuratively) of our day of moving from Calgary to Texas.

Our following days continued to be full of juxtaposition…

Good: We experienced the joys of living in a bright, open, big, empty house.

“Bad”: We…were living in a big, empty house…

Good: This was a challenge, but it’s amazing to discover what you can live without. It was also intriguing to see at work the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” We became very inventive.

“Bad”: We had almost nothing in the kitchen.

Good: We toasted bread in our one big non-stick frying pan and saucepan that we found for under $8 each at the grocery store.

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For a week, we sautéed everything that needed to be cooked, since we had no oven pans or casserole dishes or crock pots or…

Good/”Bad” ( a matter of opinion): We had a lot of quesadillas, as they were easy to make in a frypan or in the microwave.

Good: Our window seat was such a blessing:

We ate our meals on the window seat; we had our Bible time on the window seat; when we wanted to sit down, we sat on the window seat.

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Good: Eventually we bought some patio chairs and some wooden TV trays.

The patio table came later, when our moving van arrived.

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“Bad”: We had no vehicle.

Good: We didn’t have to go anywhere!

“Bad”: Since we didn’t have a vehicle for the first while, we couldn’t go anywhere (like the pool). It was too hot to do much outside.

Good: We had exercise times to music in our big empty space.

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Very Good: After we were here a week, or so, some very generous people lent us their truck for a couple weeks. That was lovely. The children especially enjoyed the built in DVD player. ;)

The second week had some interesting experiences.

“Bad”: A couple of the children, in one of those moments you could have avoided and you later regret, bent a patio lounge chair that we had borrowed.

Good: Ben found out where the chair had been purchased.

“Bad”: He looked there and at a few other stores, and could find no replacement.

Good: We ended up just giving the owners of the chair cash…and…

(“Bad”) …their new non-folding “low-rider” lounge chair.

Good: Thankfully, the wife’s mother-in-law had just given them a chair just like it, so they still had two that folded. Whew.

Interesting: We had a bit of difficulty figuring out when the washateria (laundromat) was open. Washaterias don’t seem to be as plentiful in our neck of the woods as they are elsewhere, and the only one remotely convenient is about an 8 – 10 min. drive away. We arrived a couple of times when they were closed.

One of those times, Mikaela accompanied me. We noticed part way through the drive that the streetlights weren’t working, and that all the vehicles were stopping at every light as if it were a four-way stop. Since the roads we were traveling each had two or three lanes in each direction, and turning lanes thrown in at the intersections, this was an interesting experience. I was impressed with how orderly it all was.

Since it was a weekend, I wondered if this was because the traffic was (a bit) lighter than other times of the week, or if the power was out over a large area.

Discovering upon arrival at the washateria that it was closed, we decided to grab a few essentials at a dollar store. It, too, was closed, also earlier than I would have thought. We headed for the grocery store across the street, its parking lot full of small lakes – a result of a cloudburst earlier – and my suspicions were confirmed.

We were experiencing what we would soon realize was a common phenomena here: power outages due to wind, rain, etc.

It was a bit of a trip to shop in dark grocery aisles, employees patrolling those aisles with flashlights to help customers find what they wanted. This store must have had a generator, as a few lights over the check-out stands were working, as well as a few of the computers. They were, however, starting to block off the aisles with shopping carts as we left, and presumably closing.

Good: We now have a beautiful Samsung washer and dryer set:

Doubly good: The set was on sale.

“Bad”: Our helpful Home Depot sales person discovered that we couldn’t get the dryer till October-ish. This was Very Bad. Indeed, it was unacceptable.

Good: He sold us the floor model, with the washing machine set to arrive in a week’s time.

“Bad”: We got a call from Samsung almost a week later that our machine wouldn’t arrive until September or so. Very Bad and Not Good again. Hold that thought…

“Bad”: In the midst of all this, the borrowed vehicle had a battery problem, and no longer would start. Ben boosted it, but we couldn’t use it. Doing laundry was getting a little dicey, and we only had available that we had brought in our suitcases. Looking (and smelling) grim, folks…

Good: One day, before I realized the borrowed truck was dead, I got our laundry ready to go.

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Good: My new friend, Pam, called with the lovely news that she was going to bring a meal over at 10 AM, so I decided to wait to head out to the washateria till after that.

Good: I tackled one of my projects for the day: changing some burnt out light bulbs. I got the ladder (we had no furniture, and almost nothing in the kitchen, but we had a ladder, a lawn mower, and a weed whipper!) and got down several of the dead bulbs so I could take them with me to Lowes to buy replacements.

Good: I set them carefully at the back of the counter, behind something, so they wouldn’t roll off or be fiddled with by little people.

Pam called to say she wouldn’t be here till closer to lunch time.

“Bad”: While I was trying to decide whether to quickly head out to do laundry or wait till after Pam came, I was washing up a few dishes, and the kitchen faucet started to spray and leak everywhere.

“Bad”: I screamed.

Good: I turned it off and stood there, wet, wondering what to do. I mopped up the gallons (well, not quite) of water and decided to do the dishes in the laundry room sink. Shades of kitchen renovations.

“Bad”: Ewww. Look at that sink. Covered in paint stains, like any good homeschooler’s laundry room sink should be (the owners we are leasing from are a homeschooling family as well).

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Good: I set myself up to enjoy my sink-cleaning/dish-washing experience with some good music (oh, yeah – we had an iron, too).

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Good: I scrubbed the sink.

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“Bad”: I heard the sound of a million (well…) tinkling shards of glass on our lovely tile floor.

“Bad”: I hadn’t hidden the light bulbs from our older children.

Good: We swept up (and swept up, and swept up…oh, look at that: we had a broom, too!)

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Good: I went back to the excitement of dish-washing.

“Bad”: I broke one of our two stoneware bowls (from the thrift store).

This is the other one.

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“Bad”: I found out that one of our toilets was clogged.

“Bad”: I had no plunger. Sigh.

Good: Ben brought home a plumbing snake that evening.

Good: After finally cleaning up and sweeping up and visiting with our new friends who brought a delicious meal, I lugged our grocery bags of laundry out to the borrowed truck to head to the washateria.

“Bad”: Then I discovered that the truck was dead. It took several days to make it to the washateria.

We really needed a washing machine.

Soooooo…

Good: Ben talked to our helpful Home Depot sales person again, and told him about Samsung’s call to us, and that our washing machine wasn’t going to get to us until September or October some time. He scoffed and ranted at Samsung a bit, and then…

Very Good: …proceeded to sell us the washing machine floor model to us, as well…

Very, Very Good: …at a (small, IMHO) discount. Yay!

Very, Very, Very Good: We did laundry at last.

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;). Hope you’re getting a kick out of reading about all our little opportunities for problem solving and “giving thanks in all things”!

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The other day, we were gathering all our dirty clothes and linens to take to the laundromat.

Brock, with a contemplative look on his face, came and found me and asked, “Are we taking our laundry to the laundromat?”

“Yes, we are Sweetie,” I answered, “since we don’t have a washer and dryer, yet.”

He looked even more contemplative. “Are we taking our clothes to Calgary?”

This was a surprising question, as the only times we go to a laundromat are when we are on vacation, which is not usually in Calgary. ;)

But, I said, “Well, no, Honey. We’re going to a laundromat in Houston.”

Brock considered this last bit of news for a moment.

Then he looked up at me with a “light bulb” look in his eyes. “So there’s s laundromat in Calgary AND Houston?!”

I tried to reflect in my face the solemnity of the discovery.

“There’s a laundromat in EVERY city,” I informed him.

He looked at me a moment more, and then ran off to play.

Homeschooling in July. In Houston.

Heidi in contemplation
Heidi in contemplation

“I enjoyed the lift-off, pop, and snacks. I would have preferred a whole can of pop, rather than just a little bit in a glass.”

“The swimming pool in our area is pretty big and fun. But I didn’t like it when the lifeguards blew their whistles and said, “Don’t swim (She realized later that they said, “Adult swim!”)!” All the kids had to get out for 10 minutes. That was just annoying.” ;)

“I like the little green lizards here, our big empty house, and air conditioning.”

20130713-081239.jpgBen found our first cockroach this morning…on the floor in front of the fridge.

I have read in several articles that one of the best ways to repel the little nasties is to use bay leaves scattered everywhere, and to make a bay leaf tea to spray In cupboards, pantries and drawers. Most of these writers say that when they use this method regularly, they have no sign of cockroaches visiting their homes.

Ben says, “Maybe all the spraying you’ve been doing chased him out of the cupboard.”

Well, I’d rather have one out in plain sight than scrabbling around in our pantry.

The cockroach is gone, if you’re wondering; Ben was a hero.

And I thought a picture of our fridge would be more pleasant than a picture of a disgusting cockroach.

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Mom: “What did you like about our trip down to Houston?”

Davison: “Everything!”

Mom: “Well, tell me something specific you liked.”

Davison: “The flight.”

OK, then.

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Our new backyard
Our new backyard

You know that verse that says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15)? Well, I invite you to do that with me.

When we moved to Houston, we knew that it would be a while before the moving van arrived with our goods. Because of this, we (the kids and I) were looking forward to a couple of weeks of vacation-ish time, with nothing much to do.

Well, it hasn’t quite turned out that way. We have, instead, been fairly busy, with things to rejoice about, and some things that made us feel like weeping a bit…while giving thanks in all things, of course!

Following are some snippets of our time so far. We’ll label them, just for giggles, as “good” and “bad” in place of “rejoice” and “weep” for two reasons:

Nothing that has happened has really warranted weeping. Nothing, that is, except for saying goodbye to Layne and Rett at the airport (THAT one I have wept quite a bit about) and saying goodbye to other family and friends.

Good and “Bad” lend themselves well to the humorous nature of these sorts of lists. Good and bad aren’t really accurate, however, when one believes that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, and walk not after the flash, but after the Spirit (my paraphrase of Rom. 8:28). So, when you read “Bad”, think “Less Pleasant”.

Another, more serious reason to use the words “good” and “bad” is that as challenges presented themselves, the Lord kept spurring me on to just keep moving forward, looking for the best ways to solve each problem (“Keep calm and carry on”, maybe??).

Here we go:

Saying "See You Later"
Saying “See You Later”
The Rett Hug
The Rett Hug
The Davison Rub
The Davison Rub

Good: The younger Hubers had all been anticipating our flying down to Houston together as a family. In fact, the request had been made that we have as many layovers as possible, for maximum experience. Dad and Mom didn’t share that desire. We settled on one layover in Dallas.

For most of them, this was their first time on a plane. The day was finally here!

“Bad”: We had to say goodbye to Layne and Rett at the airport. That ranked right up there with one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I still cry when I think of it.

Two Lovelies
Two Lovelies

Good: Our flights were fun, but uneventful, other than the obligatory turbulence.

Good: we arrived here safely on Sat. evening, July 6, 2013.

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“Bad”: We had no vehicle.

So Very Good: Ray and Katie, our wonderful realtor and his lovely wife, who are quickly becoming friends, picked us up at the airport — in two vehicles, to accommodate us and our luggage!

“Bad”: Stepping outside of the airport was like stepping into a sauna. We vaguely wondered, “So, how do you breathe, here?!”

Good: We came at the hottest part of the year, and are therefore jumping in with both feet. The temperature only gets better from here.

Also Good: Ray and Katie’s vehicles were, of course, air conditioned.

Also Very, Very Good: Our house was air conditioned. Cold, in fact, after being outside.

“Bad”: We were awfully hungry, after being in the air much of the day.

Deliciously Good: Katie brought along a delicious huge meal of hamburger crock pot stew, salad, and dessert. Yum!

“Bad” We had no beds. We were pretty exhausted. There was nothing to sit on but a huge, hard window seat.

Good: We had a window seat to sit on!

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Good: Another great family, Doug and Pam Dickie, who are also becoming friends, and Doug’s awesome parents lent us some air mattresses.

“Bad”: It was about 10 PM by the time we were done eating our dinner.

Good: The Dickies were still up. Ben and Daelynn drove off into the long-past sunset to borrow some air mattresses.

Speaking of sunsets, it’s really weird to call our sons Layne and Rett later in the evening, after it’s dark here and our kids are heading to bed, and find out that it’s still broad daylight in Calgary, and the guys and their friends are up and playing volleyball or whatever.

“Bad”: That first evening in our new house, one of our Dear Children was opening a window blind — and it flew off the window onto the floor. Oops. It’s still waiting to be reinstalled.

Good: We finally got everyone settled onto various air mattresses and to sleep.

Our big moving day was complete. What a shock to start out Saturday morning living in Calgary, and by evening to be living in Houston (Cypress).

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