Mid-afternoon, Sunday: stuff packed in car; kids packed in car. I think we might leave soon.
Michaela's ready, and she doesn't mind me taking her picture.
Christian is ready (six hours ago!), and he does mind me taking his picture.
Eliana doesn't really know we're leaving on an overnight trip, she's just glad we're all together. She also doesn't mind me taking her picture.
It's a good thing, since if she asked me to stop I might cry. Look, she's just a picture waiting to happen.
Mike gets his stuff loaded in the front, so he can do some work while I'm driving.
(My timing needs to get better; he was smiling just before and after this picture. In the photo he looks as though he were searching for his wallet and none too happy not to be able to find it. I'm here to tell you, that isn't the case. Wallet-check! Happy-check!)
Let's get on the road!
Um, where did she go?
I'm beginning to think that we are, in fact, not going to leave after all...
But eventually we are all in the car and we head down the road. Houston, here we come!
Now, as exciting as the Terra Cotta Warriors are, we are mighty tempted to stop when this sign appears...
Who can pass up "awesome restrooms"?! They are also touted as being "the most famous" bathrooms in Texas, as well as being likened to a throne for weary passers-by. It's a hard call, but we drive on. The old clay guys are waiting for us, but not for much longer! We only have until midnight before they close the doors on this exhibit. Pedal to the metal? You are talking to the right person.
We think the traffic might hold us up a couple of times, but eventually we make it to downtown Houston. It is as black as night, folks...
because, well, it is night. We race on.
Our adventure continues as we try to find first the museum and then a parking space at the museum. Mike has taken over the wheel for the last few minutes of our journey, and I am so glad. I hate finding things in the dark, and I hate parking. It is perfect timing!
The kids have been great and are relieved to get out of the car. I'm not sure what is going on here, but it looks like Christian is taking care that Eliana heeds this warning.
We all make it safely inside, in spite of the many dangers we encounter as we walk up the sidewalk!
In the main hall of the museum stands a replica of the First Emperor of China (as opposed to the real First Emperor of China; he'd be pretty, um, unpleasant to have around at this point). The kids are thrilled to get their picture taken with this statue. (Look! Even Christian!)
We are close now, but have yet to eat dinner or buy tickets. Since it's almost 8:00 and the kids are a teensy bit hungry, we feed them. Conveniently, there is a McDonald's located in the museum lobby, where Eliana beholds something so wonderful, so amazing, that she can't take her eyes off of it.
Yes, tiny Build-a-Bear Workshop bears in the Happy Meals; try comparing what some call the Eighth Wonder of the World to that! You just can't, people. You just can't. She is so taken with those bears, she wants to get them out of there, and tries.
Unfortunately for her, going behind the display gets her nowhere, but I think it is a smart thing to try. She has good brains, she does.
There are so many fascinating things just in that entry hall that we could stay there for a couple of hours, not pay a thing, and head home with happy kids. They think it is great fun to crank the handles on the machines that flatten out and embed an image on a penny, even though we haven't paid for it, so the handles just go round and round, making a fabulous grinding noise. They spend ten minutes doing this. And not on just one machine, either.
We run into a horseshoe crab, which is randomly located right outside the IMAX theatre in a smallish aquarium with no other tanks around. I think this is strange, but it keeps them entranced for quite a while as Mike waits to buy the tickets, and as he determines whether or not to get a museum membership, and then finally makes the purchase. Christian thinks this guy is pretty funny, as the crab goes back and forth across the side of the tank, climbing the thermometers and showing us his underthings.
This is about the time when Christian turns around giggling madly and tells me he just saw its weenie. And right after that Eliana says with the biggest smile rounding out her round little cheeks,"Its weenie! Its weenie!" I really hope that Ms. Carey is prepared to explain to the Co-op next week what a weenie is. Or maybe her classroom of two-year-olds will already know, and she can just move right along, move right along. There's always going to be that kid in the two-year-old class with an older brother...
Do horseshoe crabs have weenies?
We finally make it upstairs and just outside the area where the Terra Cotta Warriors are, there are several glass-enclosed scenes of wild animals from different parts of the world. Eliana is rooted to the spot when she sees the zebra; you may notice the Terra Cotta banner behind her, but what can sway a two-year-old from the wild animal kingdom? Certainly not an amazing archaeological discovery that is over 2000 years old. How can that compare to a stuffed zebra?!
And this is where I have to set my camera aside because no photography inside the exhibit is allowed. I am sad, but I understand why. I also obey...I do not sneak any pictures. It is all so interesting; Michaela really appreciates the significance of the experience. Christian does think the sword and daggers are cool. Eliana just wants to walk, and shake the glass enclosures that are protecting the 2000+-years-old historical artifacts from damage; this results in a restraining order (or just getting carried by her dad) so she neither appreciates the exhibit nor thinks it is cool. Note to self: toddlers + delicate ancient pottery = stroller ride.
She does enjoy seeing the life-size horse, but that might be it. Until we make it back out to the zebra. And the crocodile.
As far as the exhibit goes...I feel like I have had a little nibble of some wonderful dish, and while it was a great experience it left me wanting more. After seeing the pieces that were on display as well as the murals that were on the walls throughout the rooms of this exhibit, I can only think that to see the pits where the discoveries have been made in China would be phenomenal. It's amazing that these things have survived to this day (and probably would have been in even better condition had looters not robbed the tomb of some of its treasures shortly after the emperor's death), and that those who are working on this project have been able to do the restorations that they have been able to do. It's fascinating.
I have to say that one thing that stands out to me as I walk through and look at the warriors' faces, each one unique, is that they all look happy. Proud. There is a slight smile about the mouth, dancing at the corners. This intrigues me.
Michaela takes her time, writing things down in her journal, and drawing pictures of different things (taking pictures-not allowed, but no one said anything about drawing them...). She makes comparisons and reads the information. I enjoy watching her take it all in.
I take Christian and Eliana in to the gift shop, which has a video running depicting life at the time of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Of course, it is a battle scene and Christian stands for a second watching before I change his direction; that's just what I need for him to see at 10:00, right before he goes to bed. He keeps trying to sneak a peek. I try distraction. We discover a neat clock, and for the life of me I cannot think of what it is called or find info about it, so, sorry, that's all you get about that. We also go back to the wild animals and look at all of them six hundred times while waiting for Michaela to be done.
We leave the museum and get in the car and as Mike and I note what time it is (10:38 p.m.) we look at one another and both are like,"That's it? It feels like it's three hours later." It has been quite an experience, and one we don't regret at all, but we are exhausted. Eliana is asleep in a few short minutes, and it is pretty quiet on the way to the hotel.
Mike has gotten a sweet deal on a nice hotel room, and it so happens that the only kind of parking there is valet (I think that was included in our sweet deal-he's savvy like that). We drop off our car and haul our stuff upstairs (actually, someone takes it up for us, this always makes me feel super weird), and get the kids changed, brush teeth, and put them in bed. By this time Eliana is awake, and having had a twenty minute nap, she is ready to go. Unfortunately, I am done for the night, and just want to tie her up and set her under the covers (with her head sticking out!)...her energy drains down pretty quickly, though, and she goes on to sleep, as do I. There are a couple of things I want to take a picture of, but I think the camera is in the car and we have no convenient access to the car. I stay in bed and drift off.
Just a side story...Right before all of this, I am in the lobby with the kids and Mike finishes unloading the car and comes in to check in. He has a couple of things in his hands and isn't sure where to put them. I say,"I'll take the camera and hang it on my shoulder." I see it with my eyes. I offer to carry it. And then I totally forget that it is with us once we get upstairs, since I don't see the camera bag.
I realize that we have the camera in the morning as Mike starts shooting pictures of the kids in the hotel room. I exclaim,"I didn't know we had the camera up here! I thought it was in the car." He reminds me of our conversation the previous evening, with his head tipped to the side and his eyebrows raised.
Where is my brain? Can someone please return it to me at the soonest possible time? I am lost without it. Thank you.
Back to taking pictures of the kids...
They love to be in a hotel, at least for a little bit. It's so new, and different, and...well, I don't really know why it's so much fun. There are a couple of beds, a desk, and a seating area all in one space that isn't very big. But somehow that adds up to very interesting.
They are happy wherever we are, for the most part.
At the end of our time, I can say,"Houston, it was short, but it was fun...see you next time!"
And there will be a next time...we got a membership. And there is a Chronicles of Narnia exhibit. Oh, yes, we'll be back.
Twenty-three hours after we begin this journey, we set out for home.
Why, yes, yes we are crazy. But it's so much fun!