Thursday, December 29, 2005

More fingerprints...

Woo hoo! We finally got our fingerprinting appointment from the Department of Homeland Security! Jan. 18 is the big day. Unfortunately this means we'll probably be pushed a little further out in the timeline than we had hoped, but hey, what can you do? I think by the time this whole process is over, we'll have been fingerprinted more than O.J...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Update to previous post...

Editor's Note: After a couple of comments from readers, I must mention that the gentleman discussed in my previous post concerning my trip to the post office was NOT illiterate and therefore having his child read for him. He was not disabled in any way (unless you consider poor parenting choices to be an indicator of disability). I may be impatient, but I'm not cruel... :)


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bret Goes Postal in the Post Office

It's the weekend before Christmas, and in the spirit of the holiday, our house church has put together a care package for some former members who have moved away. I was tasked with the job of packaging these items and taking them to the post office. I was fully aware this morning that the post office would look like a New York subway car during rush hour, but I was not prepared for what I encountered.

When I got to the post office, there were approximately 20 people in line at the main counter. Luckily, our post office has one of these new self-service machines (which I dearly love), and there were only 2 people (!) in that line. (People here in the heartland still fear computers enough to keep them away from such a machine. It might give you "the radiation.") In any case, the choice to enter this line seemed obvious. But as I approached, I began to understand the error of my ways.

You see, there was a gentleman with an approximately 5 year old daughter using the machine. He had 4 packages piled up next to him, and when I arrived, I heard the sound of his daughter attempting to read the screen in front of him.

"Does...your.....package stock...or"

Now imagine that there are 30 lines of text on this particular screen, and she's on the first one. Reading......very.......slowly. Then at the end of the screen dad says:

"Honey, which button should daddy push?"


"That's right...push no."

And then we wait 10 seconds for the poor little parent-less child to find that button on the screen and push it. On to screen 2 of 10.

I about lost my mind. I muttered to myself, "This is unbelieveable," to which the lady in front of me returned an approving smirk. About that time another couple came in and entered the line behind me. The lady says "oooooh...This line is short. This will be quick." I turned to her and in a voice loud enough that everyone heard me said, "Don't count on it." I was ignored, as expected, by the gentleman monopolizing the machine.

About this time the machine asked for his credit card. He starts fumbling around in his wallet and says "Honey, go ask your momma for a credit card." Momma was out in the van. Oh man...Smoke is coming out the ears. All Christmas spirit has abandoned me, and all I wanted to do was go at it with this guy. I'm holding packages lovingly created by my house church, but if there had been anything with any weight in those packages, I might have opened them. I'm a pretty even keeled guy, and I have a long fuse, but I'm not sure I've ever been closer to losing it than I was in this instance. Every part of me considered saying something directly to the guy about the decision-making process behind his actions when there are 50 PEOPLE IN THE POST OFFICE THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

Ok, I feel better now. A little eggnog, a dozen cookies, and I'll be as happy as Frosty the freaking Snowman.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Can you still get "government cheese?"

I work in the consumer electronics industry as a software engineer. For anyone familiar with the field or its labor practices, jobs are about as stable as a one-legged man on a unicycle. In the past week, my company has been going through a layoff process. They were kind and offered a "voluntary" layoff for a few days prior to the "involuntary" layoff. The "voluntary" package gave better severance than the "involuntary" would. Since the percentage of jobs being eliminated was to be relatively high, many people began looking at taking the offer.

Now, the obvious place to look for a job is the OTHER consumer electronics company that exists in my building. The one from which my company was spawned a year and a half ago. Old friends, former seemed like a good bet. So the rats started jumping off our ship...onto the old ship. But today it was reported that the old ship, our former employer, is looking for a buyer for its consumer electronics division. And now the rats (especially the ones who jumped) are confused and moderately annoyed. The article said that they would "try" and keep those jobs here. I find little solace in a major company saying "we'll try." That sounds like "what else can you do besides software?" to me.

The whole thing has left lots of people tense and irritable, which is making for a fun few weeks before Christmas. In the immortal words of one of my co-workers, it's pretty sad when so many people say "My wife, 2 kids, and I will take our chances on the street" rather than sticking around.

So please go to your local retail outlet and buy at least a 32" TV between now and Christmas. You can think of it as a donation. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I'm a certifiable Rainman...

So Monday I took a half day off at work to deal with getting some of our paperwork shipped off to various Chinese Consulates of America, as well as getting the paperwork "certified" by the Indiana Secretary of State. So what does a Secretary of State really do? Well apparently they themselves don't do any "certifying." But I'll get to that later.

First off, it was about 3 degrees in Indiana on Tuesday. I had to park at a meter, so I put in enough change for about 25 minutes and headed into the Indiana Government Center. I didn't think this trip would be difficult or long... For one thing, Indiana is the only state in the Union which doesn't charge to "certify" things. What a deal, right? I had called ahead and was told they were open from 9-5:30pm Monday through Friday. In and out. No sweat.

My first nemesis -- the signs leading me to the Secretary of State's office. I walked down a long hallway with a huge sign over it pointing to the Secretary's office down a hall to the right. I followed this hall all the way to a set of doors which led back outside -- never saw the Secretary's office. Turned around. Followed same path. Turned down same hallway. Hit same doors. Yeah, doors. 57 steps to the doors. 57 steps. Don't want to miss the office. 57 steps then doors. 5 plus 7 is 12. 7 days in a week. Five doors. Can't find the door. Yeah. Wapner at 4:30. Can't miss Wapner. Back and forth.

Anyway, on a whim, I decided that the one thing I had walked past in my pacing was an elevator. I jumped in, but still no directions. Headed for the basement. Lucky break. There was the office. Would it be so hard to put a sign next to the elevator stating such? I have a strange feeling that footage exists of my walking back and forth mumbling to myself with a pile of birth certificates and medical records in my hands. 4:30... Wapner at 4:30. Yeah.

Now that I was in the office, I thought I was set. There was one person at the counter, and one other lady waiting. They informed me that I was next up. I went up and said, "I have 9 documents that need to be certified."

"Oh yes, Shirley does the certifying."

"And I'm to presume that your name ain't Shirley?"

"No, I'm Sue. Shirley's gone."

"When will she be back?"

"Dunno...She went to lunch."

"But it's after 2:00pm?"

"Yeah, Shirley is a busy bee."

"Is there someone else in the office who can help me?"

"Oh no, Shirley is the only certifier."


"Yep...The only one."

"And you don't know when she'll be back?"

"Nope. Probably in an hour."

" Ok. I need to go put more money in the meter."

"But you'll lose your place in line?"

"But I'm the last one who got here?"

So I went back out into the snow to put 2 hours worth of change in the meter. Better safe than sorry. When I went back into the building (quickly heading to the elevator this time) and walked back into the office, the other lady who was waiting ahead of me was handing a large stack of paperwork (including birth certificates I could see) to a nice, younger lady.

"Oh great! Shirley came back early? (tee hee)"

"Oh no, (this is Sue again) that's not Shirley. That's Denise."

"Ah...So she's not getting certifications done?"

"No, she is. Denise is doing them for her."

I really thought I was losing my mind.

"But you said only Shirley?"

"...And Denise!"

Fine. About that time the REAL Shirley reappeared from lunch and immediately took my stack of documents. After that, it was smooth sailing. I headed for the Post Office, and about $600 later, including Consulate Fees and mailing costs, I was headed for home. I thanked Shirley (and Sue) and headed out...leaving in my wake 2 lovely state employees and a meter with 1 hr, 45 minutes left on it.

You know, I'm sure my experience at the Indiana Secretary of State was a cakewalk compared to other more, er, populous states. But these little experiences definitely leave me wondering if our beloved state is a little, you know, slow.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Who steals socks?

Just a quick update to let everyone know that the draft of our home study came back, and we're in the process of making a few adjustments. Hopefully that will get turned around quickly, and we'll have one more piece of the puzzle in hand. Erin's birth certificate has been stamped by the secretary of state in California and is on it's way back to Indiana. The next step is to get everything stamped by the secretary of state here in Indy, and then everything will head to the Chinese embassy. We're still hoping to have all of the paperwork on its way to China by the end of January. I think we're on track!

Also, I just want to thank the California based portion of Erin's family for their hospitality at Thanksgiving. We had a great trip, and it was nice to see everyone in one spot! It was also fun getting to hang out in San Francisco with Erin's parents. I even managed to take everyone on a driving tour of the city, and Erin only cried in fear one time.

I will say that flying over the holidays was a bit tiresome. When we arrived in San Francisco last Wednesday evening, we grabbed our luggage off the carousel and headed immediately to our hotel in San Jose. On Thanksgiving morning, I opened the suitcase and there was a lone brown sock where I could have sworn there should be 4 PAIRS of brown socks. Hmm... Did we forget to pack them? About this time, Erin discovered that her curling iron/brush/firestarting-wand-of-doom thing she uses on her hair was also missing. I was dejected at the thought of wearing dirty socks on a holiday, but Erin was even more inconsolable over the possibility of needing a hat. (And Deb and Dave can attest that when she first visited their room to alert them to this situation, she definitely needed a hat...) Luckily Deb came through with the curling iron, and Dave loaned me a pair of white socks. Only in California could you find a Payless Shoes open on Thanksgiving Day having a sock sale, no less. It's a holiday, people?!! I was grateful, none the less.

I guess we should have contacted American Airlines about where the heck our stuff went, but neither of us had the energy at the end of the weekend. And frankly, I think Erin was glad to see my brown Dickies industrial socks go into Luggage Purgatory.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Here's a link to a Christmas display on a house in Louisville that is pretty unbelieveable. Apparently the sound and everything is real. This even dwarfs previous displays by Carefree's own Captain Christmas (or Drew Kringle as he's frequently referred to by fellow elves):

Click Here for Christmas lights.

(Thanks to this site for the crazy Thanksgiving picture...)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Congratulations, Eric & Emily!!

Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Eric Long on the arrival of their daughter, Kaya!! Check out details and pictures at their blog. She's a cutie!!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

Adoption Waiting Game Update

Well, we got the letter yesterday from the home study agency that we're officially approved. Even my comments regarding The Hammer didn't derail our plans. So basically now we're waiting for the California Secretary of State to validate Erin's birth certificate, and we're still waiting for my birth certificate to arrive from Indiana (they cashed the check three weeks ago... Funny how they got THEIR piece handled quickly...) Other than that, we're waiting on one more form from immigration and the draft of the home study. Once all that comes in, we'll get it all validated by the Indiana Secretary of State and ship it all off to the Chinese Consulate for signatures and stamps. Only then will it get sent to the adoption agency for transmission to China. Shew...what a paper trail.

As an aside, has anyone ever dropped a brand new gallon of milk on a hardwood floor while standing in your underwear with a dry bowl of Apple Jacks in your hand at 5:30am? It sucks. A lot. It was like watching Letterman drop watermelons off of the buildings in New York... I'll admit it...I swore. A few times. Then I mopped. A few times. I need a weekend...


Monday, November 07, 2005

Thanks for lunch, Mrs. Tupper

My lovely wife has developed an interesting new hobby recently. Perhaps inspired by my patent discussion (although this started long before last week), she has begun inventing Tupperware-like devices in which to send my lunches each day. At first, she just bought tons of plastic bowls and cups. Apparently a gremlin in our house eats Tupperware lids (JUST the lids), as we ended up with 2000 pieces of plasticware with 3 matching lids.

So to rectify this situation, and save money, she moved on to recycling other items into containers for my lunch. Now this is nothing new to me. My mom's fridge was full of unidentifiable butter dishes which contained things like applesauce, green beans, or chicken fat (it was a sort of foodstuffs roulette when searching for a snack...) But now, my lunch contains a wide array of containers, none of which gives any hint as to the contents within. Today I had a "Blended Raspberry Yogurt" cup, which was actually applesauce. My favorite today though, and the inspiration for this entry, was that my wife (did I mention how sweet she is for packing my lunch?) sent along baby carrots in a Ziploc bag. She also sent some ranch dressing for dipping. What was the ranch dip stored in? (drumroll, please) A film canister. Yes, one of those tiny black cases you drop your film off in to be developed. I don't suppose there's a problem with this, other than scooping the last 1/2 inch of dipping sauce out of a 3 inch deep container using a 2 inch long carrot was very tricky. I looked like an idiot trying to scoop ranch dressing out of a film canister with my index finger.

Perhaps all of this is a brilliant weightloss scheme on her part. She's sneaky that way.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fun with patents

There are a lot of things in this world that don't make much sense to me -- sweaters for dogs, why women go to the bathroom in groups, etc. Another thing I could add to this list is patents. There are patents for everything imaginable (quite literally). These include patents for a vehicle mounted toilet seat and underwear with a flatulence filter (I can see Erin thinking "Christmas Gift" right about now...). In any case, a guy at work showed me a site with a list of some of these crazy ideas. Pretty entertaining.

One of the things I've learned from my job over the past few years is how to write a patent disclosure. Now my ideas aren't of the brilliance of the "Beerbrella", but I have filed a pile of disclosures on various television related things. This same site lets you track down your own applications. Nothing of mine has actually become a patent yet, but hopefully soon. Here are a few from the past few years...keep in mind, ANYTHING is patentable, as long as it hasn't been done before.

Setup your TV from your PC

Closed Captioning that turns itself on when the volume in your favorite show goes too low

Record a show that already started

Useless ideas, you say? Perhaps, but does anyone really get to patent frosting half a donut?


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Happy Land of Happy People

I hope our little girl is just as happy, creative, silly and musically gifted.


Thanks goes to the for the borrowed link.

It's official--we're pregnant

I couldn't pass up the chance to post our latest sonogram picture. There isn't much movement from our baby yet, but as you can see, she is darn smart, spelling already. We expect big things from this little one. The "doctor" is saying that we can expect to wait about 10 more months, at least, and we won't get our first glimpse of her for another 8 or 9 months, but we just had so share our joy with you all now.

Thanks go to for the link.

A Rose by Any Other Name

I know the day we hold our little girl is still months and months away, but believe it or not, before we travel, we have to have a name picked out for our little one.

As you can imagine, this has started a bit of a friendly war in the Hawkins' household.

Let's review what we have agreed upon at this date:

1. The name should be a girl name. Go figure.
2. Her last name will be Hawkins. Go figure.
3. We have decided to keep her Chinese name as her middle name. This name is, most likely, the one given to her by the orphanage, but we think it is important for her to have some connection to her heritage and her past. We will not know this name until we receive our referral packet, complete with pictures and a health exam.

Bret likes, and I mean he really likes it (and I am not kidding), the name Hannah Anna Hawkins. He think's it has a pretty sound. How am I supposed to have a serious conversation about the name of our daughter when my husband thinks Hannah Anna is a good option???? He also thought Hannah Barbara would be funny... what is a girl to do?

Names I like (and I don't want any feedback if you don't like them, but feel free to let us know the ones you like) (it's amazing to me how many people give you unsolicited opinions about names. I can say to a friend, "I like the name Grace," and for some reason, said friend feels the need to let me know that "she doesn't like that name and would never think of using it." Who asked you, anyway?)):

Gweneth (Gwen)
Lillian (Lily)

Now, don't those sound pretty. Anything is better than Hannah Anna.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mr. Hawkins, please define "employed"

So we got our employment verification letters back from our respective employers. There are a couple of things worth noting about these letters. First off, Erin's letter from Brebeuf was, oh, let's call it roughly 1000 words. Now, the example we gave our employers read like this:

"Mr. Jeffrey Smith has been an employee of Mercury Marine Corporation since 9/27/97. He is a Senior Manager in the service department, overseeing all service requests. This is a full-time position. Mr. Smith's annual salary is $76,453."

This, as you will note, is under 50 words. Why the extra 950 words on Erin's letter? That's an excellent question. BECAUSE SHE PAYS THEM TO LOVE HER. I'm convinced of it. It's ridiculous. Do you know how many words I got from my employer? I don't have the letter in front of me, but it was approximately 10. And to make matters worse, when I called HR to request a letter verifying my employment, the HR guy said, "Ok, Mr. Hawkins...Your employment, you say? Is it Friday yet? Ok, you're still employed with us."

What the?!?! "still" ?!

Then to make matters worse, someone in our HR department couldn't figure out how to make a possessive out of "Hawkins" so it says things like "Mr. Hawkin's salary is pennies per week." It's enough to make my wife teary.

In any case, it's obvious who gets the love from their employer in this family. Me? I get a T-shirt and questions like "So, did you ever finish that teaching degree? That'll sure come in handy next semester... Did I say that out loud?"



Tuesday, October 25, 2005

To spank or not to spank--and other such fun questions

Well, we did it. We are officially complete with our home study, and the adoption process from here on out looks like one giant mound of paperwork.

Today was our last visit from our case study agency!! After a quick inspection of the home (even the baseboards were clean!), we answered about 100 questions ranging in topic from our childhoods to our discipline strategies. Bret, thankfully, refrained from using terms of endearment like "The Hammer" (see previous post if confused), so I was thankful.

Our home study case worker told us that she thought we were "darling." Let's say that together... D-A-R-L-I-N-G! According to my good friend Webster, darling is defined as: "1. a dearly loved person or 2. favorite." You know what you can call us... the poster couple for adoption, baby!

While we are excited to have all the psycho-social (emphasis on the psycho) finished, we are still knee deep in paperwork. I'll give you an example of the process:

Step 1: Bret and Erin obtain letter of employment from their prospective employers.
Step 2: Bret and Erin have the letters officially notarized.
Step 3: Bret and Erin send notarized letters to the Secretary of State's office in order for the notarized part to be "certified."
Step 4: Bret and Erin send notarized and certified letters to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago (and LA... we "get" to work with two different consulates because I grew up in sunny CA). Once at the Consulate, the notarized and certified letters are "authenticated," and the Consulate checks to make sure the secretary of state seal is official. (quick question: who has a stash of fake secretary of state seals...???)
Step 5: repeat entire process for like 40 different documents

As you can surmise, this process is best suited for the anal-retentive, hyper-organized, engineer type individual. Good thing I've got one of those handy.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Discovering the family tree (or shrub)

Since my wife has already opened the Pandora's Box which is my family tree a few posts prior, I thought I would add a link to my not so recently updated family tree site. You only have to hear the one about your great grandfather's parrot singing "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" while drinking a cup of coffee a couple of times before you think, "Gee, perhaps I should investigate my roots." So I started this project a couple of years ago, and while I think it's pretty accurate, it could use a little love. But here it is, if you're at all interested --

I also plan to delve into Erin's past at some point. Her family history includes a fascinating tenure at the New Llano Colony. Hopefully I'll get to do that soon...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ooh Eeeee Ooh Ah Ah...Ting Tang...Walla Walla Bing Bang

(If you don't get the title, please go here.)

The other big event yesterday was that Erin and I got physicals from my doctor. Erin is sort of between primary care doctors right now, so to make the paperwork situation a little bit easier, she decided to see my doc. Now, you have to understand that this is the man who delivered me into the world, so he's known me for a while. I think he does a good job, but he does have his quirks. Most notably, he has hair implants that look a bit like a bundle of pipe cleaners affixed to the scalp. He made Erin a little nervous yesterday by making comments like, "Have you ever been hypnotized?" and "Did you know I had my prostate checked by a female one time? I didn't like that at all." Needless to say, he's a little odd, but he was kind enough to help us out with our paperwork.

Next step is immunizations... Nothing says "Vacation to China!" like shots for Yellow Fever and Malaria...


So you say your parents are pirates?

So the home study appointment was pretty non eventful, in my opinion. I realize that The Hammer feels somewhat differently, but I think she would agree that overall it went well. They ask about your childhood, what your likes and dislikes are, what your best and worst qualities are (best = my keen ability to smell a dessert food from 50 yards, worst = my inability to keep from saying something stupid during important interviews), and finally, what your parents do for a living. Now the problem lies in that during the entire interview, I'm thinking about what the worst possible answer to each question might be. This probably contributes to me saying dumb things, but here were some thoughts I had yesterday:

1. What does your father do for a living?
"He manages a highly successful local cock fighting ring."

2. What does your mother do for a living?
"Did you ever see 'Throw Momma From the Train' ?"

3. Do you have a room ready for your adopted child?
"Adopted child? I thought we were interviewing to sell Amway?!"

Sadly, I suspect that they hear more of these sorts of answers than any of us would care to admit. So I say all of this in rebuttal to my lovely wife's post below. See, honey? Referring to you as "The Hammer" isn't so bad?


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You've seen Kill Bill... now, it's Kill Bret

We had our first home study interview today at our Adoption agency, and fun, fun, we have another 4 hour session next Tuesday in our home (yipppeee).

Bret was enchanting for most of the interview, but he did make one comment, and I about went through the roof. Fortunately, the lady thinks he is really funny, and she laughed it off, but I about DIED!!

Essentially, to make a long story short, the lady asked us how we viewed each other in relationship to parenting roles. I said something about partners, blah, blah, blah... and Bret said, are you ready for it (and keep in mind this is an interview for adoption)... He said, "well, I affectionately call Erin, 'The Hammer.'" Yes, that's right. The Hammer.

Now doesn't that sound motherly? Don't you want to cuddle up next to the Hammer and read a book?

We joke about how he'll be a pushover for our little Asian invasion princess, and I'll have to sweep in and be the meany (or the hammer). This little teasing we do is PRIVATE, and only understood in OUR context. Fortunately, like I said, the lady thought it was funny, was half in love with Bret, and totally understood his point upon explaination.

I hated every moment of it. What am I to do with this overgrown man child?

Thankfully, she said she thought we were perfect, so I guess all is well. The fun, of course, didn't stop there. We had to get 14 things notarized, get a complete physical, have 3 different blood tests, a urine test thingy, get money orders, and go to the post office to send everything certified.

Score. One tenth of the paperwork down... nine tenths to go.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bret's Family Tree--spooooky :)

I just found these pics, and I thought I'd make them available to those who are interested. There are some fine looking, up-standing citizens pictured here, but there are a few rogues. Bret told me once that one of his former relatives only had one arm because he got in a fight in his youth. The sad part... he lost his other arm in an axe fight later in life. I think all genealogy information should have been disclosed prior to marriage.


Harvest Party Gone Wild

Last night was our first annual Hawkins Family Harvest Party. A few things to be noted:

1. There was a strict plan of attack and schedule, complete with pumpkin carving, Charlie Brown Halloween cartoons, haunted chili cookoff and a haunted hayride. We had just a FEW problems with said schedule: the hayride line was FOREVER, the Notre Dame v USC game won out over Charlie Brown, and the haunted chili cookoff started at 5 instead of 7. I would like it noted by all that it was not my fault about the chili. As proof, I have provided the link to the city of Brownsburg's own site:

Please note near the bottom the schedule of events. See. There. I told you so.

2. Needless to say, our good friends have good spirits, and we had a good time anyway. Good. There.

See attached pictures:

I have to admit, that I think my Math inspired pumpkin (which quickly became the engineer nerd pumpkin--ah, poor Bret) was waaaaay cool, especially his PI ears.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Paper Chase Begins

Well, we're less than a week into the adoption paperchase, and it is already a tad bit overwhelming. Today, we headed to the Hendrick's County Jail for fingerprinting and criminal history checks. I'm happy to report that I don't have an official alias and am felony free. Just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

To the End of the World

Well, Bret and I returned from driving over 4,300 miles (and yes, we are still happily married) to the edge of Eastern Canada and back. It was amazingly beauitful, but the best part, hands down, was getting 15 uninterrupted days with each other!! Check out some pics at this link, but remember that we were traveling like 14 hours a day, so some aren't of the beauty queen variety.

Pictures under Canadian Vacation