Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Brown Envelope has arrived!

Yesterday Erin and I were delighted to find "THE BROWN ENVELOPE" in our mailbox. This is an oft discussed piece of documentation on the trail to a Chinese adoption. The brown envelope is a letter from the Chinese government which contains paper work to take with us to the American Consulate in Guangzhou as well as an ID number used to schedule our appointment.

It's one more step!


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Prom 2006

Last night Erin and I decided to make ourselves feel really old by attending prom. We were delighted when a woman on the street in downtown Indianapolis asked us which prom we were attending. Erin nearly kissed the woman and bought her a Slurpee she was so excited. We explained that we were merely going as observers at the prom for the school where Erin teaches. What SHOULD have given away that we weren't regular prom attendees was the fact that Erin's attire for the evening covered more than 60% of her body. We ate dinner outside at Palomino, and as we ate, we watched dozens of prom-goers from various schools wandering around downtown. With us having a child on the way, it was somewhat horrifying to me that the dresses some of the girls were wearing contained the same amount of fabric as that of a tube sock. Additionally, nothing makes me happier inside than seeing a high school guy with a pink tuxedo on, knowing that at some point in his life, he'll have to answer for that to his kids.

Prom was held at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, which holds special memories for me as both the site of both of my proms, as well as being a place I sang at frequently as a child. The ballroom looked lovely as usual, and nothing compliments the starry sky and Spanish villa motif of the room like some thundering bass and a refrain of "let's get drunk...get high..." Ah...the "Earth Angel" of the year 2006. As a music lover, I have to admit that it was hard for me to understand how an entire hour of prom could go by without at least one song not designed to blow out the rear windows of your Escalade. But I guess that's what happens as you age...everyone that comes along after you loses all their taste.

All in all it was a fun experience. Erin saw a lot of her favorite students, and we got to bust some of her not-so-favorite students. Nothing warms a teacher's heart like putting the smack down on a student during a night that will provide lifelong memories. It's like signing someone's yearbook with "You're a loser." Heart warming.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Hail or High Water

It was great getting a three day weekend to relax with family, celebrate Easter, and fear for your life in Indiana's spring weather. In the past three days, we've seen hail, wind, torrential rains, and tornados. Finally we have something to complain about in this state besides Daylight Savings Time.

On Friday night, Erin and I went to dinner with my parents and grandparents, and on the way home we decided to run to the northwest side of town to go to Costco. On the way, it started raining pretty heavily. At one point, I heard a couple of splats on the windshield, but the rain was falling with those kinds of splats during the whole drive. But quickly I discovered that these new splats contained ice. We immediately drove into a gas station to get under the awning (nearly having a head-on collision with another motorist who had the same idea). What followed was a hail storm like I have never seen. All around us there were chunks of ice the size of baseballs dropping onto cars. There were windshields and rear windows breaking, not to mention cars being totally destroyed by the hail. We watched a police car get covered in dents...hundreds of them. Once it was over, as we drove on to Costco, there were cars everywhere with broken glass and hundreds of BIG dents all over the cars. In the few seconds we were exposed to the storm, our car got probably ten shallow dents, so we were fortunate.

Having survived the hail (and consuming a berry sundae at Costco as comfort food), we headed home. At about 9pm that evening, we started hearing about tornoados in the western part of the state. As the hour progressed, the reports started emphasizing that the storms were basically rolling up I-74 towards Indianapolis. This was concerning, given that you can hear the interstate from our driveway. Funnel clouds were bouncing up and down from the ground back up into the clouds, and it appeared that they were pretty much headed right for us. I've always said that our poor little house would fold like a bad hand of Poker if a funnel cloud even came into our county, so we hunkered down in our pantry and waited. We heard a pretty good hail storm, but luckily no tornado. All of this made for a stressful Friday night. Here is a link to a news story about the storms, and here is a link to a story with a slideshow of pictures from the storms.

Last night we had another round of storms, and it appears that my yard is going to overtake the house. I put fertilizer down last Tuesday...just in time for the storms. The yard looks nice and green now...at eye level.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Down South

(Warning -- This blog entry is of record length. Reader beware.)

This weekend, Erin and I took a quick trip to Birmingham to see some of our relatives, as well as get a quick, early breath of spring before Indiana turns into its usual summer sauna. We left work a little early on Friday and headed toward Louisville. I figured traffic would be heavy, given that it's spring break for many high schools, and I was correct. We crawled through Louisville, but not really any slower than normal. All was well until we hit Nashville. Nashville seems to be perpetually under construction, and this combined with rush hour, rain, and a number of accidents made our trek through town last about two hours longer than we would have liked. We did manage to find a very good restaurant in Brentwood, TN called Vittles. Lots of great southern cooking, and it made for a nice break from the storm. You'll discover as you read this that good food was a theme on this trip. Food in general is a theme on any trip I take, so this should come as no surprise.

After plowing through another few hours of 35 mph traffic and storms, we finally arrived in Birmingham. All of my relatives in Birmingham were extremely generous and accomodating during our entire visit, and Erin and I both just want to thank everyone for clearing their weekend to spend time with us. We had a great visit. It was a little disconcerting that the first thing everyone told us was that they didn't want to "end up on your blog." They said this as though it's a bad thing, so I'll leave out any details which might leave me cut out of a will somewhere down the line.

The highlight of the visit for my wife was the discovery of her new favorite dessert, lovingly named "orange salad." It's a concoction of Cool Whip, orange jello mix, pineapple, and mandarin oranges. It's a tasty food and all, but Erin turned it into an object of devotion. We attempted to make it when we returned home yesterday, but I was left in charge of the mixing, and apparently if you use frozen Cool Whip when you beat the whole mix together, it turns from a light, fluffy dessert into a sort of mandarin sludge. Not pretty. I'll leave the making of this to Erin in its entirety next time.

Another highlight of our trip was a visit to Vulcan Park overlooking Birmingham. The statue is interesting in and of itself, given that it's mooning the entire south side of the city. But more interesting was the elevator ride up the tower and the walkway surrounding the top of the tower offering panoramic views of the city. We thought this would be enjoyable, until we reached the top of the tower and discovered that the entire walkway around the top of the tower is constructed of a metal mesh. This means that you can look out over the city in all its splendor, or you can look down between your feet to the spectre of death which lays on the sidewalk far below. Keep in mind that this statue is already on top of a mountain, coupled with the fact that you've risen 124 feet above the park in the elevator. Erin and I clung to the walls of the walkway pretty closely, as though we'd somehow be able to cling to the side of the spire if that mesh walkway dropped out from underneath us. All of this greatly amused my cousin and his wife, who I'm sure will use this experience against us at some point in the future.

Anyway, we had a great visit to Birmingham, and it was great getting to see my uncle crawl around his living room coffee table chasing his grandson. I strongly suspect that he plays with the train set which sits atop the table more when his grandson isn't present. Other highlights of the trip included a hike around Vestavia Hills looking at new homes being built, as well as seeing the land my cousin is working on devloping. This second event included a ride in his Hummer H2. The ride itself was enjoyable enough, but watching him plunk down $72 to fill it was the real delight. We filled up, drove around their development for a half hour, and I suspect it was due to be filled again. I might be inclined to tie several hybrids together to meet my offroading needs, but I digress. Again, we had a wonderful visit, and it was really great to see everyone.

On Monday morning we made our exit and headed into Tennessee to scout out the Land Between the Lakes. Erin is going camping up there with some students, and we decided that it would be good to check things out prior to her August trip. On the way up, we cut through the middle of Tennessee and landed in Lawrenceburg at the Square 40 Restaurant. They had a lunch buffet of fried vegetables, beef and noodles, and other southern specialties, and the total price with drink was something like $4.99. It was wonderful. I can smell a good buffet from a mile away, but Erin was responsible for this stop. I did hear one of the guys behyind the register threaten a man's life if he ever came in there again, but it appeared to be all in good fun. Our next stop was in the town of Erin, Tennessee. My wife was delighted by seeing her name on all of the buildings, most especially the "First Bible Baptist Church of Erin." Such an establishment will do wonders for religious freedom, I'm sure. In any case, I found the Erin Quicky Lube to be much more entertaining, and less likely to draw lightning from our Creator.

After leaving Erin, TN and looking at desolation in Land Between the Lakes for several hours and driving for what felt like an eternity, we inquired as to a good place for dinner in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. A guide at the park headquarters enthusiastically informed us that Patti's was the only place to go. Patti, as it turns out, owns a whole host of facilities in Grand Rivers, including a miniture golf course and about 25 gift shops. The restaurant itself was a sort of Alice In Wonderland meets Cracker Barrel motif. Their specialty -- a two inch thick pork chop. This, of course, was my selection. Erin got a steak. My chop was pretty great (I'm a sucker for thick meats) and Erin's steak was ok. We were tired and hungry, so we ate. They also served bread baked in a flower pot, which was interesting. Our server, Nolan, was a delightful individual, but he did make one error in judgment. After we finished our meals, he informed us that since we "pretty much devoured those dinners" he would bring us a dessert menu. While it didn't stop me from ordering a dessert the size of a basketball, it did leave me feeling a little self-conscious about the two pounds of pork I had just eaten. It was quickly forgiven. Following Patti's, we retreated to our hotel to watch the NCAA finals.

Tuesday morning we got up and headed toward Central City, Kentucky -- home of the Everly Brothers monument. We drove through town once and ended up having to stop at a gas station to inquire about the location of the monument. A local gas station attendant who clearly was sick of hearing about the Everlys pointed us back to the "thing that looks like a grave in front of the fire station." She was correct in her assessment of this tribute to two living legends. It didn't stop me from taking a picture though. I grew up listening to the Everly's, and I've made a convert out of Erin as well. It was worth the stop, even if it did turn out to be merely a headstone.

Following Central City, we headed toward Owensboro. Now this might seem out of the way, but Owensboro is the home of the Moonlite BBQ. There are BBQ joints all over the south, but the Moonlite is something special. As we arrived in Owensboro, I stopped at a gas station, again, to inquire to the location. The girl behind the register finished her directions with "you'll smell it before you see it" which is always a good sign for a restaurant. We headed through the doors of the Moonlite ready to stuff our faces with chopped pork when I looked at my watch -- 10:03am. Now there are few times when good BBQ doesn't sound completely appealing. 10:03am is one of them. We still ordered our food, but a few bites in and both Erin and I had realized that our previous judgment call in the car ("we'll just stuff it in") had been incorrect. You can't just stuff in BBQ brunch. We boxed everything up and headed out. I happily ate the BBQ in the car somewhere in southern Indiana.

All in all, we had a brief but excellent vacation. In the last six weeks I've been to Denver, Chicago, Traverse City, and Birmingham. I'm looking forward to a weekend in good old Brownsburg this weekend...