Monday, June 26, 2006

Prairie Tunes

What an idyllic weekend here in sunny Central Indiana. This was one of the most pleasant weekends in recent memory for Erin and me. Saturday night we took in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at Symphony on the Prairie out at Conner Prairie. This is a great annual experience. You load up a cooler with enough food for roughly 4 times the number of actual people in your party, you carry said cooler for approximately 6 miles from the parking lot, you place cooler on a hillside at a 15% grade, and then you spend the next 4 hours listening to the symphony while gorging yourself and trying to maintain your position on the hillside. It really is a great time, and it was nice to spend the evening with both sets of our parents. The music for the evening was favorites from television and movies. Therefore each piece was a movie theme or intro to a TV show. On the way out of the park, I heard someone say "Each song was just too long." Methinks this particular Hoosier might be better suited for "Short Attention Span Theater."

On Sunday, Erin and I got up bright and early at 9:30am and headed for a hike at Turkey Run State Park. For my money (which in this case is about $35 for a yearly pass) Indiana has a very nice state park system. Turkey Run is one of my favorites though. The park has some beautiful natural features, and Sugar Creek runs through it providing some excellent canoeing. Maybe on our next trip out there I'll try and get some pictures. Erin and I hiked up three different creekbeds, all of which had an abundance of water and great scenery present. Luckily the day was overcast and cool, which kept the crowds at a tolerable level. We packed up around 1:30pm and headed for the car, which was fortunate since it almost immediately started raining heavily.

On the way home, our first goal was to get some food. This turned out to be easier said than done, as there ain't much surrounding Turkey Run. We ended up at this great little drive-in called The Big Berry in Bellmore, Indiana. Cheeseburgers and ice cream consumed, back to the car. All in all, a great weekend. We're excited to head back out to Turkey Run in the coming weekends. It's only about an hour from our house, and it really does make you feel like you're on vacation. Plus we got to see a snake eat a frog in its natural habitat. What more can you ask for?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Long Road--Random thoughts from a waiting mother

As you can imagine, the most common question we get anymore is "have you heard anything about Grace," which I might add is a great deal better than "when are you guys going to have kids," or "have you tried X" ("X" being any type of advice about how to conceive a baby, most of which usually makes me uncomfortable to discuss in public).

For all of you Grace-watchers out there, here's the scoop: it's going to take awhile. Today, the CCAA (The Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs) sent out another batch of referrals. People who had a LOG IN DATE of JUNE 2005 just received their referrals (for translation of adoption terminology, refer here). Now, since our log in date is MARCH 2006, we have a wait in front of us. At this point, we are hopeful and prayerful to get our referral in March 2007, but we are prepared to even add a few more months to that estimate.

So, what am I doing during the wait. Well, I am doing things biological mothers the world over do... drinking margaritas, smoking cigars, and sitting in hot tubs. Just kidding (at least about the smoking part), but truth be told, I am pretty busy. This week I am painting Grace's room (I know people wanted me to decorate in pinks and other such girly colors, but I love blues and greens, and I don't want Grace growing up thinking pink is a girly color and blue is a boyish color; that seems silly).

I found her bedding at a consignment shop ($30 for three pieces in mint condition from Pottery Barn), and I settled on painting the room a celery color. But what started out as celery on the small paint sample, turned into neon mint. Needless to say, I am going to add some stripes to tone it down. In addition, I am going to handpaint a gingham border. I have to stay up for 24 hours next Monday (I have a wacky sleep testy thingy on Tuesday), and I think I'll finish it during the wee hours of Tuesday morning. (As a side note, staying up for 24 hours is going to be near impossible for me. I could fall asleep nightly at 8 p.m., and I am convinced the early bird special was created for me.)

In addition to painting, I am trying to gather all the necessary baby stuff via garage sales. I don't see the need to buy new stuff when Grace will probably use it for a whopping three or four months. While I'm on the subject of things I don't get... I don't understand these clothes for babies and toddlers that look like something Brittany Spears, at least in her pre-baby days, would wear. I want my baby to look like a little girl, not a hooker. Grace will be a complete nerd in school: the only kid wearing garage sale clothes, the only kid who isn't wearing hoochie-mama (actual spelling: who knew?) clothing, and the only kid who doesn't know the lyrics to songs like Spears' "I'm not so Innocent."

Also, in my spare time, I am teaching myself guitar. I've been at it a total of two days, complete with every guide, dvd, book and audio tape from the library on the subject. All I can show for it, right now, are some very, very blistered fingers.

All in all, I don't want to wish away the time I do have until Grace makes her debut. Life will never be the same when she shows up, so I might as well enjoy the long nights of sleep, the hours of quiet reading, and the drool free carpet until then.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chickens and Horses

For Father's Day, we took Erin's parents to a local favorite here in Central Indiana -- The Kopper Kettle. Now I never ate there as a kid, but my buddy Eric used to go there with his family all the time. (My family usually ended up at Gray Bros. Cafeteria instead, which is legendary in its own right...) Anyway, the Kopper Kettle is known for serving lots of great midwestern vegetables family style along with heart stopping volumes of fried chicken. It truly is great stuff, and our food this weekend was no exception. One of the other notable things about the Kettle is that the waitresses all wear these intriguing little French maid outfits. I never have made the connection between an 1860's tavern and French maids, but who's complaining? In any case, the previous time we ate there, we had a lovely young maiden serving us, who was probably in her early 20's. She was cute enough...until I noticed as she was refilling my iced tea that she had a pierced tongue and a tattoo. Now I could write a whole blog entry on what's wrong with these kids and their piercings and such, but I'll save it. I did think it was an odd adornment given her outfit though. This time, our server wasn't cut from quite the same mold. She was probably in her late 50's, and a little, er, bulkier. I'm not totally sure that the French maid look really carries to the older set, but as long as they're refilling my mashed potatoes every 10 minutes, who am I to talk?

Afterwords we headed for Indiana Downs, which has become another annual trip. None of us is a gambler, but it's worth the trip for the people watching. (You haven't really lived until you've seen a 35 year old man call his kid a swear and spill beer on the kid's head at the same time.) Erin managed to win money within about 10 minutes of arriving, so it was lovely evening. We sat outside, enjoyed a couple of hours of horse racing, and went home with more money than we left with. Can't beat it, right? Plus I'm all about seeing horses get whipped while being forced to run around a mile long track in the dirt. I should be allowed to go out and throw marbles under their hooves occasionally, given my history with horses...or at least make rude comments towards them.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sites and Sounds of Athens, GA

One of the stops on our vacation last week was the lovely college town of Athens, Georgia, the home of the University of Georgia as well as the home base for the band R.E.M. Now anyone that knows me knows I'm a big music fan, and a lot of what I listen to these days was heavily influenced by R.E.M. I'm still a big fan and wanted to take a trip to Athens at some point to see some of the sites of interest to those of us who are complete music geeks. Therefore, if you couldn't give a rip about music or R.E.M., you can safely skip this post. Otherwise, read on...

First off, I'd like to thank Flagpole Magazine and its Athens Music History Walking Tour for info on many of these sites, as well as the similarly named walking tour provided by the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau. Please note that you should be able to click on any of these pictures for a closer view.

We began our little Athens voyage at the former St. Mary's Episcopal Church. This is the church where members of R.E.M. lived and practiced early on. They played their first show here on April 5, 1980. Since then, the church itself has been torn down, but the steeple remains. It's sort of an R.E.M. shrine at this point. Here's a picture of the building before it was torn down, along with a pic of its current state.

R.E.M. still runs its operations primarily out of Athens. Their offices are currently located in the second floor of the building shown here, above the cookie shop.

Erin has joked ever since our Athens visit that we took "more pictures of sites that used to be "The 40 Watt." "The 40 Watt" is a music venue in Athens that has been in, I believe, five locations since the early 1980's. Peter Buck of R.E.M. has had some ownership in the locations over the years, and it's still considered to be one of the best music venues in the eastern portion of the U.S. I got pictures of four of the locations, but forgot to snag the fifth. The original location was opened in 1979 in the space directly above what is now "The Grill."

The second location opened in 1980 above what is now Starbucks.

The third (and fifth!) location from 1982-1984 was in the space shown on the left here, which is now the Caledonia Lounge. In the late 1970's, it was known briefly as the 11:11 Club, where R.E.M. played their first club show on April 19, 1980. The show was infamously stopped by a police raid due to the lack of a liquor license. Charming, eh? The building is adjacent to a building which was previously restored by R.E.M. and housed the fanclub offices and rehearsal space for a number of years (I wore a T-shirt in high school featuring a picture of this building). I warned you that this would be geeky:

And finally, the current 40 Watt which also houses a lovely tattoo parlor. This location opened in 1990 and is still very active today.

Wuxtry Records was where Pete Buck worked in the late 1970's and apparently met Michael Stipe. It's still a cool little music store.

The Georgia Theater is another current music venue in Athens. It was open from 1978-1981, then closed, then reopened in 1989. Lots of bands have played here, and R.E.M. filmed part of the somewhat atrocious "Shiny Happy People" video here.

This is the home of the Geogia Bar which opened in 1986. The bar forms part of what locals refer to as the "Barmuda Triangle" with a couple of other bars on the adjacent corners. R.E.M. still claims this as their favorite Athens bar.

The space now housing The Grit used to be a club called the Coffee Club in the late 1970's. The building also housed Micheal Stipe's film company, C-00, upstairs, and I believe Stipe was responsible for restoring the building.

This is the John Keane Studios where R.E.M. has frequently recorded. Wilco and various other relatively large acts have also recorded there.

This is Weaver D's, whose slogan was used as the title for R.E.M.'s "Automatic For the People" album. The food here was tremendous and was partially responsible for my meltdown on the second night of our trip.

This is what is affectionately referred to as "The Trestle" by R.E.M. fans. It was featured on the back of their debut album, "Murmur", and a campaign to save it from demolition has been going back and forth for the past few years.

Philomath appears somewhat prominently in R.E.M.'s 1985 single, "Can't Get There From Here." The song couldn't have been more accurate, but it was on the way to Hilton Head, so...

Well that wraps up my rather lengthy picture tour of Athens/R.E.M. sites. I'm sure I'll endure endless abuse from my family and friends for the obsessiveness contained within.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Patent infringement?

Over the past, oh, two years perhaps, my lovely wife has been pitching an idea for a patentable product. Inspired by my patent work, and never void of her own bevy of ideas, her idea was to prepackage charcoal in little pyramids that held together on their own. That way, when you wanted to start a charcoal grill, you could just drop one of these preformed pyramids of charcoal on the grill, light it (it would also be ingitable), and presto! Burned burgers await! (...since I'm usually the one that does the actual grilling in our house...) She even had a marketable name for the idea -- Bar-B-Cubes. You could package several pyramids together in one cube. Not bad, eh? Everyone she has presented this idea to (roughly 3500 people) has found it to be a novel enterprise, but we've just never had a way to light a fire under the idea (har har).

While on vacation last week, we stopped at a gas station just outside Athens, Georgia. While I was in the restroom, I heard a shriek that was instantly recognizable as someone related to myself. I dashed to Erin's aid, and when I arrived, she was standing aghast at the product which sat before her very eyes on the shelf at the quickie mart -- CharCones. They even have a pretty snappy website. Erin was horrified, and she immediately came to the conclusion that her idea had been unscrupulously stolen by one of the 3500 people to which she had conveyed it. She also was convinced that the existence of CharCones meant that Grace's instant college fund had just vanished, not to mention my purchase of whatever new iPod gets released in the next few months.

So here we sit...still looking for the next great idea. Perhaps we'd still have a charcoal grill if CharCones had arrived on the scene just a little sooner.


Monday, June 12, 2006


I uploaded some of our pictures from our vacation for your viewing pleasure.

Click here for our pics from Hilton Head.

Click here for our pics from Savannah, GA.

Back to work...

And just like that, I'm back at work. The sun, sand, and relaxation replaced by my PC, a network having issues, and a pile of emails to respond to. It was noted by some people who read this blog that we might as well just go out to eat every night around home for a week and call it a vacation, and after reading our entries from Hilton Head, it does appear that all we did is sleep and eat. On further recollection, this is pretty accurate. Sleep, eat, beach, repeat. We did have a wonderful time though, and as is always inevitable following a vacation, part of me wishes I were still there.

The other thing Erin and I both experienced on this vacation was how much we want to get our family started as soon as possible. We've both worked through these past few years with all the ups and downs of not having children, but on this vacation more than ever before, I really longed to have kids around. I adore the time I spend with Erin on vacation, and I wouldn't trade that time for the world. But I think we both felt like kids would have made the experience that much more special. We were both constantly saying "Oh, that would be so much fun to experience with kids." There were kids the beach, at the restaurants, etc, and I'm sure that contributed to this feeling. But I also think that all the delays in our adoption and all the preparations that have gone into having a child, who it sometimes feels is never coming, really sort of came to a head with me in Hilton Head. We're both aware that when we do finally have kids, and we're both confident that our little Grace will arrive from China at some point, that our children will be the ones that God had planned for us all along. But it still isn't making the wait any easier...


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Almost over...

Well, we've reached the inevitable conclusion of our stay here at Hilton Head. We've had a wonderful, completely lazy time, and we're looking forward to coming back here in the coming years.

Yesterday for dinner we went to a fabulous little restaurant called The Sea Shack. This place was highlighted on a Food Network show by Rachel Ray as a great place to go on a budget. The restaurant, much like Weaver D's last week, was a complete dive. Paper plates and plastic eating utensils abounded. You walk up, order, then hunt for a seat, which was tricky since there was a half hour long line when they opened at 5pm. The food was amazing. The best seafood I can remember.

Following dinner we went to play some miniature golf. The putt putt place was interesting. Each hole featured a little placard with a Bible verse on it. Of course, on about the third hole, Erin blasted a ball into the water and shouted "CRAP!" at about 100 decibels. From then on, parents were doing the "earmuffs" thing to cover their kid's ears as we approached. So much for those Bible verses... Not that anyone cares, but Erin, in her ultra-competitiveness, beat me by a few strokes.

Today we hit the beach again. I've been telling Erin this whole trip that her fear of sharks at the beach is a little bit silly. There are all these kids in soggy diapers swimming in the surf, then there's Erin constantly scanning for predators. I went to grab something at the convenience store across from our condo this morning when I saw the news story linked here. I couldn't believe it. I debated whether to tell her or not. I ended up breaking and telling her. She handled it well. I explained to her that as long as there was a diaper-laden toddler between her and the sharks, she would be fine.

After the beach we headed to the Old Fort Pub for dinner. This place was amazing as well. It was recommended by one of Erin's students, and it was well worth our trip to the opposite side of the island. Now we're sitting here for our final Internet session at Java Joe's -- Hilton Head's only free Internet hotspot, near as I can tell (other than a real estate company whose parking lot provided a signal for the first couple of blog entries.)

Anyway, we've had a great time, and we can't wait to get back and see family and friends.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Post-Savannah Sun Soakedness

Well, despite coming down here with at least a little bit of a sun tan, I'm burnt. Not badly, but my shoulders are definitely suffering. Erin is ready to start a campaign against the Banana Boat suntan company, as she's even more burnt than I am. But neither of us is in too bad of shape.

Last night we hit the Wild Wing Cafe which came (disturbingly) highly recommended by Erin's mom. (We suspect there might have been a free drink involved.) It was definitely tasty. Erin had some sort of bowl of chicken and cheese topped with tortilla chips. It was listed a low fat option. Yeah, right.

Today we took a bike ride up to the stables and looked around without getting within my court ordered radius of a horse. The little man-injuring-death-beasts were cute, and I so enjoyed smelling them while on my vacation.

After the bike ride, we crashed out by the pool for a couple of hours to enhance our sunburns before dinner. Dinner turned out to be our favorite meal of the trip thus far. We went to the Big Bamboo Cafe and had chicken and ribs. All was delicious (and the two-for-one margaritas didn't hurt).

I think tonight we'll be talking a little stroll on the beach. We'll try and bribe some passers by into taking our picture for tomorrow's blog. In return, we'll tell them all about Chinese adoption.


Monday, June 05, 2006


Last night, our dinnner at The Kingfisher was very good. The ambience was sort of lacking, but our meals were good. After dinner we took in "The Breakup," which proved once again that Vince Vaughn is a tall, funny dude.

Today we ventured down to Savannah to take in the old homes and historic sites. The trip started off on shaky ground though. Upon arriving in Savannah, we immediately drove to the Visitor's Center. Upon arrival, I was dismayed to find that the parking lot at the visitor's center was a pay lot. I've driven down here to dump money into your city, and you expect me to pay while I determine how I'm going to spend that money? No thanks.

So we headed into the historic district to look for a parking place for the afternoon. Savannah has divided their 10 public parking spaces into various subcategories like "30 minute meter" or "3 hour meter" or "5 hour meter" and within each of these subcategories, there are other categories involving how you pay the meter -- coin or via an off-site parking validator. Logically, of course, the longer the time allowed on the meter, the more likely it requires actually coinage (i.e. you don't need change for the 30 minute meter, but you need 50 quarters for the 3 hour ones...unbelieveable). None of this matters though, as there wasn't a parking space to be found. So we drove around Savannah's crazy little squares for an hour looking for a parking spot. We then found a public parking garage, but the ticket machine wouldn't dispense anything, and there was no attendant. But there multiple signs saying that it was a permit-only garage, and you'd be towed for disobeying this rule. Not wanting my car towed, we kept looking. I will admit that I was becoming angrier by the minute. I couldn't get around why a city so desparately needing tourists would make it so freaking difficult to visit?

In the end, after some, er, guidance from Erin, we headed back for the damn visitor's center (which, as it turns out, gives you the first hour of parking free.) We went inside and selected a trolley tour of the city. Parking at the visitor's center is only a dollar per hour after the first hour, so the city should really put up a giant sign that says, "Don't bother driving into the city. Just dump your car here for the day." That would have saved me some blood pressure medication. The trolley tour we took was actually very fun and very informative. Savannah turned out to be a beautiful place with some amazing homes and architecture. After the tour, we lunched at Belford's, which turned out to be the best meal of the trip so far. Then we got some homemade candy and ice cream and headed back to the car.

"Park your car here and save your marriage and sanity. There are only 10 spaces in the historic district, and you'll have to kill three horse-drawn carriage drivers and a host of small children to get them."


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Saddle Sores

So far so good...neither of us have fallen off our rented "beach cruiser" bicycles. One thing I will say after riding around on the rental bikes for a couple of hours last night...despite three years of trying to get pregnant, there are still muscles below my waist that have not moved since I rode bikes as a kid. Holy smokes, am I sore. The lovely combination of muscle strain and butt bruising is putting a distinct crimp in my style. It's hard to look suave on these goofy bikes anyway, since they have a lovely white basket hanging from the handlebars. Multiple times last night I threw my feet out to the sides and sang the intro music to Laverne & Shirley.

We spent a couple of hours today out at the beach. It was relaxing, not terribly crowded, and the water and weather were nice and warm. Tonight it's off to The Kingfisher for the early bird special. Erin has decided that the best way to eat dinner at expensive restaurants here at Hilton Head is to take them up on their early bird specials. This is fine, but it does seem strange to be looking for a place to grab dessert at 4:30pm.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Beach Bound

Well, here we are on lovely Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. And since we're here and settled, I thought I would go ahead and start what I hope is a daily report on what Erin & I are up to down here.

On Thursday, we left Indianapolis around noon and headed for Atlanta. We decided to take a 45 mile gamble and go to Atlanta via Knoxville rather than Nashville. When we were in Nashville (and Louisville) in April, the traffic was absolutely nightmarish, so this seemed like a good idea, given that it's only 45 extra miles. All was going according to plan until we got to the border between Kentucky and Tennessee. We lost about an hour stuck in construction, but we still got in to Atlanta by about 9:30pm. We stayed at the Sheraton Suites at the Galleria, which we very nice. Nothing much else to report on Thursday.

On Friday we left Atlanta and headed for Athens, Georgia. On the way, we stopped at an IHOP which was very tasty...for an IHOP. I realize that I previously scorned the IHOP, but this one was pretty decent. Erin was somewhat surprised to see that the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity is a real item on their menu, and despite her temptation, she couldn't bring herself to order it because of the name. For future reference, I got the stuffed French toast, which basically was a donut injected with butter and apple goo then topped with said goo and cream cheese icing. This plus a plate of eggs and sausage made for a delightful, multi-thousand calorie breakfast. On to Athens...

But Athens isn't on the way to Hilton Head, you might be saying? Ah, but it's close. And I'm a huge fan of the band R.E.M. which hails from Athens. As an R.E.M. fanatic, it's customary at some point to make a pilgrimmage to Athens to CD shop, check out the clubs where they got their start, and generally embarrass your wife. Once we return, I'll put together a page of R.E.M. sites for anyone who cares. On the way out of Athens, we stopped at Weaver D's for a quick lunch. Weaver D's was made famous by R.E.M., as the title of their album "Automatic for the People" came from Weaver D's slogan. The lunch we got was unbelieveable and included barbeque chicken and a pile of fried and butter soaked vegetables. Delightful. While sitting at Weaver D's, the owner himself popped a squat next to me. While I was inhaling my fried cornbread, I must have startled him while I gasped for air between bites. He turned to me and said, "Is your food good?" I said, "It's wonderful." His reply -- "Automatic." I elicited an "Automatic" from the man himself. R.E.M. would be proud.

After a drive through the middle of nowhere Georgia, and a stop for an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen, we arrived yesterday afternoon at Hilton Head. We're staying at a place called the Swallowtail at Sea Pines. Here's a picture of our condo.

After getting settled in we had a quick burger and chips at a bar overlooking the water and headed back for a night's rest. The night's rest started off well enough, but was sent off the rails around 1:30am. Erin, for the second time in the last month, woke up and started running around the room shouting, "Help me! I can't breathe! Where am I?" This is funny...once in a while. And usually she wakes up and all is fine after some deep breathing and slipping her a drink. Last night though, I couldn't get her to wake up, so the bout lasted a few minutes. It made me grouchy, I have to say, but the evening's fun wasn't yet over.

Here's where things get complicated. If you'll recall, I've noted previously that my stomach as a kid used to act as a sort of trampoline. You'll also recall that on this day of driving through Georgia I've eaten: IHOP, Weaver D's, Dairy Queen, 1/2 pound burger with 1/2 pound of chips. I was awakened at 2:30 by a stomach on fire which refused to stabilize without, er, drastic measures. Lesson learned. Well, not actually. I should have learned by about age 4, but I haven't. So today I'll eat like a normal human being...mostly. And hopefully I'll be set.

More adventures to come...Our rented bicycles arrived, so I'll provide a detailed injury report tomorrow.