Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tote Bags

This has been a big week for the Grantster. On Thursday, Grant officially became a permanent member of the Hawkins family (his protruding nose and chin are on order). The ceremony involved standing before a judge and declaring that we understood that we were to support and love Grant for as long as we're still alive. It also involved us agreeing that Grant could inherit from us (good luck with that one, kid) and that if Erin and I were to ever dissolve our marriage, one of us would have to take custody of Grant (this would obviously be Erin, since if our marriage were ever to dissolve, my body would be disposed of in a most unsatisfactory manner.) All in all, the hearing went well, and Grant managed to impress the judge by sleeping through the entire proceeding.

This morning, Erin went to a lady's meeting for church. This meant Grant and daddy got some one on one time to play cards and watch that show about the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders (just kidding, ma...). Grant has had a difficult 24 hours. For whatever reason, he's been exceptionally gassy, and despite my efforts to try and show him how to relieve the issue, the problem remains. Therefore about 10 minutes after mom left, Grant began to alternate between screaming and giggling, as gas bubbles approached. It was maddening. He'd coo and giggle, so I'd get right in his face to giggle with him, at which point he'd switch to a blood curdling scream, rendering my hearing non-existant for several minutes after.

One thing I discovered after Erin left is that there were small, plastic shopping bags all around our house. One in the kitchen. One in the family room. One next to Grant's changing table. This final one gave me an unfortunate clue as to the contents. Now I understand that Erin is tired, and OCD has decided that I'm usually the one to take out the trash, but I'm not sure I fully understand the need to leave a small, plastic bag filled with urine soaked Huggies at every corner of our humble abode. When she gets home, I plan to ask her if she's trying to ward off evil spirits or perhaps ensure we don't have house guests for the next few months through the use of these little Grant fun bags. Needless to say, I gathered them all up, disposed of them in the trash in our garage, washed my hands up to my elbows 25 times, and returned to attending to my gassy little guy. Ah...Saturday's...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Grant Update

Well, I'm here on spring break and loving being home with the little guy. Grant is simply too much fun, and he's growing and changing daily. Everytime my dad sees him, he says that he looks like a "whole new kid." Well, in honor of Grant, here's an update:

This Thursday
This Thursday is our official court date where we make everything official. It's a very big day for us, and we'll all be sporting our most stylin' duds. We plan on celebrating this day as our "forever family" day, and much like a birthday, we plan on celebrating year after year after year. We plan on doing the same thing with Grace when she joins us... but as for now, March 29 will be Grant's Forever Family day. We'll post some pictures of the cutest baby in the world on Friday.

Many of you must be wondering how Grant is sleeping, especially after I posted about his significant breakthrough. Well, he's sleeping about 5 hours at a time. On average, we put him down at 9 pm, and he sleeps until about 2 or 3. Then, momma is up for a quick feeding (usually about 15 mintues), and he's back down again until morning. He really struggles in the morning (from about 5 to 7), but we are working on it. Some days are better than others (for example, last night was AWFUL), but on the whole, we are making steady progress towards sleeping soundly through the night.

Grant's favorite things
Grant continues to love his bath (I MEAN LOVE!!!). He has a very long attention span; he stares at things for hours (okay... maybe not adult hours... but baby hours). He espeically loves to stare at: light bulbs, the huge Bedford sign in our living room, the TV if it's on, the New Order (a band for those outside of Bret's music world... so most of you) poster in our office, the motor to his swing (I think he is very suspicious that noise comes out of it but it looks just like the other side). Grant is talking up a storm when he's not tired. He babbles to just about anyone about anything. I love it! He is also starting to smile all the time, and I swear that I heard a giggle the other day. He especially thinks that his grandmothers are funny, as they get double the smiles. See, smart kid... he knows who has the deep pockets (especially when it comes to him).

Grant's least favorite things

waking up... to prove it... here's a little movie clip. Notice two things: 1. the crazy look I get when I start talking and 2. what happens to my finger when it gets too close to his mouth. Other than waking up, being hungy, and gas (which Grant has a lot of), Grant is the happiest baby ever!

But, just so you don't think that we have a cranky boy on our hands, here he is after eating... talking up a storm.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Back Home Indiana...

On my final day in Hong Kong this week, I decided to do the most touristy thing I could find. So I headed back over from the mainland at about 3:00pm, donning shorts, black socks, and a camera around my neck, and took the tram up the side of Victoria Peak. The tram has been in operation since 1888 and consists of a pair of rail cars that are slowly dragged up the side of the mountain at what is very near a 45 degree incline. Now for those of you that know me, you'll remember that I spent a great deal of my childhood on the floors of various glass enclosed elevators, praying for God to take me swiftly rather than screaming as the elevator was released from its tether. So for me to ride this tram was something of a challenge. Shown below is the view from the starting station in Hong Kong central. Notice the incline...
Here is a shot while ascending the peak. This gives some indication of the incline...My only concern while riding the tram was that I have been witness to some, shall we say, questionable Chinese engineering in the past couple of years. So putting my life in their hands did leave me somewhat jarred. I guess I slept soundly enough on the 21st floor of my hotel each night, so this shouldn't have bothered me.
After arriving at the peak, I was greeted by a number of shops, all featuring various tourist gifts and memoribilia. I quickly dashed past all these shops, as I planned to do some authentic shopping later in the evening. The peak features a Madame Tussauds wax museum which seemed somewhat fitting for a tourist trap. It was entertaining to watch plump Americans pose next to a Jackie Chan figure, looking more like they were ready for a toilet rather than a karate match. Another floor featured a fine Asian cuisine restaurant, with tables outside overlooking Hong Kong central. I ascended to the top of the tower, curious as to what shop or restaurant had been given the priviledge of the highest point in Hong Kong's most famous tourist attraction. What did I find?
Bubba Freaking Gump. Now don't get me wrong. I've eaten at Mr. Gump's establishment, and it provided a cornucopia of greasy seafood which treated me well (in a cleansing sort of way). But is this really the best that Hong Kong can do? All I can figure is Bubba's American ownership bid a Gump-load of cash for the location, outbidding all their Asian competitor's who figured, "Eh...we'll feed 'em when they get back to street level." I neglected to eat, instead heading out onto the viewing platform for some pictures of downtown. Here are some views downward towards Hong Kong's majestic skyline...

After my trip to Gump Towers, I took the Hong Kong subway back to Kowloon for a little shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui. Upon boarding the subway, I looked toward the back of the car. Now the picture is a little blurry, but you'll notice the only other face at my level is another Big Dumb White Dude.
I trotted around the TST (Tsim Sh...ok, you get the idea) for a couple of hours looking for gifts for Erin and Grant. One of the alleys lead me to a place where even my arts could be appreciated...

All in all it was another enjoyable trip to Hong Kong. My visits to China aren't bad, with the exception of the dreadfully long flights. On the return flight, as we pulled away from the terminal, the pilot made the following announcement:

"For this afternoon's flight, we'd like to take this opportunity to welcome the 50 children from the Rich Chinese Kids From Hong Kong Primary School aboard for their spring break trip to America."

You could almost feel the air being sucked from the plane as the businessmen in coach gasped. The kids were mostly well behaved. There were a couple of 10 year old Chinese boys that insisted on running from their seats at the front of coach to their friend's seats at the rear of coach every few minutes. But then again, every Asian guy under 40 that I've ever worked with runs from cubicle to cubicle around our building at work, so I guess they're just in training.

All in all, it feels great to be home with Grant and Erin. It was nice to flip on the radio this afternoon here in Indy and hear something that didn't resemble cats in chorus. While in Shenzhen, I heard a pop song on the radio in a cab which had adapted the melody from "What Child Is This?" This travesty was only out done by a Chinese dude slaughtering a Simon & Garfunkel classic. My boss nearly wet himself every time I burst into "Herro darkness my old friend...that's the sounds of sirence."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Like Father, Like Son

Last Friday, before Bret made his famous second voyage to the other side of the world, we took Grant Nicholas to the doctor for his two month well baby visit. To start the visit, the nurse took Grant's measurements. He has been on the small side, his first visit registering in the 25th percentile for height and weight. So, you can imagine that it was no surprise to find out that Grant is still in the 25th percentile for height (his Daddy's dreams of the NBA are "shortly" becoming a thing of the past). But, the real shocker was that buddy boy weighed in at 14 lbs, 5 oz, putting him in the 97th percentile for weight. That's right, we have a porkchop on our hands. Most babies who are heavy are also long, so round and pudgy Grant is in a class of his own.

I guess that's what happens when you give a kid to two chubby people. I don't know what I'm going to do about it; I'm going to go talk to some food about it. Where's that Snicker bar when you need it?

Here are some pics of the little, loveable, cuddly, cushy guy:
His wrists look like a rubber band is tied tightly around them. Yikes. It's like a bad, "you know you're fat when" joke.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Single Mom

With Bret in China, I am pulling single mom duty, and let me tell you, it's hard work. And that's with the help of family, 2 extra shot Americanos just today, and the vow to do no laundry or real cooking. It's tough. It doesn't help that Grant has a cold and chokes on his own snot about every 5 mintues (especially at night). I have never (and I mean never) been so ready to see Bret.

Here are some pics, espcially for Daddy in China:

The Seattle serving pig knuckles!

Tonight for dinner we visited the Seattle Cafe, a high end restaurant situated behind our hotel (and adjacent to the Dongua Park women's commercial enterprise district...if you catch my drift...) This "western style" steakhouse featured a wide array of steaks, as well as the aforementioned pork palms, various ox parts, and any number of delectable bird parts. I had a standard issue filet, which was actually quite good. I also had some French onion soup, which I'm fairly sure contained no onion, but who knows. A glass of red wine (Spanish, if I remember correctly...California reds were VERY expensive...) and all was well. The place was basically priced at American prices, so it was very pricey by Chinese standards.

After dinner, I took a stroll around the area surrounding my hotel. Here are a few night shots. I know that I'll be hearing, "That looks so nice" and "Yeah, really looks like you're roughing it" but trust me, it's still China.

I went in this very upscale department store (again, American prices), and the escalators all smelled like open sewers. A very nice store, but just not quite right.

My hotel is the tower in the background...

This sign was next to the sidewalk in the park on the way out of the hotel...Would someone like to hazard a guess as to what this means??

Monday, March 19, 2007

This ain't spaghetti...

So nothing too exciting to report today. I did shockingly well, considering the amount of jetlag I expected to have. I made it through a day's worth of meetings, and I only drooled on my laptop once.

Given the inclimate state of my boss's digestinal tract, I let him choose our dining options for the day. So what does a sick man eat for lunch? A McDonald's double cheeseburger made from grade DD Asian beef. For dinner we went to an Italian (!?) place. I ordered the house spaghetti. As it turns out, this meant "scrape everything you can from the floor of the South China Sea and toss it with a few spaghetti noodles." It was fishy to say the least. I left a large portion of it behind, and I have a strange feeling I've not seen the last of it.

Tomorrow a second wave of coworkers arrive, which will be nice. There's a large shopping complex across the street from the hotel, which I plan to checkout tomorrow. There's also a rather magnificently large Wal-Mart and another shopping mall down the street. Nothing says "direct to market" quite like a Wal-Mart in China... I should hopefully get a chance to take more pictures tomorrow.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Awe geez...

What do you not want to hear your boss say at breakfast at the start of a week where you'll be working closely with him and riding in cabs all over China with him?

"I've been throwing up for 3 days straight..."

Man do I hate international travel...

You know, when I was in college, I loved traveling. I'd have paid my own way for my company to send me to someplace exotic like China. But what I've discovered since marrying Erin, and even more recently since having Grant, is that I now despise being sent out of the country. I hate being away from home. I hate the hassles. I hate not hearing Grant coo in the morning. I hate not leaving for work with a stinky, formula stain somewhere on my clothes from Captain Spitup. But alas, this is the predicament I find myself in, so here's the last two days of my life.

I left our house at 6:00am on Saturday morning in hopes of catching an 8:00am flight to Newark. My Hong Kong flight was to leave Newark at 3:00pm, and I was booked on a flight arriving from Indy at 2:00pm. Thus with all the bad weather, I thought it prudent to catch the early flight. Got to the airport...flight cancelled. Back to Brownsburg. Got home around 7:30am. Returned to the airport around 10:30am. Flew to Newark, arrived 2:30pm...close, but I'll make the Hong Kong (heretofor known as "the HK" for you hipsters) flight. Got the gate at 2:45pm. Flight delayed until 4:00pm. Eat a Nathan's hot dog, return to gate. Flight delayed until 5:00pm. Boarded the flight around 6:00pm. We taxi out into the parking lot someplace and sit...until about 9:00pm. No updates, no info. Sit. We finally depart (with cheers) for our trip over the North Pole to HK.

Now normally I'd make lots of comments about the food, tiny toilets, etc, but to be honest, I slept a lot on this flight, which was nice. My only comment is that they have replaced the notorious curtain between first class and the commoners with a mesh curtain. This just adds to the frustration for those of us in economy. At one point I heard the stewardess asking a man if he wanted nuts on his sundae. Then it was what KIND of nuts. Then it was, "Do you want whipped cream?" "Cherries?" and on and on. When the thing came out, it looked spectacular. About the time his was delivered, I was handed one of those little cups of vanilla with a used popsicle stick to eat it with. The guy got up to go to the toilet, and he very nearly lost his precious sundae. Otherwise, food on Continental was WAY better than United. Travellers take note.

I arrived at the HK airport at 11:00pm. After spending an hour waiting for my bag, I headed to ground transportation. Normally we take the ferry to the mainland, but it's shut down after 9, so I started surveying my options. About this time, a wiry little Chinese dude who looked about 65 but had dyed hair and rather trendy shoes which said, "I'm actually 40 but dying at a much faster rate than you" started yelling "Shenzhen taxi...Shenzhen taxi." Perfect, I thought. I know guys at work have hired cars to take them over. I was set. So I follow Hong Kong Louie out into the parking lot, where he shows me into the back of his Toyota minivan. No taxi meter, no "Your driver is Samir"...nothing. I begin envisioning my organs being harvested and a group of guys saying, "Nice work, Qu Phong. You got us a fatty." So I demanded to see some identification. He pulled out a laminated card which basically said "Qu Phong -- HK taxi guy." A middle school kid with Photoshop could have made it before the bell rang, but I said, "Looks good." By this point, we were going about 95 MPH on the freeway out of the airport. What do you do?

Now Louie had agreed to get me to the Holiday Inn in Shenzhen (SZ for the hipsters) for $600 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD). So we're sailing along. We hit a toll booth, and he demands $50 (HKD) (about $7 US). I'm like "tolls aren't included?!" He says no, so I'm like, work is paying this...fine. He hands me back less than I expect, so I say "Where's the rest?" and he says "I've got to get back to the airport, no?" So now I'm being driven out in the middle of nowhere to die...on my own dime. Or work's dime.

We hit the crossing into mainland China, and Louie hops out of the minivan and stands by my door. "What the hell are you doing?" I politely inquire. He informs me that he can't drive into China. "Welcome to Shenzhen" he says. I started griping about our little misunderstanding, at which point he says, "I'll go with you for $400 HKD more." I reply, "I'm pretty sure I can get there from here" while in my head I'm standing in a bus terminal in the middle of nowhere at 1:00am with 10000 Chinese people milling around. "Ok, fine."

A guy drives us into the bus terminal. We hop a SZ city bus to cross the border (after going through a customs checkpoint.) After that, the guy catches me a cab and tells the driver where I'm headed. Worth his price? In the middle of the night? Yep. I'd never do it this way again, but he DID get me to SZ. So now I'm racing through SZ in a cab. I'm looking for landmarks that I know, but I never got into downtown during the last trip. The place is massive. Like Chicago sized. I finally see an exit sign for Nanhai Blvd, which I know is where my company and hotel are. Shew. The cab dumps me, and I head for the desk.

Now at some point during this past week, American Express Travel lost my hotel reservation, so I rebooked on Friday. But by that time, all rooms were full for Tuesday night, and all rooms were now smoking...not cool in Asia. The girl at the desk looks up my reservation, and I explain that I have reservations for nights 1, 2, and 4, but really need 1 through 4. She understands. The hotel is full though. She talks to her manager. Voila...I'm in a suite. Non-smoking even. It really is an awesome room. It makes up for a lot of this evening's horrors. Free laundry, free mini-bar, free happy hour. It's sort of like, "Welcome to China. You're stuck here, so drink up!" Here are some pics.

That last one is just one of any number of examples of what cracks me up over here. Off to bed. Off to work in 6 hours...what a day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Back In The P.R.C.

So here I am again, on the verge of another trip to the People's Republic of China. I've been assigned to another joint project with my Chinese brethren, therefore I'll be traveling to China occasionally for the next few months. (It was evident to me that a trip is necessary after a conference call this evening with three Americans and several non-English speaking Chinese engineers. Conference calls work very poorly under these circumstances.)

I'll have the pleasure of checking out the Holiday Inn Donghua Shenzhen. Surreal. We switched hotels this trip, and the endorsement from someone who had stayed at the Holiday Inn was "it doesn't have as many hookers out front." But hey, it's 16000 frequent flyer miles, and it'll give me a chance to brush up on phrases like, "no more chicken bones for me, thanks" and "you're really gonna eat that?"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Things I didn't know... sappy content to follow

There are a great many unknowns in the world. No amount of reading or prepping or chatting with others can prepare you for the reality when it comes. Babies are one such reality.

I read the books--lots of books. I talked with other moms. There are some things, though, that just come in the trying. This last weekend we went out with our dear friends from Chicago, Eric and Emily and their darling daughter, Kaya. Over dinner, Emily asked me, "So, what are some of things that you didn't expect?" I don't think I was ready to answer that question then, but after some thought, here are some unexpecteds:

1. I didn't know love like this was possible. I love Grant with a unique and an unquenchable love. Who knew that a love for a child could be so different from any other type of love?

2. I didn't think I would find his cry so endearing. He gets his bottom lip quivering and starts to wail. It's too cute. It's even cute at 3 am in the morning. That's when you know it's really cute.

3. I never thought that I would change outfits as often as Grant. We have tried everything: different formula, different bottles, different delivery methods, but there's no getting around the fact that our kids spits up like mad. He is freakin' Old Faithful. Just today, I have changed outfits three times; Grant has only changed outfits once. Smart kid.

4. I didn't realize that four hours of sleep would seem like a gift. I need sleep... just ask Bret. Prior to Grant, I would have said that I needed at least 7 hours of sleep to function, but, I can survive (and even be semi-productive) on less sleep than I thought. If I get four straight hours, I am in heaven.

5. I didn't realize that having a baby means open season for conversations and attempted touching by old ladies and Walmart cashiers the world over. Everyone wants to touch, to tickle, to pinch and to talk about Grant. Most of the time, it is wonderful. Sometimes, when I'm a tad bit sleep deprived (reference point #4), it's hard to muster the strength to be sooooo chatty.

6. I didn't think that I could love Bret more than I do, but seeing him be the world's best (seriously, I think the absolute best) father to Grant makes my heart melt for him in new ways.

7. I didn't think Grant would be so expressive. Bret and I (and the rest of our families) love the many expressions of Grant Hawkins. From his early days, Grant has been able to produce a wide array of looks--Blue Steel included. And because he is so expressive, he doesn't seem like a newborn. Here are a few:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Engineers Are Weird

Over the past couple of weeks, the company I work for has gone through a, shall we say, reorganization. This has led to many of the cubicles in our Dilbert-scape needing to be, shall we say, cleaned out down to the bare floor. This has proven no easy task, and it has led me to a greater understanding of a few of the nuances of the engineer personality.

1. Engineers are freaking pack rats

I've never seen anything like it. In the past few years, there have been routine cleaning requests where dumpsters were rolled in, and we were asked to clean out extra equipment and junk from our cubi-cells for tours and such. You'd think these would have eliminated the vast majority of the garbage from our department, but it obviously has not. There are computers made out of vaccuum tubes, black and white televisions, and crusty voltmeters and power supplies that appear to have been used by Edison. I'm relatively sure I saw the key from Ben Franklin's kite. There is junk piled everywhere. Thousands of video and computer cables that would easily be sold at Best Buy for $19.99 a pop, some being used as bailing wire for other assorted crap.

2. Electronic junk is like Crack for engineers

With all of this trash in the hallway, it's been enjoyable for me to watch the pain with which my fellow engineers shuffle past the piles as they move in and out. It's virtually impossible for many of them to give the stuff up in the first place, but then after they've done so, they're drawn to it like Ann Coulter to a slur. They can't resist. I've seen one poor guy hunched over a heap of 3.5" and 5.25" diskettes for the past two days, trying desparately to keep from stuffing them in his mouth and pockets, running frantically for the door. It doesn't matter that the entire pile has a street value of approximately $.03. It's just the thought of throwing away anything computer related or anything with a plug that breaks their lonely, unsociable, short-sleeve-dress-shirted hearts.

3. Engineers never have any brotherly love, even in times of distress

It's a well known fact that engineers are antisocial. This is understood. It's the explanation for our inability to date or mate with regularity or avoid comic book conventions. This inability to relate socially extends to our own predicament. It doesn't matter that we're all in a similar, leaky boat. It doesn't matter that we've all been asked to clean out our trash. It doesn't matter that most of us have worked together for ten years. If you even suggest, "Hey buddy...Yeah you with the black socks and Reeboks...You might want to toss that 1200 baud modem. I'm pretty sure it can't be used in a post-1985 PC" you'll get a tongue lashing. I haven't heard some of these guys speak in 10 years, but now they're fighting over who gets to take home a VCR that weighs approximately 300 pounds or a pile of remote controls for televisions produced in the 70's or (and this is my favorite) several hundred megabytes (the precursor to the gigabyte, for all you youngins) of memory for PCs from the 80's (this one nearly went to blows...and for all you computer geeks out there, the deathmatch was between two guys who both wanted it for their Amigas...I kid you not...)

Now I'm sure some of you are going to think, "Eh...this isn't funny. You're just playing on the Engi-nerd stereotypes for a quick chuckle." But it's the honest truth. And much like the Seinfeld where the dentist turned Jewish so he could tell their jokes, I'm a member of the club so I can take all the shots I want. I really wouldn't have believed all of this until I saw it. I should be selling tickets. I can see the marquee now:

"See two unmarried guys with a combined weight of 700 pounds and 6 remaining strands of hair between them wrestle over crap nobody else in the universe wants, all the while wearing polyester pants, black sneakers and T-shirts featuring their favorite Star Wars character. Get your tickets today!"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


It happened. I don't want to jinx myself, but it happened. Grant Nicholas (read: the best baby ever!) slept over 6 hours (almost 7) last night. I never thought I could be sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo excited about one night, but let me tell you it is a dream come true to have over 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I feel like a new person. As Bret puts it, I have de-crankified. After two cups of coffee, I almost feel normal (or sane)... (or both). Good thing.

Here's a picture from a week or two ago of our sleeping angel.

We have been working really hard on getting good sleep, not junk sleep, and I think it is paying off. I say that this morning, and he'll probably be up every hour on the hour tonight just to show me who is boss.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Crazy People

These things can only occur in Bedford, Indiana...

A plane crashes into a house on Sunny Acres Lane. Tragically, it's a man and his daughter on board. In true Southern Indiana fashion, the house was owned by his former mother-in-law.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Yeah, Right.

Erin went to bed early tonight to try and get some sleep before Grant awakened for his 10:30pm feeding. One of the frustrations I've had since Grant's birth is that Erin wakes up at the slightest whimper of a cry from Grant. Tonight, I decided to stay up and take the 10:30pm shift, in hopes that Erin would de-crankify with a bit of sleep. So at 10:30pm, Grant started stirring, and I quickly dashed into his room, but before I got seated, there was Erin. I told her I'd take the shift, and she gleefully threw herself back in bed.

In the course of feeding Grant, he got a little gassy (who doesn't?) and started crying. It lasted approximately 1/1000th of a second, but there she was at the door. I quickly said, "I've got it! Go back to bed!" Her response?

"I was worried about YOU, not Grant. I thought something happened to YOU!"

Dearest, you're never a good liar, least of all when you're 1/10th awake. Worried about me. Right. Because I cry and sound like Grant. (Ok, so I do...but only sometimes...)