Monday, April 30, 2007

At the zoo...

Saturday morning, we decided to take Grant for his first trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. The Indianapolis Zoo of my youth was located in a city park on the east side of town, and if you could dodge the gunfire as you made your way from the parking lot, you were likely to see some animals. Erin and I recently drove through the park where the old zoo was located, and I was shocked at how small the grounds were. The foundations of all of the old zoo facilities are still present, so it was sort of an eerie vision of what I remembered. The new Indianapolis Zoo, opened 20 years ago in the heart of the Indianapolis tourist district, is generally safe, and you're likely to see perhaps three, maybe even four animals.

I really don't get it. You wander throughout a beautiful facility, complete with multiple places to buy ice cream and chili dogs, yet you very rarely see any animals. You see faux grasslands and jungles, with lots of trees and rocks, but you don't see animals. Presumably they're off being groomed or bathed, because it's actually more rare to see wildlife within our zoo walls than outside in the wild. Grant didn't seem to mind the lack of wildlife. He was far more interested in the various signs and people wandering about the grounds. I spent approximately half of our time searching for an ATM so that I could buy food to assuage my irritation at not getting to actually see monkeys and polar bears. I was eventually calmed by a root beer float from Dog 'n Suds.

On Sunday, we made our way to our our local outlet mall. It was such a gorgeous day that we decided it was worth a trip out. The outlets gave Grant a chance to flash his award winning smile and dimples at all the ladies. They generally returned the gesture, except in one case where a young African American girl shouted at a rather unneccessary volume, "Look at that Butterball!" I chuckled, while Grant paused his struggle to find his thumb to find another finger with which to reply. All in all, we had a nice stroll around the outlets, and it gave me a chance to engage in checking out some of the true wildlife in Indiana -- the citizenry of southern Indiana.

There was the usual parade of mullets and oversized pickups, but I noticed two relatively new phenomenon. The first was the striking number of men over 50 sporting not one, but two earrings -- one in each ear. I call this look "the Harrison Ford," and he looks just as silly. As a general rule, if you're having to trim the hair in your ears for your earring to be visible, you've probably passed the age (by decades) when you should even be considering wearing an earring. The other thing I saw multiple times was men wearing what I have heard traditionally referred to as culottes. I can remember my mom scouring TJ Maxx for these when I was little, but I guess I didn't realize they'd made their rounds to the menswear department. I have to say, I'm not a huge fan. There's something just a little too "Anne of Green Gables" for me when I see a dude in short pants with little bows at the bottom. In one case, I saw a guy with a mullet, two earrings, culottes and a Big Dog T-shirt. It was sort of like a male redneck version of a supermodel. Delightful.

We had a lovely weekend, and we're definitely glad to be rolling into summer here in central Indiana.

Friday, April 27, 2007

All Grown Up

I know that there are a million firsts that Grant has yet to conquer, and I know that I'll love each stage for the new things I learn about our sweet baby boy, but I must admit that I find myself thinking, "Don't you dare grow up one more bit." I look at the first pictures of Grant, and he has changed so much. He is in such a sweet phase of babyhood right now, smiling and laughing (and sleeping through the night)! I know there are his first words and first steps and his first day of school, but truth be told, I want each stage to last longer than it does. I want him to be a baby for several years... a toddler for a dozen... a kid for a long, long time... and even a teenager for a lifetime...

Here are some recent pics of our not so little guy (official four month weigh in in 20 days).
Here he is in his exersaucer (his favorite toy):

Here he is sitting up. He can't (obviously) pull himself up to a sitting position, but if placed in one, he can stay up for long stretches (read: several minutes):

The shirt says it all.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not Fair

I had on nice shoes all night; I only changed into the flip flops towards the evening's close. Bad husband.


This is about as bad as it gets, folks.

Two tired, rapidly aging adults having their picture taken at prom, nearly 15 years past their own proms. The picture looks a little blurry. Normally I'd say it was bad photography, but in this case, I think someone was trying to do us a favor.

I'd like everyone to take note of the shoes worn by my lovely wife. No shoes at our wedding and flip-flops at prom. It's all about style at our house.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Prom and the morning after...

Some mornings go better than others when a small child is involved.

Now that Grant is sleeping more soundly during the night, his wakeup time in the morning has become somewhat more erratic. Sometimes he wakes up at 5:30am. Sometimes he wakes up at 7:30am. This creates a dilema when mommy leaves at 6:30am, and mamaw arrives at 7:15am. This leaves Grant a critical 45 minute period during which he can remind daddy that while he no longer routinely pees in my face, he's still thouroughly in control of the situation.

This morning, he woke up at 6:15am. No sweat. I'll feed him, mommy will leave, I'll put him in his boppy on the bed, I'll take a shower and cleanup, and mamaw will arrive. I began the feeding. At about 6:30am, Grant looked at me, smiled, and deposited the contents of his embiggened (my favorite Simpsons word) stomach onto me, the carpet, the recliner, etc. "Cleanup on aisle Grant."

After finishing the feeding and mopping, it was about 6:45am. I placed him on the bed, carefully surrounding him with towels and boppy to ensure that he wouldn't be able to move and that any further spewage wouldn't land in the approximate location of where daddy's head would be when it hit the pillow later tonight. I hopped in the shower (actually, I don't much hop anywhere at the moment given my increasing girth.) About 45 seconds into my shower, Grant started screaming his head off. In my rush to be a not-so-delinquent father, I forgot that we have shower doors that you have to duck under the frame of which to exit the shower. After beaming myself and recoiling into the tub, the volume of Grant's scream escalated, although it was somewhat hard to hear over my own screaming. I shimmied across the slippery bathroom floor and picked up the youngin'. He quit crying. Nice. I put him back down. About 45 seconds later, more screaming.

I wrapped up my shower, hitting only the highlights (actually, more like low-lights, but I digress), and exited. After calming Grant down, I began shaving. More screaming. I ran, semi-clothed, to the front windows in hopes that mamaw had arrived. Lo and behold, she had. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, mamaw made it into the house and calmed Grant while I finished getting ready. What a morning. I'm not sure if I have deoderant on, and there's a relatively high possibility that I'm wearing Erin's underpants, but I made it out the door and only a few minutes behind schedule.

In other Hawkins Happenings, Erin and I attended prom at the school where Erin teaches this weekend. As the junior class moderator, Erin has put in countless hours setting up the prom, so it was fun to see all of her hard work in action. Similar to last year, I was horrified by some of the dresses worn by the high school girls. It's all burlap for Grace when she arrives. Several girls had on a type of long dress that was separated all the way down the front until just above the waist. As I told Erin, that's not a dress, it's an invitation. It was held closed by one little piece in the middle, which resulted in a lot of high school guys angling for a side view. One of the other chapperones noted that one particular young lady spent a good deal of her evening in the restroom "taping her boobs in" to prevent them from falling out. Trust me. If it were my kid, those suckers would be taped in with duct tape. Of course, it wouldn't matter since she wouldn't be wearing it outside (or inside) the house anyway.

Once again this year, prom was held at the lovely Indiana Roof Ballroom. A couple of policemen were brought in to keep an eye on things. I took note of the fact that if I were a high school kid forced to outrun an officer of the law, these were precisely two of the officers I'd want chasing me. Shortly before dinner, Erin was informed that they were to be fed. I dared her to tell them that they didn't need it, but she obliged and provided a meal. The event went off without a hitch, and neither officer was forced to expend any calories.

Much like last year, I spent the evening trying to ignore the complete lack of taste displayed by the DJ. I heard not a single song by R.E.M. or the Beach Boys all evening. Instead, I heard every song released in the last five years which admonished me to back up some part of my body. I was told to "back that a** up" and "back that thang up." I have no idea what my "thang" is, but I'm relatively sure nobody wants me backing it into them. I also was incensed that the DJ laughed at me when I asked him how many CDs (let alone records) he carries with him. In order to DJ a prom, you need a laptop. That's it. I can't believe we're still paying these guys. I should have told him to back his "thang" out, and I could have DJ'd the whole deal. Erin was mortified when I reminded her that in just a few short years, Grant will be backin' his "thang" up, too. Of course, he may be doing it alone if he doesn't stop spitting up on people.

All in all, prom went off without a hitch, and many people were telling Erin how lovely a job she had done. At 11 pm, all of the kids filtered out into the streets of downtown to join other late night revelers (a firemen's convention was in town) in doing whatever they do late at night on a Friday night with 50 bars around. I shudder to think...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Oh, the places you'll go...

This week has proven very interesting for me at work. For the past few weeks, I've been working on a project primarily being developed in Shenzhen, China. Some of the work on that project is also being done in Shanghai, as well as Bangalore, India.

Yesterday, I also began work on another project where the work is split between Shenzhen, Beijing, Tokyo, and Singapore. I've already been approached about going to Bangalore, and there's a good chance I'll end up in these other locations before the end of the year as well. Oh yeah, there's also a group in the Netherlands on one project. Craziness. Business trips USED to mean Denver, San Jose...maybe even Chicago. How engineering has changed...

I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on my travels. Imagine the bizarro foods I'll be able to try between now and fall...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sleep, Sleep and more Blessed Sleep

Well, Grant is... on the whole... knock on wood... for the most part... don't jinx myself by saying this... sleeping through the night. His nights range from 6 to 9 hours, and we think that in the coming weeks, he'll get it figured out. It's a dream to be sleeping again; though, I wake up all the time to check what time it is. I force myself to stay in bed (if I didn't force myself, I'd be up every hour checking on him), but even with the sporadic waking, I am getting better sleep than I have since January 13. I thought I was the most excited person about this new found sleep, but it turns out that my dear husband had to endure a little more snippiness than I had realized. He’s a patient man.

Yesterday, Grant, Bret and I had a visit with Grant's birthmom. It was wonderful to see her again. She adores Grant, and so I know it was special for her to see him and hold him and feed him. After about an hour and a half at a local restaurant, we said goodbye. We hope to get together again this summer.

Grant has his first sleepover this weekend. I am in charge of the Prom this year, so this Saturday, Bret and I will be dancin' it up at my school's prom (read: sitting and eating the extra pieces of cheesecake). Grant will be hanging out at his Grandparents' house overnight, where he will no doubt get the requisite spoiling.

Here are a few recent pics. He smiles like crazy--and even laughs--but soon as the camera (and the darn flash) come out, he's far too interested in the electronic contraption in front of him to keep smiling. He's going to be a nerd; I can just feel it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Two Big White People, Two Big White Cars, One Cute Black Kid

It's a little bit frightening, but I guess we had to expect it would happen eventually. Last night we got our first phone call demanding a blog update. The voice was polite, but very clear in its message -- "It's been six days. We're counting on you. We rely on knowing what you ate and pictures of the boy for motivation." I understand, and in the future, we'll try and update at least a couple of times a week. But this past week, a lot has happened, so prepare for a tome.

Last week, Erin and I reached a boiling point with our current vehicle lineup. Our friends have always made fun of our cars -- one a big, white, bulky, gas hogging sedan, the other a small, gas hogging, slightly sportier sedan, so perhaps it's good that we start car shopping. My car is a AAA sticker and a "God Bless Our Troops" ribbon away from being a nursing home van and Erin's, while slightly less elderly, just isn't big enough to hold the two of us and Grant. Erin has been begging for a minivan for the past few weeks, but I haven't been able to look myself in the mirror without weeping at the thought. It's like releasing your last vestiges of untamed youth to buy a minivan. It's like admitting you're over 30. It's facing the fact that not only could you no longer win American Idol, but you're too old to even enter. This is the vehicle that will elicit screams of, "I will pull this van over if you don't stop blah blah blah..." So we bought a minivan. I've never felt less manly.

But this isn't just ANY minivan. It's a big, white, bulky, gas hogging minivan (Erin claims this description very nearly matches yours truly). In my engineering way, I briskly read the manual after we purchased it. Throughout there were phrases like "If equipped with..." and "If the automatic setting is available on your vehicle," and in all cases, the answer to these questions is, "No." Our van has features like "a steering wheel" and "keyed entry." So I'm now the proud owner of a Grant hauler. Erin will be the primary driver, which leaves us trying to sell Erin's sporty little sedan. We would have traded her car in, but the dealer offered us approximately $6 for her car, therefore we're selling it ourselves. Hopefully it'll go quickly and peacefully. I hate the process of buying a new car, but I'd say that this experience was less painful than average. The only downside is that we test drove about eight minivans with tornadoes looming, which wasn't very fun.

"Gee, Bob, this thing seems to be pulling to the right a little bit. Oh look, the wind just snapped that tree in half and flipped over that guy's minibarn. Perhaps it's just the weather..."

Our first outing in Big White (I racked my brain trying to use B.O.W.E.L. as an acronym, but only got as far as Big Old White...) was to Chicago this weekend with Erin's folks. This was Grant's first trip to the big city, which was exciting. Erin and her mom have an IKEA fixation, therefore I think buying the van was simply a ploy to get more space for furniture purchases. When we picked Erin's folks up on Friday afternoon, I encountered a very delicate situation which many guys only get to dream about -- my mother-in-law had lost her voice. Not just a little, but completely. So for the whole weekend, she could only talk in a whisper. Grant seemed utterly befuddled by this woman staring him in the face, appearing to talk with nothing really coming out. He stared at her somewhat quizzically all weekend while I chortled to myself at her predicament.

Our other big outing on this trip was to a Brazillian steakhouse called Sal & Carvao. A guy at work recommended this place to me, and he described it as "a carnivore's dream." He was right. The basic premise is that waiters circle the restaurant bearing swords with meat on them. I think they said there were 35 kinds of meat; everything you can think of from Portugese sausage to filet mignon. You have a rock and if you put your rock in front of your plate, they will continue to come by, asking if you want a slice of whatever their sword is carrying. If you want a break, you put your rock away. On top of this, they had a big salad bar with all sorts of exotic things on it, not just your typical iceburg lettuce and shaved carrots.

Now those of you that know me should already be thinking, "This sounds dangerous." And you'd be correct in this assessment. But more impressive than my own eating are the abilities of my father-in-law. He's been known to eat two whole chickens at the Essenhaus before taking his first sip of iced tea. In the end, the food was wonderful. I was concerned that with such vast quantities of food, the meat might possess the quality of a "steak" from a suburban buffet (I'm looking at you, Golden Corral), but this was not the case. Everything was top notch. I think in the end I ate maybe a dozen pieces of various things, and I suspect my father in law was in the same camp. I don't want to risk incurring an injury from the wife, but let's just say that small animals were running away from her, screaming, as we left the restaurant parking lot. Apparently they'd heard the news. Funny thing is, out of all of us, my father-in-law had the biggest problem after the fact. On the drive back to the hotel, he moaned and groaned in the back of the van, complaining that he hadn't eaten that much rich food in a long time. By the time we got back to the hotel, he dashed back to his room, begging the Brazillians to go quietly.

All in all, it was a fun weekend, and it gave us a chance to get used to driving Old Whitey. Summer driving vacations, here we come...

(Usual Disclaimer: Erin will post pictures of the boy later...)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time Keeps on Ticking...

There was a point where I talked about how old Grant was in days: "he's nine days old." Before you knew it, I was talking about his age in weeks: "he's 6 weeks old." But as of Saturday and the 12 week mark, it's time to start talking about Grant in months. The sad realization hit me that before you know it, I'll have to talk about him in years, and that doesn't even seem possible.

Last weekend was a great weekend, full of firsts, including Grant's first Easter. We went to the Botanical Gardens to see the butterfly exhibit, and Grant loved checking out all the flowers in bloom. Easter is an especially meaningful time in our family, as we celebrate God's goodness to us--specifically in Jesus. With Grant's adoption, I have a special place in my heart for how God talks about us as His adopted children, and this Easter I was especially thankful to be so loved.

Here are some recent pictures of the ever adorable Grant Nicholas:

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Horrors of Social Interaction

On Sunday, our church and another local church had a combined Easter service at Clowes Hall. This is the one opportunity each year for all 800+ people who usually attend one of our three services on a given Sunday to all be in the same room at the same time. Pastries and coffee were available, and people were invited to mingle for an hour or so prior to the service. Now this is sort of a nightmare for yours truly, because if I know one thing about myself, it's that I'm a fairly crappy mingler (is this really a word?). My usual approach might be to show up about 15 minutes prior to the service and mingle briefly before nervously heading for the cheap seats. In this instance, Erin had to be present an hour early since she was one of the scheduled toddler teachers for the morning. (Teacher is probably a loose term, in this case. She spent two hours cleaning refuse from the tails other people's offspring; not a job I will volunteer for without coersion.) This left me with few options, so I began circling. What I discovered is that the best guy to mingle with at such an event is the guy shelling out the pastries. Not only is he always available, but he's providing me something with which to stuff my face, leaving me inable to converse without crumb spewage. So I repeatedly circled back to his table, each time pretending I'd never seen his selections before, choosily grabbing whatever I hadn't already sampled. (Now I know at least one of the elders from our church reads this, so he can contact me later to verify just how much I really ate and bill me appropriately.) Luckily after several pounds of danish, my sister and brother-in-law arrived, providing me with someone safe with which to converse.

All of this got me to thinking about a prior awkward mingling experience. When I was in middle and high school, I was a frequent user of local BBS's around Indianapolis. That sentence hopelessly dates me, and for those not in the know, BBS's (Bulletin Board Systems) were a precusor to the Internet. User's used their home computer to dial over the phone into someone else's computer, where programs and e-mail could be exchanged with other users of that BBS. There were dozens of BBS's in the area, and occasionally, some brilliant computer nerd would get the idea to have a BBS BBQ, allowing for the BBS users around town to meet face to face with other, previously faceless, BBS users they might "know" from around town. There were several flaws with this plan.

First off, computer users are, by defintion, not socially adept or compatible creatures. They sit around at night staring at dimly lit computer screens, praying it will someday lead to a chance encounter with a member of the opposite sex. (The "opposite" part of that sentence frequently backfires, given the anonymity involved in BBS usage.)

Second, one of the primary tennets of BBS usage was that you had to continually pick fights with the other users, just to keep the "conversations" going online. (This frequently involved a lot of profanity, often from middle school students masquerading as adults.) This brings up the third problem.

Much like the Internet today, you frequently were misled regarding the age and/or gender of the people you were dealing with. This can create an ugly scenario during a face to face introduction. You thought you'd been chatting with 25 year old Mary when actually it was 52 year old Marvin. And finally, the ratio of actual males to actual females on BBS's was approximately 1000 to 1.

All of this should be creating an image in your mind of a group of men of varying age (and perhaps one unfortunate looking woman) hanging around a strangers house on a weekend, none having ever met before, none having any real understanding of social cues, all having stayed up until approximately 4:30am the night prior fiddling around on the BBSs, all now trying to mingle in an impossibly awkward situation.

For whatever reason, I subjected my buddy Eric to one of these things while we were in high school. I have no idea, really, what we were thinking. We both had girlfriends, and all our presence at such an event could do was degrade our already damaged social status, ensuring that those girls would most assuredly ditch us if they found out we had attended such an affair. I don't think we stayed long, but through some break in logic and the space-time continuum, after seeing this gathering of Indy's most rabid computer users, I still decided to go into Computer Engineering. What I guess I failed to understand at the time was that this meeting was a glimpse into the future, as it looked very similar to virtually all of my undergraduate engineering classes -- with a slightly better male to female ratio. Yet another brilliant decision by yours truly.

(For those who've read this far, there will be more pictures of Grant up soon. I'm well aware that me rambling is only a distraction from the real reason for you checking our blog. The only immediate Grant update is that following our lovely Easter service at church and Easter dinner with the grandparents, around 8:30pm last night, Grant decided to attempt to wake the dead on his own for approximately an hour. The boy has lungs. He was his usual, cheery self following a bath to remove the beads of sweat he was soaked with while screaming his head off. Ah, parenting...)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bossy Names

My boss at work for the past ten years has been a guy whose name happens to be Aaron. My wife of the past four years is a lovely lady whose name happens to be Erin. On the surface it doesn't seem like there would be anything funny about this, but it has become not only confusing, but in some situations dangerous to my employment.

You don't know the funny looks I get when I say things like "So I was talking to Erin in bed last night." If they don't know my wife, I just get a confused, judgmental stare, or the guys that know Erin come up with clever quips like "So that's why you get those great evaluations, eh?"

This horror of homonyms (take that, English teacher wifey!) has led me to always appending "boss" or "wife" to the my sentences. So I say things like "Boss Aaron asked me this morning if Purdue just gives an engineering degree to everyone who asks for one" or "Wife Erin asked me to stop teaching Grant to laugh when he passes gas." One rather astute co-worker informed me that in reality, this approach is a poor one since I really have two Boss-Aaron/Erin's, therefore "Boss Aaron" doesn't really help narrow down to which commander-in-chief I'm referring. I guess he's right. The boss at my next job will probably be named Grant...