Friday, June 29, 2007

It's still us! Really!

Hey Everyone...

We're in the midst of an Extreme Makeover here at the Hawkins Fam. Please excuse our mess as we work the kinks out of a new layout...


Oh what a beautiful morning

The beauty of some mornings can't be cloaked by idiot drivers, a less than engaging career, and the inability to eat a real breafast because I had an extra 200 calories last night at dinner. Yes, there are some days where everything is coming up roses. You only get fifteen offers via email to help transfer money out of Nigeria or you find a McDonalds where "We're sorry sir, our ice cream machine is broken today" isn't a part of their vocabulary.

Today is one of those days, simply because of this article.

That's right, kids. Dunkin Donuts is returning to Indy.

Now I'm sure those of you on the east coast or up in Chicago are reading this saying, "But gee, Bret. There are already 15 Dunkin Donuts locations within 2 blocks of any spot in town. Every Indian in our town owns his or her own Dunkin Donuts franchise!" (Before I get hate mail, the girl in this franchising info is even Indian...or perhaps any case... It's just a fact!)

But au contraire, my little blogging buddy. Indy has been Dunkin-less for the past couple of years. We had one final franchise near where I work, but the staff there acted as if they had been forced to work each morning at gun point and then made to endure the putrid stink of warm, fresh pastries all day. Every donut they served had been present since the last election and was so stale as to even make it inedible by my, ever slipping standards.

So the news of 80 NEW FRANCHISES in the area is music to my ears. Nothing in my childhood made me more happy than my mom piling me into one of our classic cars to make a run to Dunkin Donuts. Starting at around age two, I could polish off three chocolate cream filled donuts without even stopping to breathe. And Munchkins...oh the boxes of those little donut holes I could eat. I'm pretty sure I still have a Munchkin lodged in my aorta someplace.

I'd better stop. This is already starting to make my poor, empty stomach hurt. But it does give me something to look forward to.

In other news, I was driving into work this morning listening to the radio, and I was becoming tired of hearing what Paris Hilton burped up after her breakfast or retrieved from between her toes when I got behind a nice, shiny new car with a bumper sticker prominantly placed in the middle of the rear bumper.

"My child hit a hole-in-one at Putt Putt"

Really? That's what you've got? Your kid didn't get straight A's or join Mathletes? So sad.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cutest Baby Ever!

Here is a video of the happiest, most perfect child ever.

In other Grant news, two teeth are coming in (which means BUCKETS of drool). I don't even dress him in clothes unless we are leaving the house because why bother putting anything on that in just a few minutes is going to be soaked in both the back and the front (how does he manage to soak the back?). We also met with Grant's birthmom again, and we had a great dinner. We are so thankful to her for Grant, the world's bestest baby!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


As Grant's first teeth have been breaking through over the past week, he has discovered how to blow raspberries with his tongue. At first, Erin and I thought this was very cute, and each time he did it, we laughed with glee at our son's magical abilities. Now, a mere week later, I find myself in a much different frame of mind.

You see, Grant's favorite time to begin exhibiting his new talent (which my uncle accurately assessed as sounding like the Tasmanian devil from Bugs Bunny cartoons) is while we're trying to feed him. Right about the time he gets a mouthful of anything phosphorus green or orange (sweet potatoes, green beans, you name it) he goes berserk blowing raspberries. After tonight's feeding, I looked like I'd run through a carrot-spewing sprinkler. So we're using the opportunity to start exercising a bit of parenting. For Erin, this means giving Grant a stern "NO" when he starts going nutty. For me, this means I start saying something and end up laughing hysterically...until Erin goes nutty and I actually have to pretend to be an adult AND a parent. She expects too much. We'll keep you posted on how this shakes out.

In other news, the following letter to the editor was posted in the Bedford Times-Mail newspaper this week. Kudos to my uncle for sending me these delightful updates on my family homeland.

Raising questions about Bedford

To the editor:

I’ve got some questions about Bedford. I was born and raised here in Bedford. Well, I left here to live with other family members in 2004, when my mother passed away, and coming back here is like leaving heaven and going to hell.
Now, you ask, what am I talking about? OK Where did our sidewalks go, or where are they going? Because if you’re walking down the sidewalk, 95 percent of the time you’ll stump you toe. You have to walk through grass, or mud if it’s been raining, or you’ll be going down the sidewalk and walk into a branch hanging down in your face.

Why should someone have to tell or even make you do something about this?
Now, one more thing: Why is all of the employment leaving Bedford? Just like you look in the classified ads in the Bedford paper, and all you see is “Employment for Bloomington.” Now, that just don’t make sense to me. So come on Bedford. You’re better than this, and I know.

William Blackwell

God bless you Mr. Blackwell. Hopefully you won't stump you toe in the bread line.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nordic Device of Torture

I'm sure you've seen them in infomercials, at used sports equipment stores, or perhaps in the basement or garage of every third house in every suburban neighborhood. I speak of this device, created by the NordicTrack company -- the ski machine.

Now my beloved mother can hardly find her car in a parking lot without falling into an imaginary hole. She once tried to jog around the quarter mile block surrounding my parent's house and ended up with the type of abrasions normly reserved for someone recently dragged behind a moving vehicle. Yet for years, I watched her use this machine with the greatest of ease while watching whatever she had recently taped off of HBO, a channel to which they did not subscribe, hence the snowy picture and lack of what we in the industry call "vertical hold," but that's another blog (I'm still not entirely convinced of her purpose in using the ski machine. She's never looked anything other than "skinny" my whole life.)

So when my parents relegated their precious ski machine to the garage, Erin and I adopted it (as we're prone to doing these days), and it has been going to no use in a corner of our dining room ever since. So last night I missed my workout on the way home and decided to give the NordicTrack a whirl. Now the construction of the machine is simple. You stand on a pair of skiis roughly five or six inches off the floor -- just high enough to twist the devil out of an ankle if you slip off. Approximately waist high, depending on your height, is a brace which pushes into your midsection while you "ski." With your hands, you hold a jumprope looped through a tension wheel at the top, just to make sure no part of you has the ability to generate balance while using this thing.

I hopped on without any hesitation and tried to start skiing. I quickly realized that the tension on the skiis was too tight for a first timer, but Erin, my Biblical helpmate, unfortunately noticed this first. Without warning she dropped the tension lever to zero.

Now I'm sure my father, using a napkin over some Mexican food, could give a much more accurate drawn representation of what happened next, but I'll do my best. You see, in physics there's this whole equal and opposite reaction business. Basically the tension wheel is working against the skiis which are working against my feet and legs. If you remove the tension, the skiis are free to do as they wish, which is not provide a reaction against my feet.

The geekless version of this is that the skiis immediately shot out behind me sending me, more or less, horizontal. I didn't completely hit the floor though, as my face first slammed into the waist high brace which gave me enough to time to yell something starting with F or S before catching myself. After explaining to Erin that you can't just release ALL the tension at once, I regained my composure and repositioned myself on the machine. (She didn't hear my explanation through her tears of laughter.)

I began slowly trying to ski on the machine. I've skiied a lot in my life, and this felt like no skiing I've ever tried. I LIKE skiing, but this...this I didn't like. Erin's approach to using the machine is to reduce the tension to zero and sort of run on it. My approach was to set the tension at the midpoint and try to really ski on it. I eventually got to where I could stay upright, and I even eventually was able to get my arms into the act.

A couple of things I discovered during my half hour workout. First off, the machine forces your back to stay ever so slightly hunched, leaving you with incredible lower back spasms after the fact. I could hardly walk when I was finished. Second, if you try to stand upright a little bit to reduce the throbbing in your back, for whatever reason, the skiing motion just naturally stops. You find yourself suddenly standing there trying to catch your balance, all the while trying to figure out why the blamed thing stopped skiing. And finally, the brace that presses on your midsection really just pushes on your digestive system enough to create incredible gas throughout your workout. I had an ice cream treat at McDonalds prior to the workout (don't ask how this fits into the just does), and the combination of dairy and the waist brace made the lower section of our house pretty much uninhabitable by the end of the workout.

All in all, the experience made me realize that this is only an emergency option for missed workouts. I'd be better off to go out and run around the block or something. This ordeal also gave me a new respect for my mother. I'm sure she has absolutely no idea as to how or why she can use this device successfully, but such dumb luck is frequently on her side, so good for her. As punishment for Erin laughing so hard at me, I listened to the new White Stripes album at high volume throughout my workout. That'll teach her...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Diets Are Evil

Since I'm having trouble finding "lard ring" sized pants these days, I've decided that it's time to go back to dieting. Finding things to eat ranks right behind stillness as my favorite activity; therefore, succumbing to a need to lose some weight is exceedingly painful. Luckily, my lovely wife is also in favor of this plan, choosing to join me in the quest for flub reduction.

But such a partnership is bound to be frought with danger, and this one is no exception. While taking what Erin calls "a short walk" last evening (which really amounted to walking to the mailbox and back and then discussing how exhausting it was...due to the heat of course...) she informed me that she needed my assistance and encouragement in her efforts to begin working out in the evenings. Now any sane man knows that this is a loaded request, so rather than accept the challenge, I informed her that there was no freaking way I was getting involved in "motivating" her to work out.

She then informed me that all I needed to do was "ask if I've worked out today" or say "How are you feeling tonight, hon? Perhaps you should work out." Yeah, right. She asked me to do something similar for her eating habits some time ago, and I'm still trying to get the fork out of my eye. "Gee, hon. Do you think that cobbler is really the best dessert option for you?" "Hmm...Are you sure about that second helping?" I might as well just go ahead and cut off one of my own arms and beat myself with it.

Part of our dieting involves not eating after 7:30pm, which has always helped with weightloss in the past. Unfortunately this eliminates one of my daily staples -- the 10:30pm six scoop ice cream snack. Last night around 11, after my second full day of dieting, I was lying in bed, and I was hungry. Not just a little bit, but starving. I'd have eaten anything offered me. I was so hungry that I couldn't get tired. I finally went downstairs and discovered Erin in a similar state on the couch. I informed her of my needs, and she replied that "you've got to be hungry to lose weight." Grr.

"You can have something to drink," she offered. I almost called her a swear.

She also reminded me of the 7:30 rule. I asked if I could stay up another hour and then eat my breakfast. "Nope."

To make matters worse, she reminded me that I had not, in fact, missed any meals. I had eaten all three staple meals, just in smaller portions than usual. This just irritated me, so I went back to bed. It's going to be a long summer.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Grant Update

Well, the boy wonder is alive and well and ever growing.

While on vacation, Grant rolled over (from tummy to back) several times as four adults crowded around him in a circle applauding his every move. He has yet to roll over since home despite my attempted bribes.

He is also sitting up. He capsizes sometimes, but on the whole, he can sit for very long stretches.

After what was a difficult time sleeping on vacation, Grant is, on the whole (knock on wood), back to sleeping through the night. Whew. Vacation with him proved a bit trickier than expected (especially on the sleep front) as he didn't adapt well at all. Plus, staying in a condo with family meant that I was less willing to let him fuss as it would wake up family and condo neighbors.

Grant is trying all kinds of foods: carrots, squash, green beans and lots of fruits. The veggies are his favorite (green beans especially). This morning, he was eating a combination of oatmeal, prunes and bananas. Because he is teething and hence chews on his highchair more than the food, he ends up getting his meals everywhere (even all over his diaper!). The pictures don't do it justice, but here--in pictures--is what happened.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Vacation Wrapup

Although it will be hard to top Grant trying to belch the alphabet during a stage production, I thought I'd post a quick wrapup of the final day of our Wisconsin vacation. I spent today doing all those things you do after a week away -- getting the mail at the post office, an oil change on Big Whitey, etc. I knew I was home when I saw a group of employees at the local quicky lube place huddled around a car watching the driver trying to frantically start the engine to get it out of the bay for Big Whitey's entrance. One of the employees finally approached me and informed me that "he's got one of them breathalizer starters and he cain't get it started." It was 7:30am. Welcome to Brownsburg.

On Friday, we departed Egg Harbor around 9am and headed toward Green Bay. One of the follies I frequently make during family vacations is not finding a place to eat breakfast soon enough. I always tell Erin that "we'll find a place in a few miles" which usually turns into a few counties or a few states. Two hours without coffee in the morning, and Erin turns violent. Friday was no exception to this rule, except that I now had the twin cannons of Erin and the mother-in-law aimed squarely at my sloped forehead.

We exited Egg Harbor without food, but I promised we'd find something in the next metropolis -- Sturgeon Bay. As luck would have it, I took the bypass around Sturgeon Bay, leaving McDonald's as our only option. Not willing to yet accept an Egg McMuffin in defeat, Erin told me to press onward. I could hear the gun cocking.

Somewhere around an hour into our journey, I saw a sign pointing down a distressingly neglected road for the Cattail Café. By this point we had passed several dining options, but they had all failed the "is it still open?" test -- meaning one could not tell if the restaurant was still, in fact, a restaurant. After driving along County Road C for a stretch, we came across a metal framed barn which served as the Cattail Café. Upon entering, we encountered a clean, family run restaurant with a lovely breakfast menu and a handful of charming farm folk. My mother-in-law gave me the "I could wring your neck for this" look right up until her food arrived, at which point she agreed that this was an acceptable option.

We returned to Big Whitey for our day's drive home. We had elected to venture through Madison, Wisconsin and avoid Chicago on the drive home. Erin has been wanting to visit Madison for some time, and over the course of the week she discovered a store in Madison which sold a particular baby carrier that she had been considering ordering over the Internet. After a quick stop at a Wisconsin cheese chalet and several hours of listening to Bill Bryson on the iPod, we arrived in Madison.

Madison proved to be a delightful college town, full of eclectic shops and non-chainable eateries. We made our first stop at Happy Bambino to look for Erin's baby carrier. The store carries a variety of hard to find baby products, and the staff were more than helpful in allowing Erin to try on the various baby carriers. Grant obligingly slobbered on all of the display models, leaving his sticky, damp calling card on virtually everything in the store. I will say that I was made somewhat uncomfortable initially by the black and white photographs around the store, featuring pregnant mothers posing in the nude, covering all the interesting bits with their hands, legs, etc. And just about the time I had gained control of myself, a hippie chick with tattoo covered arms entered the store and inquired if she could "use the chair." Apparently this is code for "can I plop out a boob for a bit to feed this kid" in mother-speak. This always proves a tricky situation for me. Do you look and smile approvingly in an "awe, that's a beautiful bonding thing you're doing there...with your boob...which is exceedingly large and inviting" or do you just avoid all eye contact, treating the exposed mammary like a missing eye or wooden leg? I could use some help on this...really...

Anyway, we departed the store with a new baby carrier and made our way to the row of shops running between the state capital and University of Wisconsin campus. Our shopping didn't last long, as it was approximately the temperature of a slightly active volcano outside, so we made our way to The Old Fashioned Restaurant on the square. I found this place through a bit of web research, and it turned out to be perhaps my favorite restaurant of the trip. It was an old bar featuring numerous beers on tap and a wide array of interesting sandwiches and lunch faire. My father-in-law and I enjoyed some $2 pints of some local brew and regained our color before venturing back into the heat.

Our drive was uneventful, save for a few near misses with dull looking individuals talking on their cellphones while driving on the freeway. Erin is sick of me saying it, but I really do think talking on a cellphone should be illegal while driving. Hands free or not, you can't convince me you're paying attention, but I digress. Having not eaten in nearly three hours, we stopped in Oglesby, Illinois for dinner.

Since I had taken the reins for the day with regard to selecting eateries, I bypassed the fast food options in favor of a small wooden sign off the highway pointing toward The Root Beer Stand. As we approached this traditional looking drive-in, it appeared to be packed with cars at the outdoor speakers, which warmed my heart. As we approached, it became apparent that the outdoor portion of the drive-in was now used merely as a parking lot, and all the patrons were inside. So we ventured inside (again, despite mother-in-law "we passed good food three blocks ago" stares.)

The Root Beer Stand proved to have wonderful, greasy, deep fried drive-in food in spades, and we wolfed down cheeseburgers, root beer, and various ice cream concoctions in large quantities. While waiting for our food, an elderly woman approached Grant and began cooing at him. I'm not sure cooing is really the right word though, as she had one of those old lady voices which suggested she was a mere two Winstons from talking through a hole in her throat. She insisted on touching the poor boy, and I feared at one point she was going to kiss him. Grant was a trooper though. He was actually rather engrossed with her, to be honest. In addition to her angelic voice, she was missing a tooth here or there. Grant was transfixed on a gap in her smile on the upper right side, and you could just see that he was trying to decide if he could put his finger through it. Eventually another baby entered the restaurant, and Grant was left only to wonder about his semi-toothed friend. Erin took note of the fact that the woman was wearing a sort of shirt/shorts one piece made to look like an American flag. This was at least the second time on this trip that someone wearing flag garb insisted on over-touching our precious child. This is a trend I will keep an eye on.

After Oglesby, we made our way through the remaining Illinois farmland and eventually emerged in Indiana. The vacation was made fun by the presence of family and our delightfully gassy son, as well as the usual array of food options I manage to find along the highway. We're off to Gatlinburg in a few weeks, which will provide a positively cosmopolitan contrast to the Wisconsin waterfronts. Dollywood, here we come.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


This evening, we ventured to an Italian restaurant called Villagios. Erin and I actually had breakfast at their sister restaurant, Village Cafe, this morning and were impressed with the food. Villagios had a nice range of options, offering everything from spaghetti with meatballs to various veal and seafood dishes. We all had great dinners, and we were excited to find a restaurant that we all enjoyed up here in the woods.

After dinner, we had tickets for a production by the American Folklore Theater. The show was called A Cabin With A View, an adaptation of "A Room With A View." We had made the decision, perhaps against our better judgment, to all go to this show and take Grant along for the ride. He's generally very good at going out to eat, church, etc, so we really weren't concerned about taking him.

We arrived at the amphiteater tonight, and I was immediately struck by how big an operation this really was. The theater is situated in the woods of the Peninsula State Park and featured seating for several hundred people, perhaps more. Our reserved seats were dead center in the fourth row.

This was already making the wife nervous. She would have felt much better had we had seats on the end so that she could bolt if Grant started getting wound up, but he's usually so content that it's not a problem. I convinced her that everything would be fine, and the show began.

Now before you get ahead of me, Grant did very well through the beginning of the show. He sat on my lap and watched and listened intently to the show. About 35 minutes in, he started getting a little restless. Erin decided that a bottle would do the trick, so amidst his fidgeting, I started feeding him. (Notice that I said this was Erin's decision. The assignment of such decisions to a particular individual are very important in these scenarios.)

Grant did, indeed, calm down a bit, which was a lucky break since we were in the midst of a quiet passage during the show. Imagine the climax of drama in your favorite film -- the moment where the lead gazes intently into the eyes of his leading lady, while she awaits him announcing his devotion. The amphitheater fell silent during such a moment. The tension had mounted as the lovers gazed into each other's souls. And then it happened.


Not a little baby burp. Not a cute, cuddly little hiccup. This was a full on belch, similar to the one produced by a trucker following a stop at White Castle. It was loud. Very loud. Loud enough to elicit a laugh throughout the theater. Loud enough to stall the scene for just a second.

This was all bad enough, but once everyone else in the theater recovered, I lost it. I was still holding Grant, but I was doubled over, trying desperately to stifle my laughter. I was shaking. Completely unable to recover. The people in the rows behind and in front of us were laughing, although they had shifted their laughter from Grant to me. I was convulsing, sobbing, unable to contain myself.

I finally pulled it together, but everytime I looked at my baby boy, I lost it again. He made my evening. No, he made my vacation. I'll never forget that moment. It was priceless. He couldn't have timed it better if he'd tried.

Grant ended up sleeping through most of the rest of the play, although he did get a little antsy toward the end. After the show, several people were heard laughing about "the burp," and several people commented on how well he'd done during the show. I'm sure there were some questioning our judgment and sanity in bringing such a young child to the show, but it was worth it. He genuinely was not a problem, and I haven't laughed that hard probably since I was his age.

So Grant, you made my week. You truly proved yourself to be my boy tonight.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Splish Splashin' in Swede Country

With our Door County, Wisconsin vacation now in full swagger, I thought I would give everyone a glimpse into life here in Door County:

Yeah, that's right. It's pretty much wiiiiide open. You get to use your imagination a lot. You imagine going out for a charming breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, but what you actually get is a place with copious numbers of pancakes and goats on the roof. You imagine going for a stroll along a side street looking at small boutiques and coffee houses, but what you actually get is a coffee house called the Chocolate Chicken across the street from a BP station. You imagine a romantic candlelit dinner at a small bistro, but what you actually get instead of candlelight is this:

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. It is relaxing, and I could dream about what the possibilities are with a "chocolate chicken," but let's just say that there ain't just a whole lot going on up in this neck of the woods.

The picture of the bubbling cauldron above was taken at our dinner at the Old Post Office in Ephraim, Wisconsin last evening. We went to a traditional Door County fish boil. The fish was very good, although I'm not yet sure of the purpose of having everyone arrive early to watch the pot boil. I stunk like I'd worked at Long John's for the rest of the night, and I had a fair amount of ash in my hair, but the fish was tasty, and most importantly, there was lots of it.

Prior to dinner yesterday, we took Grant out to the pool for his first swimming experience. You can see just how stylin' he was in his new swimmin' duds. It's so refreshing to see the lad smile so brightly, not yet aware enough to realize that chicks don't dig man boobs.

Grant was all excited about the swimming experience at first. He got to wear new shorts. He got to run around with no shirt on. He got to wear some kind of funky waterproof diaper (which I'm fairly sure was also being donned by some of the older patrons of the evening fish boil). He was all good until he got to the water, and then he wasn't too sure of what was going on.

After I got in with him and dunked him a few times, all was well. He truly enjoyed himself, and we were relieved to see that he was fearless in the water. He took offense to me saying that after putting his head under, he had "Al Sharpton Hair," but I'm sure he'll eventually forgive me.

All in all, the pool was a successful venture.

This morning, Erin and I left Grant with the grandparents and headed out for a hike at Cave Point Park on the Lake Michigan side of the county. We had seen it touted as "the highlight of a Door County vacation" so we were excited to see it.

Indeed, it was lovely, but you could walk from one end of the park to the other in approximately 3 minutes. I'm not saying it wasn't pretty. But I think it says something about a place when your competition is a pancake house with goats on the roof and some boiled whitefish.

After our hike around the park, we went to the Cana Island lighthouse for a look around. I took note on the stroll to the lighthouse that the wife had chosen her Mennonite garb for the day.

She assured me that these were "Gaucho pants" but I can't see Gaucho, Harpo or Karl wearing any such thing. Perhaps tonight we'll go for a ride on a covered wagon...or Erin can show us how to churn butter in those duds. In any case, I'm sure it'll be exciting.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Vacation to...Milwaukee?

On Friday afternoon, we loaded up Big Whitey with Big White'uns, namely Erin and I plus Erin's parents and the Grantster, and headed for our vacation in Wisconsin. Following a brief debate which I, predictably, lost regarding whether or not we would try to go through Chicago or around it, we began our trek.

We arrived in Chicago around 2pm and took the Skyway into downtown. All was well until we hit the north side of town, at which time we gained admission to the "Greater Chicago/Milwaukee Parking Festival" for the next couple of hours. I repeatedly brought up the debate which had just occurred as we left Indy, but all it served to do was remind me that I was the only person riding in the van who had not at some point held the last name "Gunst."

Upon arriving in Milwaukee, our predetermined destination for the evening, we began looking for restaurants. Never settling for an Applebee's or the like, we drove downtown and dined at the Water Street Brewery. (You pretty much HAVE to eat at a brewery when in Milwaukee, right?) The food was good, but it was obvious by the duller-than-usual stares that we were all pretty beat. My father-in-law and I dropped the women-folk at the hotel and went out for a quick night cap (at Applebee's, no less) where my father-in-law chose not to remind me that I would never win debates like the one had earlier in the day.

On Sunday, we decided to take in a tour of the Miller Brewing Company. I would have preferred to have toured one of the smaller brewries in town, but the timing just wasn't going to work. We arrived at Miller at around 10am and took the first tour. The gift shop where the tour started was what you would expect -- old beer bottles featuring the Miller emblemn from bygone eras, a timeline showing the history of Miller, and a healthy selection of Asians with large photographic ensembles awaiting the tour.

The tour was enjoyable, if nothing remarkable. It did end with three samples of Miller beers and their associated imports, which made the whole thing a-o.k. The samples confirmed what I had suspected throughout the tour -- I don't like anything brewed by Miller. I tried High Life, touted as the "champagne of beers." I don't much like champagne, and I definitely don't need it in my beer. I tried Miller Lite. No go. I tried MGD. Tolerable, but if anything else was available, including water, I'd probably go that direction. My father-in-law had the right idea. He chose to get three samples of Foster's, which is imported by Miller. The servers didn't seem to mind serving him three of the same thing, and he didn't have to endure the lingering taste of Miller Lite for the rest of the day.

One interesting fact we learned on the tour was that up until some time in the 1980's, the employees at the Miller brewery could drink as much as they wanted (or could) while on the job. This had to provide an amazing work environment. Nothing says OSHA like four drunk guys and a giant vat of beer or a fork lift. It's a wonder that every other bottle of the "champagne of beers" didn't feature a "finger from a drunken employee."

After Milwaukee, we made our way on up to Door County, Wisconsin. We're still getting settled, but I'll try to post throughout the week. I have discovered, though, in my first 24 hours here that a) there are no mini-golf places featuring animatronic cartoon characters and b) three out of four people are an expert on infant sleep patterns and how to improve them (especially if they're all related).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Will I ever learn?

Today I made a dumb mistake. I'm tired and have a headache, so I should have been extra aware of the potential for this type of mistake, but foolishly, I paid the warning signs no heed.

The mistake made its appearance in the choice of outfit. I decided to wear a new white top, testing it out before our vacation up north starting on Friday. But, I'm no fool. I know Grant is capable of spit up beyond equal or measure, so I brought along a blanket and a burp cloth to fully cover myself as we ran some errands. Of course, you know where this is going. Grant, who just started eating some other foods and who had just happened to have some carrots for breakfast, decided that my white shirt was an empty canvas for his Jackson Pollock like beginnings. But, no worries, I treaded around the library with a carrot and formula spit up stain down the front of my shirt like it was part of the outfit. Not a soul was fooled. Nothing says "new mama" like the spit up stain wearing, minivan driving, baby talk talking woman who is balancing 5 library books in one hand and a 20 lb baby in the other.

Here's a couple of pics of the cutest baby on the planet. Aside from his evil work in producing the most embarrasing shirt stain in history, Grant was quite the ladies man at the library. Several grandmas came up and asked to hold him (he didn't so much as even burp in their arms??) and the library lady almost waived my late fees because she thought he was so cute. Almost.

Here's a pic of Grant: Like Father, Like Son

Work Related

My company just announced the creation of an "Employee Motivation Committee." Methinks the formation of such a committee is a prime indicator of where your company stands. It's sort of like forming a "Committee For the Exploration of Alternate Employment Options" or "Committe to Begin the Cleanup of Future Unoccupied Office Space."

Another facet of life in a Chinese company that I find increasingly blog worthy is the selection of Western names by my Chinese cohorts. It has become fashionable for Asians to select a western name like Bob or Louie when dealing with Americans. It always cracks me up to meet a guy who I know is named Xiangxian, only to have him introduce himself as Pete.

Recently we've seen an upswing in the selection of fruit names. I met recently a woman named "Apple." We thought that was somewhat entertaining until we met her friend "Cherry." Nobody had the heart to tell her that Cherry would probably be more likely found on the local stripper pole rather than at a multinational corporation.

Just this morning, I saw an announcement welcoming Mr. Robin Sin to a certain company. I couldn't figure out why it was making me giggle, but then it hit me.

So here's to you, Mr. Robin Sin, Jesus loves you more than you will know. Whoa, whoa, whoa, indeed.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My wife is so cool...

Last summer, you may recall that I diverted our vacation drive to Hilton Head through Athens, Georgia, hometown of my favorite band of the last 30 years, R.E.M. Erin was excited beyond all ability to contain herself at getting to see the various clubs they'd played in during the early 1980's, restaurants they own, etc. While trekking around Athens spewing various bits of R.E.M. trivia, I mentioned that Peter Buck, R.E.M.'s guitarist and the one on the right in the picture, had lived in Indiana for a while as a kid. She asked me if I knew where he'd lived, and I told her I didn't, and as far as I knew, he'd never really spoken about his time in our fine state in interviews.

We wandered around Athens for a few more hours, headed off to our beach vacation, and I never thought any more of that brief conversation. My lovely wife, on the other hand, decided that it would be a nice gesture (and a sign that she was actually paying attention to my inane music babble that day) if she wrote a letter to R.E.M.'s Athens office requesting info from Pete Buck regarding his stay in Indiana.

Now while R.E.M. isn't quite as huge as they used to be in the U.S., they're still wildly popular overseas, and the home office, I'm guessing, still deals with quite a bit of fan mail. Couple this with the fact that the three members of R.E.M. live in various other parts of the country now, and I figured there was little chance of her hearing anything back from that letter. In fact, she mailed the letter in September but didn't tell me about it until many months later, at which point she was thouroughly disgusted with the lack of a reply and had decided to shun R.E.M. forevermore. I tried to explain to her that these were busy guys with fame on an international level and that I didn't think it was realistic to expect a reply, but she was unconsolable.

Jump forward to last night. I brought in our mail, as I do every day on my way in from work, and amongst the five or six offers for a Capitol One card was a letter addressed to Erin in her own handwriting. We both immediately tossed it aside as a reminder from a dentist about an appointment, but eventually she tore it open. As she removed the letter inside, I immediately recognized the signature, in handwritten ink, of one Peter Buck.

I've had the chance over the past 10 years of meeting many of my musical favorites. I've had dinner with some of them, I've met them after shows, etc, but R.E.M. has always been just big enough to not be easily approachable, in my mind. I once sat at a bar next to Mike Mills (left in the picture above) but didn't say anything as he was being hounded by other people. And Peter Buck? Well Pete has always seemed like the cooler older brother in R.E.M. who would let you hang out with him, but only so he could make fun of or injure you later. He seems like a good guy, but not one to suffer fools or fans lightly. This has just been my impression. So when it occurred to me that Erin was holding in her hands a letter signed by Peter Buck, I about destroyed a piece of furniture getting to it.

As it turns out, her letter managed to make it through the Athens office to the hands of Peter Buck. Her letter was very clever, and I'm sure her wit was what got the letter into Buck's hands. She basically said that she was unfazed by his fame, but she had a psycho husband who dragged her around Athens and to R.E.M. concerts. I'll take being dragged through the mud if it got a response.

The letter we received in response was a fairly detailed document of his time as a kid in Indiana. Not a form letter. Not a "thank you for contacting R.E.M." type thing, but a "Hey Erin, Your letter was cool. Here's what I can remember..." I was floored, as was Erin. She immediately took my position that R.E.M. is the coolest band on the planet, and that Peter Buck is most assuredly the nicest man in show business. We're in the process of framing her letter next to Pete's response. It will take a prominent position in the hallway in our house, right next to Grant's picture and the ones from our wedding. There will be a fee to view it.

Thank you, Peter Buck, for taking the time to reply to her letter. And thank you, cool wifey. You're amazing. When R.E.M.'s next album comes out, I'm sure there will be an ode of some sort to Indiana, rooted in Erin's letter to Peter Buck.