Monday, July 30, 2007

On the road again...

Sunday morning I got up bright and early, all ready for yet another adventure filled trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. My flight was to leave at noon, so I arrived at the airport around 10:30pm.

We boarded the flight on time and began our taxi to the runway. My turnaround time in Newark, NJ was only about an hour, so in short order, I'd be on the looong flight to Hong Kong. My iPod was loaded, I had a new plug which will allow me to use my laptop on the plane to watch DVDs, and I'd made sure to make one final, restful bathroom break before I'd left the house. (Not long into the 16 hour flight to HK, the bathrooms on the plane begin looking like footage from the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina...)

I was in the second row on the flight, so before they shut the cockpit door, I'd noticed that the co-pilot was a young, relatively attractive, woman. "Hmm," I said to myself, "It's nice that we let them vote AND fly airplanes now." (Just kidding...Put down your large rocks...) As we began to taxi, the pilot came on and welcomed us. Apparently both pilots were women. I imagined the cockpit, all of the equipment covered in spilled soft drinks and Cheerios ground into the carpet. I also hoped that nobody was in the way of the rather large aircraft driving across the airport, lest the pilots be applying makeup while taxiing. (I kid, I tell you.)

Anyway, we reached the end of the runway, and then I heard the engines stop. Never a good sign. "Ladies and gentlemen, there's bad weather in Newark, so we're going to be delayed 15 minutes." No sweat.

At this point, the co-pilot bursts through the door, running to the lavatory. She literally was saying, "Gotta go...gotta go...gotta go..." as she shuffled along. This didn't help her cause for female pilots. When she returned, the captain did the same maneuver. My only surprise was that they didn't go as a pair and return with fresh lipstick. (Yes, I know. I'm going to get a beating for this one.)

15 minutes elapsed. Same announcement, except now it's 45 minutes due to traffic backed up during the storm, which has now passed. Sigh. Oh well, I have my iPod and they left the air conditioning on. No problem.

45 minutes elapsed. "Now they're telling us another hour. We'll keep you posted."

60 more minutes elapsed. "We've decided to take you back to the gate, since you may have missed your connections."

Sure enough. The flight to Hong Kong was already boarding, and we were still sitting in Indy. To make matters worse, there was a certain NASCAR race in Indy on Sunday, so all the outbound flights on Monday were booked. They offered to let us wait, fly to Newark, spend the night, and fly to Hong Kong on Monday afternoon. This would have stunk, but might have worked. The hangup was that for business, we would need to extend our return a bit in this scenario, but there were no return flights until August 21.

So I took my ticket voucher and headed home. Amazingly, my two hours sitting on the runway, STILL left me smelling like I'd been flying all day. That travel stink is amazingly potent. In any case, I'm going to make a second attempt on Tuesday via Japan. I'll keep everyone posted. I'm due to arrive in Hong Kong late Wednesday, which means another delightful, late night border crossing, no doubt.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Say Cheese!

Thanks to Lissa at Loving Lydia another creative Photo Challenge: Cheesy grins. These pics of Grant are gold because it is soooooooooooo hard to catch a smile on film. By the time I get the camera out, he's busy trying to grab it to put in his mouth. So, these smile pictures are a rare treat. Our last FFFF challenge was a few weeks ago, and thanks to leaving town again (Bret to China--for business, not baby Grace... and Grant and Mommy to sunny California to visit family), it migth be a few weeks before we get to participate again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Apple a Day

Yesterday afternoon, a Chinese lady dropped by my cubical with one of my coworkers. She introduced herself as Vickie and said that she was here in the United States with Apple. Now you may recall that I've been working with Apple, and in fact, I was just asked yesterday morning to help arrange a trip to Indiana for Apple. So you can understand my confusion when Vickie informed me that Apple was in the next room. Vickie informed me that she and Apple were in the U.S. for the next month (!), which I found interesting since I'm supposed to go to China next week to, in part, visit Apple.

Eventually Vickie returned with Apple in tow. Apple was about 5'2" tall and sounded very much like the individual from our conference calls. I stuck my hand out, told her I was excited to meet her and that I was surprised that I hadn't been made aware of her visit. She looked sort of confused, but I continued to further perplex her when I asked how the software she was writing was coming along.

At this point, she started laughing and said, "Oh no...that's Apple Chen. I'm Apple Huang. Apple Chen is the short one." Quite an orchard we've got here...

Monday, July 23, 2007

6 months old

Grant had his six month check up today, and it's official: he's off the chart. But, just the weight one, which makes for a pudgily proportioned little boy. Weighing in at 23 pounds, Grant is healthy and "on target" with all development. I love going to the doctor and answering questions like: "How is his poop?" Nothing says "I'm a mother" like candid conversation about fecal matter.

Here are a few pics of the boy wonder from vacation. We're heading out Monday for California (can't wait!), but the three hour time change should do just wonders for an already out of sort sleeping schedule. If all goes well, we'll get back on schedule just in time for school, which starts up for me mid-August. What happened to summer?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Back Home Again

And just like that, we're back home in the arid wasteland that is Central Indiana. Our final day in Gatlinburg on Thursday was relatively uneventful. Grant and I chilled out poolside for a while, and we spent one final night perusing the fudge shoppes (it tastes better from a "shoppe" than a "shop"), NASCAR T-shirts, and all of the Ripley's attractions that make up "the parkway" through Gatlinburg.

We had one last massive pancake breakfast in Pigeon Forge before making our way northward on Friday morning. We made a stop in Cincinnati at the Gap distribution center, which has become a favorite place to purchase the slightly irregular clothing in which you've all seen us dressed. For those who've never ventured to the Gap distribution center, it's a big warehouse full of all the damaged, returned, worn for just long enough to be vommited on, clothing from Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic stores east of the Mississippi. All of the stuff is cheap, but you have to take great care with your purchases. It's not uncommon to hold up a shirt and think, "Gee, this looks great for $2" and then realize that one sleeve is 6 inches longer than the other, or there is a hole 2 inches in diameter on the back. It's very much clothing roulette, but you do occasionally find good deals. Or, in my case, you have no standards for wearability anyway, so you gladly take home shorts that are marked size 44 but are really size 38, or a shirt with a small gravy stain on the portion you'll tuck in anyway.

We've spent the weekend in recovery mode. Today I decided to wash Big Whitey, our trusty minivan, so I took it to one of those u-wash places with the power sprayer. I put $5 in, because if you put the minimum $2 in, you have to be willing to move with great haste to wash the entire van...a desire I do not possess.

In any case, I was able to do a respectable job of removing the "insects of the Smoky's" feature from the front grill of Big Whitey, so I decided to go back with our other large, white Hyundai Sonata. Upon arriving, I realized that I'd spent all my singles on Big Whitey, so I would be forced to use the automated washer on the Sonata. No big deal...I didn't feel like soaking myself in the gentle Indiana breeze for a second time today anyway.

So I used my credit card and pulled the Sonata into the automatic wash bay. Things went fine for about 30 seconds, and then the car died. Odd, but not a problem, I figured. I would wait for the wash to complete, restart the car, and exit the wash. So as the wash finished up and told me to exit, I tried to start the car. Nothing. It turned over, but refused to start. I checked the rear view and saw an individual in a big SUV waiting anxiously for me to pull out. Crud. I kept trying to start the car. Nothing.

Finally I gave in and threw the driver's side door open, put the car in Neutral and began pushing the Sonata out of the wash. (This would make a lovely commercial for Hyundai's next ad campaign.) This was working fine, although I was stressed about my car not starting. I was mulling over my next move when I was suddenly hit in the face by a blast of 300 degree air blowing at roughly 10 times the speed of sound. As my face and hair deformed in the blast, it occurred to me that I had spent the extra dollar for the "wash with dry" and was experiencing being dried by the car dryer. You cannot imagine how hot the rivets and zipper on your shorts can get in five seconds under one of these deals.

I immediately jumped back in the car, at which point it stopped rolling, and the SUV began bearing down on me again. Misery. I tried to "scoot" the car forward by rocking forward and back in the driver's seat, which obviously didn't work, but I'm sure made me look like a complete imbecile to the driver behind me. Luckily your extra dollar buys you approximately 15 seconds of drying time, and as I threw the door open again, the dryer stopped, and I was able to roll the car out of the wash. After a few minutes of me picking the burnt flesh from my arms and face, the Sonata chose to restart.

Despite my complete irritation with all of this, I'm not too concerned. I remembered on the way home that I had previously had this same experience with the car after washing it in the driveway, so obviously I have some piece of electronics somewhere under the hood that doesn't like being wet. But next time, I'll be sure not to buy the "dry" if I run the Sonata through the car wash.

Erin will be posting slides from our trip tonight or tomorrow. I'm scheduled to be in China all next week, which should provide some lovely experiences to share. Where else do you get to choose between toes and testicles on the menu?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gatlinburg with the grandparents

That's it. That's the only picture you get. The Internet connection here requires patience that I don't possess; therefore, you'll have to wait for additional pictures upon our return.

So my apologies for the brief delay in a vacation update. The short of it is that we've had a wonderful trip, and Grant, as you can see, has proven yet again that he is, quite simply, the world's most magnificient child.

My parents arrived here in Gatlinburg on Monday, and we began our week with a lazy stroll along the main drag through town. Mostly we facilitated Grant taking two naps, since Grant's sleep was beginning to present Erin and me with marital difficulties we didn't wish to face. Monday evening we ate some tasty BBQ at a place called Bennett's; although truth be told, we had all eaten enough fudge, giant jellybeans, and assorted other teeth rottening substances to make dinner more of a chance to sit down than to really eat.

On Tuesday we took a leisurely drive into the Smoky Mountain National Park. As a kid, I have vivid memories of visiting a settlement within the park called Cades Cove. I distinctly remember two things about this particular place (and both of these are among my first memories...we're talking too early to like beef jerky...which in my case is very early...) Anyway, I distinctly remember there being approximately six years worth of cars lined up waiting to drive into Cades Cove. It seemed like it took forever. And second, I remember that the houses were wallpapered with newspapers, which as a small child seemed fascinating. Why my mother hadn't chosen the Arts & Leisure section for our kitchen was beyond me (although I'm now quite sure that it was because she had cut up every section of our newspapers to remove the coupons, and therefore, she rendered our newspapers unusable as wall coverings).

My return trip to Cades Cove was an enjoyable one. Luckily things haven't been all that busy down here, so we didn't get stuck in too massive a line of traffic. We were able to gain entrance to the area quite easily, but I was rather dismayed to find that all traces of newspaper wallpaper had been removed. I was saddened that my childhood memory will not be one recreated by my own children, but I'm sure they will find their own nuances to remember. Grant enjoyed riding around on his mommy's back throughout the settlement, and we were continually greeted by people oohing and ahhing over how adorable he is. He graciously afforded each of them an audience, as long as they were willing to allow him to suck off the remains of whatever might be lingering on their fingers. He's also quite fond of sucking the ends of tables, tableclothes, and random shopping carts. We try to stop this behavior as much as possible, but now that he has teeth, I'm only willing to fight with him until I'm bitten, at which point he can suck away.

Following Cades Cove we took a drive up the mountains to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Smokys. I had hiked up to the Dome on a previous occasion, but I was unable to see anything due to an incoming storm and fog. On this occasion, I decided to put Grant on my back for the journey. There was much snickering amongst the family as I suited up, but I assured everyone that Grant and I would make it to the top of the steep climb, and in my head, I knew that if I became winded or, heaven forbid, fell, that Grant would break my fall, so all is well.

As we made our ascent, Grant played his usual game of "grab the visible body part and pull until it comes loose." My ears now look like that of a college wrestler. He also decided that it would be fun to occasionally stick a foot in my ribs or otherwise tickle me on the way up. He had no idea the danger he was creating for himself, but I pressed onward. Various people clapped and cheered us on as we hiked up the mountain. I'm fairly certain they were clapping with a tone of "ain't no way in hell that fat boy is making the top with a baby on his back, but we'll encourage it in hopes of seeing a wicked fall." I defied them all and made it to the top...without stopping along the way. It was quite a feat, if I do say so myself. Grant seemed to enjoy the view from the top, although he spent the majority of it trying to remove a part of my neck with his bare hands.

After we had descended the mountain victorious, I removed Grant from the backpack and began to place him in his car seat. The poor little guy was soaked from head to my sweat. Seems he'd been pressed neatly against my back in such a way as to absorb the majority of my perspiration. He didn't seem to mind; although, we did go ahead and change him due to the unseemly stink.

I must also give credit to the rest of the family who all made the ascent on Clingman's Dome. Erin swore a lot and made many threatining remarks towards my father, fautling him for our trip up the Dome, but she made it up and back safely and quickly.

For dinner Tuesday night, we headed to the Smoky Mountain Brewery which provided better than average pub food and a series of their own delightful microbrews. Frankly I'd have drunk transmission fluid I was so dehydrated after the climb, but luckily, I was not forced to do so.

Today we took Grant and the grandparents to Dollywood for the day. I admit that I was skeptical about going to a country music based theme park, but in the end, it turned out to be quite lovely. My dad and I made what I'm sure are the usual Dolly Parton jokes throughout the day ("bet I know what they use for floats on the log flume"..."did we park in 32EE or 36DDD?"), and we saw several lovely shows along the way (none involving Dolly, I might add). Surprisingly the park had some very enjoyable roller coasters ("I wonder if there are any with two giant hills"), one of which I even dragged my dad onto. We tried to drag my mom onto one, but she insisted that she had shelled out $47.50 to traverse the park in her loafers and short pants to see a bird show, some guys sing, and watch Grant for the day. The poor woman didn't even eat! Amusement parks offend her sense of bargain greatly, plus you couldn't get her on a roller coaster with a cattle prod, so she enjoyed the time with Grant.

Grant was the consumate trooper throughout the day. He didn't fuss. He didn't whine. He didn't seem concerned that we took him out in 90 degree heat, missed all his naps, and didn't let him suck on a single park bench. He just smiled and talked and received his compliments from strangers with his usual flare. He truly was a gem, and I'm sure Erin and the grandparents will be talking about how amazing he was today for many years to come.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Gatlinburg, which is sad for me. Grant has truly developed a wonderful personality in the past week, and leaving him for work travel in the coming weeks is going to be even that much harder. Erin and I couldn't feel more blessed.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lazy Day

After being exhausted yesterday due to Grant's inability to sleep south of the Mason-Dixon Line, we decided to take it easy today. We took an extended drive east of Gatlinburg in an effort to find a pottery store we had previously visited, but were unable to locate again. We ate several pounds of breakfast food at a rather anonymous pancacke house and then retired to our accomodations where I watched several hours of The Twilight Zone, and Erin and Grant napped.

We had a discussion this evening regarding what shows we might like to see during the week. Erin had a stack of brochures she was pouring over. I told her to eliminate any brochure which featured a man dressed in woman's "hillbilly" clothing, which knocked out all but two shows. I think we're passing on Gatlinburg's version of Broadway entertainment.

The grandparents arrived in Knoxville this evening and will be joining us tomorrow. We plan on doing some hiking in the national park over the next couple of days, so we've readied the gauze and bandages for my mom. More to follow...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Grant's puttin' the "G" in Gatlinburg

(Please disregard all grammar and spelling mistakes in the following post. I think my pictures and text are being carried by mule on the Internet connection I have here, so edits are too much effort...)

And so begins our vacation in the gateway to the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I have many fond memories of Gatlinburg from vacations here as a kid, so I've looked forward to bringing Grant here for the first time.

Our drive down was relatively uneventful. We stopped in Corbin, Kentucky for dinner at the Depot on Main restaurant. Erin had a steak, I had a catfish sandwich, and Grant spit green beans and carrots all over the restaurant. He then proceeded to light a fire in his shorts which cleared out the 15 other patrons in the restaurant. It was a job well done.

The one thing we have discovered this summer is that while Grant is very good about letting us drop him at his grandparent's for overnights, he doesn't do so well on full blown vacations. He slept about six minutes last night, which led to a variety of domestic disputes in our little family. All is resolved though, and I'm sure we'll all sleep better this evening. My view of the stars from our condo balcony should be delightful.

We're staying at the Westgate resort here in Gatlinburg, and so far, we've been impressed. Our unit sits at the top of a mountain, and we have a lovely view from our balcony. As is a prerequisite for any hotel or condo unit in Gatlinburg, you could hit at least three other hilljacks with a single beer bottle from the balcony, so all is well.

For lunch, we ventured into Gatlinburg proper, braving the heat, and ate at a place called Legends By Max. It was fun watching people pass by the window as we sucked down large portions of Italian food. I enjoyed reading the various tattoos as they strolled along, and Erin found the variety of things that can be accomplished with an entire bottle of Aquanet rather charming.

One of the things the misses had decided we should do while in Tennessee was visit the Hill Billy Village and Moonshine Museum in Pigeon Forge. Now I originally questioned why you need to visit a hillbilly village while in Gatlinburg. The concept sort of boggles the's like saying you want to go to the moon and then go to a moon village. In any case, we made the trip, and what we discovered was a shop selling various types of junk, including many items that an older Grant will most probably find offensive. I couldn't help but take a few pictures...

(Someone had better revive my aunt Barb. She's probably got a case of the vapors from that last one...)

I realize that last picture will raise some eyebrows, but Grant did drool profusely into the mug before placing it back on the shelf. He then gave it the raspberries and moved along.

Out back was the "moonshine museum" which was merely a few rundown structures that appeared to have at one point been an attraction. You'll note in the picture below that a "possum hide" was one of the many wonders to be seen. No doubt the Hillbilly Village will be leveled in favor of an Olive Garden or Walgreens in the near future.

We'll keep everyone posted as the week progresses. We're planning on having a General Lee belt buckle made with Grant's name on it, so we'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All about Grant

I had coffee with a friend yesterday (hi, Jenni!), and she told me that all I ever write about on this blog is Grant Nicholas, the world's best baby. She also told me that the only thing I really say about him is that he is the "world's cutest" or "world's best." But, I say, I'm just spouting the truth!

In keeping with that fashion, here is some more news about the boy wonder (or the world's cutest baby for those of you following along at home). He rolled over from back to front (yeah! milestone of some sort). He actually has a ribcage (he's been so chubby, I was beginning to wonder, but now that he is getting tall and lean(er), there's actually a ribcage under there that's sometimes visible). He is trying to crawl. And, he chokes on real food and vomits it up while out to dinner (it was a pea-sized piece of soft bread, I swear).

Here's a tad bit long video of baby Grant teething (which translates to trying to eat anything in sight). I sound like a major nerd, but it's all for the love of a boy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Birthday Weekend

First off, a quick happy birthday to both my father-in-law and mother. We celebrated my father-in-law's birthday with a trip to Indy's finest provider of Greek cuisine -- Santorini. (Their homepage is rather bizarre, if you ask me, but alas...) I love the food at Santorini dearly, but the restaurant is not without its quirks. For one, it has two restrooms (I can see people's eyes rolling, given my issues with bathrooms), both of which are unisex. This is not where the problem lies. The issue is that the door to each bathroom faces out into the restaurant, so you get none of that "check your fly and adjust your shorts on the run" time that you normally get. It's sink, paper towel, family of four. It's very disconcerting.

My second issue with Santorini is that it sometimes features belly dancers. As a red blooded male, this would seem like a good thing. But in many cases, my blood would need to be slightly older and pudgier to find some of the dancers appealing. I'm not trying to be rude (at least not entirely), but surely there are some girls under 40 willing to don a little belly dancer costume and tuck singles into their waistbands from fathers trying to pretend they've never "tucked a buck" before in front of their kids. I've seen belly dancers at Santorini where you couldn't "tuck a buck" if you tried because of the expedition required to FIND said waistband. Never a good thing.

Following Santorini, we made our yearly run to America's favorite concrete putting grounds, Rustic Gardens. This provided its usual plethora of delights, although the loose chickens were conspicuously missing this year. I did manage to nearly hit a hole in one, no easy feet from 80 yards with a putter onto a concrete "green," but in the end, I was soundly defeated by my father-in-law. His ability to putt on a normal green is assuredly wrecked for at least the next two weeks, so perhaps my father will be able to beat him in their weekly competition.

On Sunday we had a birthday cookout for my mom and father-in-law. Just as I was getting ready to start the burgers and Sinai Koshers, the grill ran out of gas. This invariably happens when you have the largest of groups awaiting dinner, so I made a bee line to the nearest gas station for a replacement tank. When I arrived, I ran into the quickie mart and told the pleasantly smokey young lady behind the counter that I needed a replacement propane tank. She told me to go out front and wait and that she would be out in a moment. As she said this, I noted an elderly gentleman helping her behind the counter. He was fetching a pack of Pall Malls for another patron and doing so with the approximate speed of an engineer on a first date. I could have grown my own tobacco and rolled a smoke faster.

In any case, I headed outside. I looked back in to the store and noted that my attendant was not helping anyone, so I assumed she would head my direction momentarily. After about 30 seconds, out came the elderly gentleman. He walked with a noticeable problem with his hip, which led me to believe that he had probably had a hip replacement, although I'm not sure with what it was replaced. He was very kind and gave me the needed gas tank, but I wanted to say to him, "Gee, sir. You should have your little 3-packs-a-day friend in there do the outdoor errands." He didn't seemed bothered by the trip outside; although, he did comment that it was "danged hot." ("Danged" is usually the adjective of choice in these parts.)

Following the grill debacle, we had a lovely cookout, and everyone got to watch Grant eat, poop, drool and attempt to roll over. Now that I've written that, his day is not dissimilar to my own.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Bret, Erin, Grant, and Erin's parents arrive at the Mug 'n Bun Drive-In in search of dessert foods and root beer.

A sign on the side of the building announces a new menu item, Edie's Dibs (chocolate, mint, or crunch) for $2.00.

Said occupants of Big Whitey inspect Mug 'n Bun menu looking for dessert items.

Shakes, sundaes, and malts (does anyone under 55 really know what a malt is?) are the offerings.

Mother-in-law: What are Edie's Dibs?
Others: They're little ice cream balls.
Mother-in-law: Balls?
Others: Yes. Ice cream balls covered in chocolate.
Mother-in-law: Crunchy chocolate?
Others: Yes, if you order crunch.
Mother-in-law: But I thought they were chocolate?
Others: They are. They're crunchy chocolate ice cream balls.
Mother-in-law: Then what are the chocolate ones?
Others: Crunch-less chocolate covered ice cream balls?

Waitress arrives to take order. She senses confusion.

Waitress: Do you folks know what you'd like?
Me: I'll have a large chocolate shake.
Father-in-law: I'll have a small strawberry shake.
Erin: I'll have some root beer, please.

(Mother-in-law thoroughly inspects the ice cream cone-less menu)

Mother-in-law: Do you have cones?
Waitress: No cones, mam. We have Edie's Dibs.
Mother-in-law: What are those?
Waitress: Little ice cream balls.
Mother-in-law (somewhat inaudible due to laughter in van): I'll have the crunch ball.
Waitress: It's actually many little ice cream balls.

(Laughter in van escalates.)

Mother-in-law: Ok, I'll have the crunchy balls.

Waitress leaves, shaking her head for various reasons.

Friday, July 06, 2007

More Specimen Talk

So if you'll recall, not so many weeks ago, I was accosted at work by a young woman wishing to take samples of my bodily fluids. As it turns out, apparently the Body Fluid Collectors of America aren't all on the same computer network. For yet again today, for yet another purpose, I was required to meet with another of these lovely individuals.

Erin setup the appointment this time around, choosing the 11am meeting time at my request. This is perfectly placed to be too early for me to go to work before, and too late for me to return to work afterwards. (For those in the know, my job is less than enthralling at this point. I mostly wait for smart people to say stupid things to spark my blogitivity. And occasionally I fill out a time card.)

The woman arrived this morning right on time, and her first question was "When did you last eat?" I had just polished off about four enchiladas from last evening's dinner. I could tell as I replied that she could still catch a hint of the molè sauce on my breath, but it was the fact that she had apparently requested that we not eat for 12 hours prior to her arrival that really burned her biscuits. I gave Erin my "you've fouled this up" stare (which is usually responded to with the equally poignant "I don't give a rip" stare).

After drawing my blood, which no doubt will set off an alarm during the cholesterol screening ("This man's bad cholesterol was 350. It's like an enchilada was injected into his bloodstream"), the woman whipped out a small plastic cup. I immediately knew what this was about, having been through the experience a couple of weeks ago. Erin had also neglected to mention that this would be part of the screening, so as I walked in the door a few minutes prior to the appointment, I unloaded approximately a half gallon of coffee.

I mentioned to the lady that this could be a problem. "Oh, you only have to fill it up to here" was her response, which just served to make it more embarrasing if I was unable to fulfill the request. I let her ask Erin a long series of questions while I drank approximately two gallons of water. When it finally came time for me to step up to the plate, I barely made it "up to here." But let me tell you, about an hour later, I dang near burst. It was ridiculous.

In any case, hopefully the tests will turn out ok. After all of the adoptions and tests for various causes, my veins are starting to look like a soaker hose.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Stars and Stripes

The Chinese adoption blog community is deep and wide, and over our very long wait for baby Grace, it has been a huge support. There is something encouraging about seeing all these little Chinese babies finally home and happy. Every Friday, one such family issues a challenge, a Family Foto Fun Friday, and I am going to try to participate in the different themes each week. When Miss Grace finally does show up, she can join her brother in the pics, but until then, the cutest baby ever (Mr. Grant Nicholas for those of you who are slow) is going to be the show.

Thanks to Lydia's loving parents for taking over FFFF!

So, this FFFF challenge was Stars and Stripes.

So, how was Grant's first Fourth of July? Think=uneventful. We lazied (yes, a new verb) all day and headed to the house of some new friends for dinner. It was kid and couple central at the BBQ (with 7 kids under the age of 5). Grant was a trooper, but about a half hour past his bed time, he had had enough. He was asleep before we hit the main road. Luckily, our friends live about a mile away, so it was all good. We did light two sparklers, which Grant gazed at with mild amusement. Next year, we'll try to do the big fireworks, but with Daylight Savings Time finally making itself felt in Indiana, it's past Mama's bedtime by the time they finally start.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Advice about the Adorable One (that's Grant)

We here in the Hawkins' household are in unchartered waters. As first time parents, we've done a lot of listening to other parents, a ton of reading (okay, I have done a ton of reading while Bret has pretended to listen to me while I tell him about what I have read), and we have done a lot of praying for wisdom when it comes to parenting baby Grant (did I mention that he is the world's best baby?). But, now, we are facing a new stage in Grantdom that is getting a tad bit old. The aforementioned raspberries are hitting an all time high despite our attempts to move Grant's highchair behavior in the opposite direction.

I know, I know... it's a stage that will pass, but we are trying to be proactive about good behavior (yes, even now at 5.5 months). So, seasoned parents the blog world over... what are your suggestions?

Beside the raspberries, Grant is a perfect child. He loves his baths (I actually dump a gallon or so of water over his head to get the shampoo out, and he comes up smiling... really... no even tipping the head back...), loves his naps, loves his books (current favorite: I'll teach my dog a lot of words), love his grandparents, and most of all loves his mommy and daddy.

Here are some recent pictures. Some of them show the aftermath of the raspberry explosion. Some of them are blackmail for when he gets older (naked butt bath photos). Some are of a pumpkin hat that will probably be too small come October (so we had to pretend in June), some of them are his first discovery of himself in a mirror, and some are of him just being his adorable (ADORABLE!!!) self.

You can watch it in slideshow mode. Or, you can hit the button at the bottom of the slideshow that says "view all images" to see the bigger pics at a slower pace.

Monday, July 02, 2007

More Donuts

After a relaxing if unexceptional weekend milling about central Indiana, we made our way downtown yesterday afternoon for a stroll with Grant in the nice weather. Our first stop was at Circle Centre mall which proved relatively uneventful. As we passed through the food court, Erin said "Oooh...They're getting a Taco Bell!" which pretty well sums up the excitement awaiting one at Circle Centre.

Afterwards we took a stroll around Monument Circle and decided to have an early dinner at P.F. Chang's. (What else would one awaiting a two week stay in China want besides some California-fied Chinese food?) As we were seated, Erin remarked that the last time she ate at P.F. Chang's, she received food poisoning. Lovely, eh? I remember the event very clearly, as it was shortly after we started "hanging around" (we never dated, for those of you who know least we didn't according to Erin).

On that fateful day, we had childcare that day at church, and we were both stationed in the nursery. Erin's stomach was not feeling well when we got to church, and about half way through the service, Erin tossed some poor baby like she was in a baby shot put competition into a crib. She ran outside and started what turned out to be a day's worth of eliminating her last evening's meal from P.F. Chang's. In an effort to be chivalrous, I took her back to her apartment and tried to comfort her, bringing her wet washclothes, glasses of water, etc. She was extremely ill, and little did she know at the time that I avoid sick people at all costs, so for me to stick around and voluntarily expose myself to her was an act of unparalleled devotion.

As she tells the story, she couldn't get me to leave and I essentially stalked her in her sick state. That's right, hon. I was waiting for just the right chance between wretches to make my move. Sheesh...A fella can't get a break.

Anyway, our meal last night at P.F. Chang's has not, thus far, produced such results. It did become traumatic about 15 minutes in, as Grant decided he'd had enough missed naps and began sort of randomly tossing objects about the restaurant. He didn't scream. He didn't cry. He just tossed a pacifier here, a stuffed dog there. Luckily nobody else eats at 4 pm at P.F. Chang's, so we were able to crawl around the floor retrieving things without anyone else noticing.

On our way home, we joked about taking 16th Street home on the off chance that Long's Bakery would be open. Now I realize that faithful readers think I'm on a diet, but such an ordeal is always paused in the event that I pass Long's. Long's has, quite simply, the finest donuts (or "do-nuts" as the sign advertises) available anywhere in the world. (And I include Dunkin' Donuts in this comparison, despite my fawning in Friday's post.) These little old ladies put Krispy Kreme to shame. We once took our elementary school aged niece to Long's, and after her first donut while riding home, I turned around and asked her if she wanted another. Her response says it all. "Keep 'em comin'."

Now Long's does have its quirks, and since they happened to be open on Sunday at 5:30pm, I was able to stop for my weekend dose of icing. Their first quirk are the hours. They seem to be open randomly. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes on Sundays. I'm sure they have posted hours, but I haven't been able to sense any sort of pattern.

Their second quirk is that they have at least four signs within the shop advertising the fact that they take nothing other than cold, hard American cash. One says, "We are not set up to take credit cards or debit cards." Another says, "No personal checks will be accepted." Yet another says, "We accept cash." All of these appear to be made at the same time. They use the same block, all capital lettering, and all appear on little pieces of white cardboard. Methinks some signage consolidation should have been considered. They also have a sign of similar construction announcing, and I quote, "Anyone caught yellin or cussin an employee will not be served." Cheery.

The final quirk is that the kindly, little old ladies are not always exceptionally friendly. First off, they have a system to their line that you dare not tamper with. I once ordered my donuts and watched the lady put all of my goods into an anonymous white box at the end of the counter where stacked were a dozen other such boxes. As I got to the cash register, I thought I was about to receive the wrong box, so I alerted the cashier who began checking the box I THOUGHT was mine. Upon discovering that their system had actually worked correctly, and I had sent her on a sort of donut snipe hunt, she petitioned me to "just let us do our job." Ouch.

The other key mistake to make in line at Long's is to get all the way to the cash register, apparently blinded by the sugar and donut smell, and offer up a credit card. This results in an old lady doing a dance to point out all the aforementioned signage before snapping your donuts back up and pointing you to the gas station across the street for an ATM. This is a freshman error and will result in severely delayed fried dough gratification.

As I placed my order yesterday, I took note of the fact that at 5:30pm on a Sunday, Long's was packed. I had to wait several minutes to get to the counter. The other thing I noticed was that Long's donuts appear to unify people over class, race, and age boundaries. Everyone in line was discussing their favorite Long's product with each other. An old white guy was discussing filled long johns with a middle aged black woman, while another toothless white dude inquired of the rest of the line as to the merits of the cinammon fried donuts. It was a beautiful thing. We need to be dropping sacks of Long's over the middle east. I'm quite sure mililtants would stop blowing themselves up once bloated on the deep fried, cream filled goodness which is a Long's filled donut or the sticky sweetness of a Long's apple fritter.

Erin and I ingested our donuts, as well as a couple of "test" brownies from Long's, on our way home. Erin took note of my adherence to the diet, but she understood that there are some points in life where you just have to live it up.