Thursday, January 31, 2008

I have returned...

Sorry for the lack of posts towards the conclusion of my trip to Asia. I was freezing to death in Shenzhen. I got to experience their coldest day on record. It was something like 40 degress, but some of the public buildings and hotels don't have heat, so my body temperature dropped like a rock.

I will make one comment. It bothered me that the hotel in China got more English speaking channels than we do at home since the Great Yank of the Cable of 2007. I even saw a couple of Big Ten games on ESPN, although they were dubbed in an extremely entertaining manner.

More to follow...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cute Stuff

Here are some pics from our recent portrait sitting that didn't make the cut (the last one is Grant doing his "famous scoot" as he tries to escape the platform:







I wasn't really happy with the whole set (I was so happy last time), but when you're paying 22 bucks at the local Target, I don't think there's much room to complain.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Day Out with Grandma

This last Saturday, Grant and I headed out for multiple adventures with Grandma. Grant is a big Grandma fan, and it goes without saying that Grandma is a big (very, very big) Grant fan.

We first headed to Panera for a quick bite. Grant tasted some of my pumpkin muffin (to rave reviews) and blew kisses to Grandma throughout the whole morning. His gesture for blowing kisses looks a lot like (okay, identical) to his sign language sign for "thank you." But, in his mind, there is a distinct difference.

Blowing Kisses


Right before leaving, I dropped my coffee on the carpet, and before I could even begin to collect my thoughts, Grant, with perfect comedic timing, said "ah oh." My mom, who was no help whatsoever during the spill and subsequent clean up, roared with laughter.

We then ventured out to the local convalescent hospital. My parents frequently visit the guests of this hospital because my parents have a beautifully tender place in their hearts for the forgotten and the lonely. It's a real model of authentic service, and I have never been so proud of two people in my life. My parents are models to me, and their love for other people is both contagious and convicting.

Grant and I visit from time to time, and let me tell you, YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN PEOPLE SO EXCITED TO TOUCH A BABY IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE!! The ladies in the Alzheimer's ward were beside themselves. Grant, with just his little baby being, brought the ladies such joy. They fought (I thought it might come to blows) over who got to hold him, and I think one woman almost died right there (not kidding).

Grant with sweet Iona


My prayers for Grant often center around him growing up to have a heart for God and a heart to serve the people around him. Saturday morning with those ladies was--I hope--just one of the many times Grant will come to the aid of those who are lonely.

We ventured out again (after a nap) to Babies-R-Us (that place just makes me angry... but that's another post) to pick up some rubber/plastic pants for the boy wonder who can't seem to keep his business in his diapers. Nothing helps. And as I discovered this morning, the plastic pants don't help either. I need an industrialized sized diaper for evening wear... any thoughts? Next up on the trial board: a diaper and a pull up. Not kidding.

Off to Gymboree where Grant will, no doubt, kiss a baby too many.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

China / Singapore Pictures

In what is proving to be a banner blogging day (mostly because it's too hot here for me to do much else), here are some pictures from my trip thus far. I didn't take very many thus far in China, mostly because I haven't really seen anything new. I'm due for a trip to our factory on Tuesday, so I'll probably take some then.

You see these kinds of militant-for-no-good-reason signs all over China. This one was in the airport shuttle bus.

This was the bathroom in my ultra-Euro-swanky hotel in Hong Kong last night. Given the situation brewing in my digestive system last night, they probably had to replace the hinges on this door today. What I thought was odd about this was that the room really didn't have a separate bathroom, only bathroom fixtures surrounded by this big glass wall. It was sort of an office cubical approach to a bathroom.

One of our favorite restaurants in Indy is Sawasdee. Apparently they have a branch in the Hong Kong airport as well. This seemed funny to me until I saw five more "Sawasdee's" in Singapore while strolling around. Must be the "Smith's" of Thailand.

A view of the modern Singapore skyline...

Singapore's Supreme Court and City Hall...

And finally, a quaint little old building...with a really monstrous big building behind it. This is a common theme in Asia -- "I bet we can go one more floor on this hand mixed concrete. What do you think?"

Arrived in Singapore

This is one of those "it's 3 in the morning at home, so I can't call, therefore I'll use the blog as a sort of instant messaging system" type entries.

"Hey Hon, I've arrived safely in Singapore. First impression of Hong Kong a couple of years ago was that it looked like a sort of cross between Chicago and San Francisco. First impression of Singapore? A giant golf resort. It's really hot here.

I'll call later."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Headed to Singapore

Today I made my way, in a somewhat sickly state, to the Hong Kong airport for a flight over to Singapore. I'm meeting up with the Long family there, and I got a cheap flight to hookup with them. Unfortunately, I've eaten too many things this week that still were in possession of their beaks or toes, so my stomach is a little wrecked. I'm sure a four hour flight will help.

My ticket indicated that I should proceed to "Terminal 2." I've been to Terminal 1 a bunch of times, but never Terminal 2. As it turns out, this is the terminal you use if you have a middle seat between a chicken and a goat. I'm relatively certain that the only other people I saw in this terminal were in the Amazing Race. Life is an adventure over here.

One Year Check Up



We went to see the doctor today. Our baby boy is perfectly large: 85% for height, 85%for weight, 85% for head circumference. Practically perfect in every way.

Grant loves to show off at the doctor's office (or anywhere for that matter), wooing people with his many kisses. There's only one person exempt from Grant's affection. The nurse who gives him shots. She tells me today that these are going "to hurt more than usual." Sure enough, soon as she started pushing that MMR junk into my baby's chubby thigh, he lost it. Soon as I picked him up, he was done crying, but then the stare down of Nurse Rachel began. He scowled. He watched her like a hawk with those big, brown baby eyes saying, "don't you come anywhere near me again." Big Meanie.

Speaking of Big Meanie, my mom taught Grant a new trick. You can ask Grant how a "cow goes," and he'll moo. Ask him how a "snake goes," and he'll hiss. Now, thanks to my mom who thought this made for a productive morning, if you ask Grant how "Mommy goes," he shakes his head back and forth, back and forth from side to side. I do not say "no, no, no, no," but my mom thought that was hysterical.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

While You Were Out

Ni hao, Daddy. That means, "Hello, Daddy" in Chinese. I'm smart, huh?

I've been learning a lot besides Chinese while you've been gone. I've also learned how to say "Mommy" which mommy says is the greatest word in the English language, and she is an ENGLISH teacher, so I think she's a bit of an expert.

So, what have I been doing? Here's a look at some things:
math... cooking... a little piano...


and here I am in facing forward in my big boy car seat. Actually, as you know, I graduated from that baby bucket car seat when I was about 5 months old. I'm a big boy. But, now, I'm facing forward too. And aren't I looking cute in all of my winter gear (it's freezing here Daddy... they are using minus symbols with the numbers now!).

I'm kind of shocked that you're still going to be gone a whole week. Shocked and bummed. But, here's my shocked face. I'll save my bummed face for when I really need something.

I love you lots, Daddy. And, I know mommy loves you tons too. You're my favorite peek-a-boo partner, and I'm itching to play. Bring me back a toy or something. If not, the bummed face is going to have to come out...


Gut

My colleague and I were strolling along Binhai Boulevard in the Nanshan district this evening when we heard someone call out my co-worker's last name. What are the chances of running into a colleague from many years ago while walking the streets of China...in a town in which neither person lives, no less?

After a few minutes getting reacquainted, we informed the man and his wife that we were looking for a place to eat. They said we should go to "this local Sichuan place" just a few blocks away. "You like spicy? They'll take care of you."

We took the couple's advice and made our way to the small, unadorned restaurant. Nobody spoke English. At all. Not a word. We were handed menus in Mandarin which featured unidentifiable pictures of the various dishes. We ordered what appeared to be a beef dish, followed by what appeared to be a noodle dish. Upon ordering the noodle dish, the friendly young lady who was serving us informed us that it was duck. No problem. Duck in China is usually good.

The first pot arrived. It was the duck/noodle dish. We both started eating out of the bowl, and we both got the same look simultaneously. Not only was it hot enough to dissolve your tongue, but it also wasn't duck.

"This is some kind of gut, dude." Indeed.

I still don't know what it was, but it was real chewy and burned like a torch going down. The beef dish arrived next. It was beef, cooked on hot rocks. It was darn tasty, or at least I think it was. I'm really not sure. I have a bad feeling that some coffee and a bran muffin for breakfast are going to leave me holding onto the handicap rails in the bathroom at work.

Engrish...Chengrish...Take Your Pick

A few days ago a colleague passed along a draft copy of the instruction book for the product on which I'm currently working. I read through the email trail and discovered that an individual in China had written the book and was requesting edits.

I read through the instruction book quickly and discovered that it sounded like many instruction books produced in China these days -- a sort of half English, half Chinese mix. I checked the document for technical errors and then passed it along to my wife, the English teacher, to look for grammar mistakes. It made sense to me that she could greatly improve the readability of the document and make our instruction book read as though it had been originally written in English.

She made approximately 6000 suggestions.

This afternoon I walked over to the young woman's desk who produced this instruction book here in China. She was very nice, and she was excited to see what changes I would suggest. I showed her the book that my wife had edited.

Once I revived her and put her eyes back into their appropriate sockets, I discovered that she really didn't speak very much English at all. I have little understanding of how she was able to produce this document in English to begin with, but I was given a clue when I noticed what appeared to be some sort of translator software on her computer.

She agreed to make the suggested changes, and in the end, she was excited to have the help of my wife. Perhaps this will make the next instruction book she writes that much easier.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Table for one plus Godzilla, please"

Tonight I had dinner in a Japanese restaurant here in the heart of Special Economic Zone China. I had to remove my shoes as I entered, which was a first for me. I tremble at the thought of walking anywhere in China in socked feet, but I made it across the restaurant without my feet dissolving or turning black. I did have to excuse myself midway through dinner to use the restroom, and I wasn't about to head to the toilet in socked feet. I don't know if I broke a custom or not by putting my shoes back on, but I'd sooner relieve myself under the table than venture into an Asian toilet in my socks.

And while I'm on the topic of feet, do you know the looks you get when you go into a Japanese restaurant in China with a gentleman who is 6'4" and wears a SIZE 15 shoe? The villagers were definitely looking for their torches.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back in the ShenZhen saddle...

Northwest Airlines made up for the SuperNanny incident by bumping me to first class from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Schweeeeeeet. Slept for 2 hours on that flight, then conked out for 6 hours overnight in Hong Kong. I'm well rested and ready to go now that I'm on the mainland.

You need to be well rested so that your lungs can process paint fumes and diesel fuel. Cheerio!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hong Kong via Tokyo via LA

Why is this guy touching my knee? There. He just did it again. Why is he touching me?

A 60-something guy with a grey gootee, swim trunks, and flip-flops (since we lost the term "thongs" to Victoria's Secret) is standing next to me while I try to eat my western omelette, asking me if I can figure out what flight he's supposed to be on.

"Is this the flight number or the gate?"

I glance over to the table from wence he came, and there are two Bloody Marys already lined up, celery stalks still standing, awaiting his return.

"I'm sorry, we don't have Mimosas. Only Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers."

Welcome to LAX on a Monday morning. A holiday, no less.

I got up at 4:15, woke up the wife, got cleaned up, woke up the kid and made my way to the airport. I booked my trip very carefully. I wanted the longest leg possible in the U.S., since I get a first-class upgrade on domestic flights...if it's available. I went ahead and booked a normal seat and called Northwest. They informed me that I was first on the upgrades list. That leaves me with a good shot at getting bumped up.

I arrived at the airport at 6:00am, checked in, and immediately headed for the gate. While in line at security, I witnessed a guy in his 40's throwing a fit about being forced to ditch his coffee before going through security. "No liquids past the checkpoint, sir." He continued to pitch a fit. Was it a $6.00 no-fat, Splenda, with an extra shot of bat guano latte from Starbucks? Nope. A large coffee from McDonalds. Black.

As I walked toward the gate, I saw a young lady already in line. She looked to be about my age and was wearing Converse tennis shoes and baggy cargo pants. As she turned to walk away from the gate, I recognized her as the SuperNanny from ABC. The next thing I hear is one gate agent telling another that sometimes exceptions are made for people in "her situation."

I hustled up to the gate.

"Are there any first class upgrades?"
"Nope. First class is checked in full...now."
"But I'm first on the list, and I'm a Gold Elite member."
"Sorry, sir. Coach for you."
"But I'm GOLD ELITE. I can sit where ever I so desire! I can sit on the captain's lap...if I want."
"No go, weirdo."

I watched the SuperNanny head off to relax prior to flight, basking in her celebrity-won, First Class seat. Stupid celebrities. I hoped her First Class seat ended up all mushed down like a "naughty chair."

"My kid doesn't need you!!" I yelled. "He's perfect!! And his mother is a perfect parent!!"

Two hours to kill before heading to Japan. This is a long day.

Single Mommy

Bret just left for a two week trip to Asia. I'm already bummed. I was really bummed when the alarm went off at 4:15 this morning, a little more bummed when he called (and woke me up) from the Indy airport at 6:30 to tell me he was sitting next to SuperNanny , and even more bummed when Grant woke up asking for Daddy. It is going to be a long four weeks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ssssss Like a Snake

Here's a birthday video of Grant hissing like a snake... too cute!

video

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blasted Ornament

So, did you know the family tradition of the ornament...?
and did you know that this year's ornament incorrectly featured a white baby Grant...?
and did you know I called and called and called...?
and did you know that I finally got a woman who said she'd ship me the right one?
and did you know I got it today?
and did you guess that baby Grant was still white?
and did you guess that not only was baby Grant still white... but baby Grant turned into a baby girl? a white baby girl?

really people. it's not that hard.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gymboree

Last night, Erin informed me on the phone while I was still slaving away at work that she had enrolled Grant in Gymboree classes. Having little idea what she was talking about, I inquired as to why she would go and do such a thing. Apparently she doesn't think Grant is doing enough socializing (which I happen to believe is due, in part, to his inability to walk or talk), so she enrolled him in these classes which will allow him to interact with other children while learning to roll around on mats and drool on other people's stuff. I agreed to join her for the first visit, which occurred last night.

From this point forward, you will never hear me say, "Gee, I wonder if there's something worth blogging about this week." I now have material. For a lifetime.

Upon entering the rubberized wonderland that is the Avon, Indiana branch of Gymboree, there were several things worth noting. The first was a large circle of parents with kids on their laps, all sitting in socked feet. They were singing a song that sounded vaguely like a song from one of Grant's CDs -- one of the ones that if played on repeat enough times says subliminally, "Smash this CD, and don't have more kids." Leading this third ring of hell was an overly chipper woman in her late 30's, similing as if to say, "Please help me not to beat one of these kids tonight."

We tossed our shoes to the side and headed for the circle. Grant looked at the whole situation with an understandably questioning eye. It was obvious from his look that something seemed amiss to him. I couldn't tell if it was the overt chipperness of the room that had him concerned, or if he was able to discern the fact that there were at least two parents who's faces said, "Oh good. My pasty white kid now has a black friend. Check."

After a couple of choruses, the kids were turned loose on any number of plastic and rubber slides and other things to crawl around on. After watching one kid slide on a trail of his own slobber and then seeing another give un unexplained "Squish!" upon plopping onto another piece of equipment, I inquired as to how they were able to drop an entire strip mall into a vat of bleach at the end of each evening. I was assured that everything was sterilized properly, but there would have needed to have been a "My First Hazmat" crew present for me to be comfortable.

It became quickly apparent that in this class, Grant was not only "the black kid" but also "the black kid who can't walk." One little red haired stepchild smirked as he watched Grant do his patented scoot across the mat. I quickly told that kid that he'd be lucky to be playing basketball in Indiana past the third grade, while Grant would most assuredly be playing in the NBA some day (perhaps as the mascot). The other parents were also unable to help but stiffle laughter at Grant's mobility issues. Several told us, "He'll figure it out" or "I bet he's doing better in a month." Doing better? Show me another kid with the mind to innovate a way of transporting one's self without ever leaving the seated position? Poppycock.

At the end of the 45 minute session was a drill involving the parents floating a parachute above the kids heads. The parachute would fall down on the kids, and then we'd billow it back up, allowing the screams and wailing to permeate the rest of the room.

I should preface this by introducing everyone to Ian. Grant met Ian early in the evening and took a liking to him. As it turns out, the only social connection we've taught Grant is to kiss. Upon hopping toward Ian early in the night, Grant planted one of his open mouthed kisses on him. Erin and I had a good laugh about it with Ian's mother, and several times throughout the night, Grant and Ian would meet on the rubber mat and have another quick smooch.

I must say that this did lead to some level of anxiety on my part. Erin kept laughing it off, but I could tell that Ian's mother was one kiss away from putting Grant's picture on a light pole by the school bus stop. So I tried to show Grant how to shake hands with Ian or put him in a headlock.

Now during the parachute drill, Ian and Grant naturally ended up seated next to each other. They seemed to be enjoying their time together, laughing and sharing tips on how to pee out the sides of a diaper. We covered everyone with the parachute, sang for a moment, then lifted it up. Ian and Grant giggled. We did it again. Ian and Grant giggled.

The third time we lifted the parachute, Grant was flat on his back with Ian laying on top of him. I had one of those Fred Sanford heart attack moments. You remember, the ones where he'd clutch his chest and fall on his back? I quickly snapped Grant up, only outpaced by Ian's mom. She was jabbering something about "How did that happen?" I hated to tell her that Grant had been giving Ian the green light to first base all night with his "come hither" smooches. We both chuckled nervously while the other parents guffawed.

I began explaining the situation to Grant, even pausing to point out little Audrey in her pigtails. In the end, he was unphased by the situation. Ian didn't seem particularly bothered either, but I do wonder how he's planning on getting an education when the courts won't let him within 100 yards of a school now.

In the end, Gymboree was a good learning experience for Grant...and daddy. Even today it seems like Grant is pulling up on things more, so perhaps the exposure to other toddlers will encourage him to make use of his feet. And what about Ian? I suppose next week we'll reintroduce Grant and Ian, but I plan to have my camera in hand when we do. Those pictures will be worth a fortune when Grant brings home his first date.

Ch-Ch-Ch...


Strange things happen when your father-in-law goes out Christmas shopping.


It was entirely coincidental that my Homer developed the same hairline as my Uncle Bret. After this, my first Chia growing experience, I ask again, "Who buys these things?" (Besides my father-in-law...)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Guess Who?

Climbed every stair to our second story?


And, guess who keeps getting harder and harder to wrestle into a diaper?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I am ONE!


Happy Birthday, Grant! You are an endless blessing to your Daddy and your Mommy. We love you tons upon tons upon tons.

Here's a TOP TEN recap in numbers (Jan 13, 2007--Jan 13, 2008):

1. States of the union I've been to: seven (Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, California.

2. Number of minivans purchased because of me: 1

3. Number of stairs I can climb: 2

4. Number of pounds I've gained in a year: 18

5. Number of times I have burped in a public place as to cause a disturbance: 1

6. Number of teeth I have: 6

7. Number of times my parents considered throwing a battery operated toy against the wall: 57

8. Number of times the nursery workers at church commented on my drooling on every toy (Freud was right about that oral stage thingy): 5

9. Number of times I have vomited all over a very nice stranger-lady: 1

10. Number of kisses and "I love yous" I get in a year: countless





His favorite part: everyone singing to him. He was less sure about the cake. A great first birthday!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Almost, Almost 1

video



Here is Grant looking supa' fly in some of his duds. He is a hunk of burnin' love!! We'll post birthday mayhem (and Grant's impression of a snake) this weekend.







Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Almost 1

In honor of Grant's upcoming birthday, here is a look at where it all began (if they look familiar, it's just because both were part of his birth announcement... you're not going crazy).







video

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Funny Boy

Here's a quick conversation with the world's best baby.

He does his "strong boy" impression just a bit. He bulges his eyes, tenses his body, and stops breathing. Pretty cute.

He's a gem.
video

Monday, January 07, 2008

Evil Shoes

You know what really gets under my skin these days? Those shoes that all kids under 13 now seem to own that have the wheels in the soles. Actually, it's not so much the shoes themselves, it's more the little monsters wearing them. Or perhaps their parents.

The other day I was in Target, and a kid rolled up to me at high speed and screetched to a halt just before he bowled me over. He then looked up at me with a look that suggested "Dude, you are totally in my way. Walking is for suckers."

I think the shoes are an interesting idea. A novelty. But I am starting to have a real problem with parents who let their kids sail around grocery stores and shopping malls on the transportive equivalent of roller skates. And it seems that every kid that nearly runs over me while wearing these things has a sort of "using your legs is SO 1990's" attitude. Snotty little rugrats. They seem to have the attitude that somehow God has gifted these special wheels to them, and now the rest of the non-wheeled Sneetches are to get out of their way when they come blazing through.

I'm not buying it. I'm going to start carrying a jug of tar around like Wyle E. Coyote. And I'm going to say to the first kid that falls prey to my goo-based retribution, "Dude, learn how to walk like the rest of us."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

a first, a second and a fourth

a first:
Grant decided on January 1 to start the year off with a new trick: sitting up. He can now crawl and sit up all by himself. This new skill, of course, is being quickly followed by pulling up. Our baby is becoming a boy.

a second:
Congrats to my dear, dear friends Craig and Sarah Crook. Sarah was my roomie, my maid-of-honor and my all around best bud, and she and Craig welcomed their second daughter into the world: Kathryn Eleanor Crook. Bret and I went up to Fort Wayne today to visit, and she's just beautiful. She shares a birthday with her sister, Elizabeth, who just turned 2. The Crook home now has four kids, two parents, and one MASSIVE dog. I love you guys.

a fourth:
The first time I broke my nose, I was in high school in my best friend's backyard on a trampoline. She made that back flip look so easy. The second time I was trying to snag a rebound, but Tamika Dennis, an All American high jumper who went on to set Pac 10 records in track and field, was soaring above me, and I took an elbow to the nose. Blood gushed all over my jersey. We won that game. The third time I was in college, again playing basketball with players out of my league. This time, my son, my darling BABY son, gave me a stiff head-butt (an accident, of course). Crack! Maybe it's because I am older, but this one REALLY hurt. Still does. He really hit me hard (tears--on my part--immediately), but he didn't even whine. Ah, the life of a mother of a soon to be toddler (can I hold out a few more weeks to the dream that he's a baby?)!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Then and Now

Thanks to Lissa at Loving Lydia for another easy and reflective FFFF challenge: Then and Now.

Here is the world's cutest baby!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

How can it possibly be 2008?

It's been a quiet couple of days around here--shopping, cleaning, grading. Bret is back to work, but I don't have to return until next Monday. Vacation has been dreamy.

Here's a little slice of life from the last few days. It sure wasn't filmed with the intent of putting it on the blog (as I sing multiple times and Bret and I discuss Grant passing gas), but it is a realistic portrayal of Hawkins family life.

This video started because Grant has started to do impersonations. He does (though he doesn't do it (really) once in the whole video) what we call his "strong boy" impersonation. He grunts, bulges his eyes way out, and tenses up his whole upper body. It's hilarious. We'll try to catch it on film at some point (maybe when he's not so tired).


video
Here's another clip of an unfortunate accident. I put this up only as proof that Grant really never cries. My mom still swears she has never seen a tear. He fusses, that's for sure, but it never amounts to a cry. So, this video looks worse than it actually was, but you still get the idea. I swear he doesn't feel pain. He's my boy's boy baby.

video