Sunday, November 30, 2008

Right Now

"Right now" is one of Grant's new phrases. Yesterday, we were leaving the hotel when Grant started screaming and crying (a full blown tantrum) because he "wanted Christmas right now!" "Right now" is my least favorite phrase in the English language. It takes all of his needs (and mostly wants) and elevates them (or at least he thinks it should) to priority numero uno. So you can expect our reflections and pictures from the holiday weekend, but you're not going to get them "right now." Welcome, as I say to Grant, to "Mommy time."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

From our home to yours: with talk about trains, Oprah, Jesus, and his teachers (Miss Carla and Leigh.

We are thankful for so many things this year--for family and friends, for a God who loves us, and for our little family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Ask

Nothing says "current fashion" like the naked hat look. Is it all the rage where you live?

Monday, November 24, 2008

I can't keep up

Grant isn't talking in just words anymore, so it's impossible to keep up the chronicling of all the things he says. He still, though, amazes me with some of the words he uses. For example, today he saw the very first picture of the three of us (taken day 2 of Grant's life). Grant's response: "that's us in the hospital." Hospital? Where did he get that? Or today, I asked him if he wanted milk or water for dinner. His response: "No, I want a Diet Coke." He's never had a Diet Coke, but I guess he's willing to try.

Grant recognizes his name when spelled on paper or spelled aloud for him. He then pretends to spell words. He says: "I-W-E-M; that spells Daddy." Then he shakes his head, looking down and goes: "Oh me." I think that's one you've got to see, but while not funny to you, I just had to get it down so I'll never forget it.

I counted today, and he Grant knows the names (and can identify) 19 of the Thomas the Tank Engine characters. For those of you without a toddler boy in the house, I guess you're wondering how there can be so many of those blasted trains, but let me tell you, there are many more, and Grant is bent on learning every single one by name. I bought him a Thomas book the other day at Half Price Books (my favorite store ever), and he already can repeat entire lines out of the book: "Gordon is a big, strong engine." It's too cute.

Grant also has figured out stop signs, and every time we pass one (which is quite a bit, you know), he tells me, "stop, Mommy, stop; there's a stop sign."

The scariest of all, though, happened tonight as Bret was flipping on the TV. Bret went to the main Tivo page (I'd give up a lot of things before I'd give up my Tivo). On it, there's a main menu, and at the bottom of the screen, it read: "Order Pizza through Tivo at Dominos." It had the Dominos Pizza emblem.
Grant walked up and pointed to it and said, "Pizza, Mommy." I asked him to point to it again because I just wasn't sure he knew what he was talking about, but sure enough. Scary.

By the way, we have ordered pizza through Tivo--just in case you were wondering.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Sorry, but a nasty, nasty bug has us feeling under the weather... really, really under the weather. We'll be up and running soon. Okay, we'll up, at least; running--who are we kidding?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Easy and Good

I love to cook and to bake. But, to be honest, I don't really have the time in a given work week to make standout meals. Sure, I can boil some pasta, bake some chicken or toss up a salad, but the cooking I'd like to do often has to wait for special occasions. So, I've decided to start a new post, and any faithful reader out there is highly encouraged to participate.

I'm going to provide a recipe (from time to time) that is a winner. But, here's the catch: it has to be super, super simple, the kind of recipe you make, but then as people compliment it, you almost feel guilty because it was so easy. There will be no food processors, very few dishes, and lots of smiles. I share these recipes, and so will you, with the assumption that the owner gets dibs. If we're going to be at a party together, you don't get to make my dip, or my soup, or my pasta. You can make it in your home, share it with your friends, but when our lives intersect, I call dibs.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(and I don't even like Buffalo Sauce)

1 block cream cheese cut into cubes
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup buffalo sauce
1 cup cooked chicken (I used precooked chicken from Costco)

Put in microwave safe bowl, and cook for 5-6 minutes (until cheese melts), stopping very often to stir. Serve with Frito chips, crackers, celery sticks, etc.

What about you? Do you have a recipe to share? If you do, just type it up in your blog, and I'll link to you!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Sixth Sense

The other day, Grant visited the local nursing home with my parents. Grant loves to go hang out with the people there, and it doesn't hurt that the nursing home has a cool aquarium or a huge cage of birds. Grant is very sweet with the residents, giving them hugs and pats on the leg. We tell him before he goes that we're going to "go see the old people who are very lonely and need lots of love." He translates that with his big heart to mean leg pats and hugs and lots of jabbering, which I think is a pretty fair translation.

This last week, the story goes that Grant added a new skill to his visit. I guess he ran up and down the halls, pointing at the people in their wheelchairs, yelling, "I see old people. NeNe, I see old people."

Luckily, I don't think the residents cared... or for that matter, heard.

In other news, yes, Bret is back, as we have failed to blog, and Grant and I are happy he's home. Bret caught an earlier connection out of Newark, so he made it home before Grant went to bed. When I realized Bret would be home before bedtime, I made the mistake of telling Grant that Daddy had a present for him. While he's grasped the "how to be nice to old and lonely people" ability, he still doesn't get the whole "it's better to give than receive" idea. He spent the next TWO hours whining about wanting his present. When Bret got home, Grant sprinted to see him, threw his arms around his neck, and screamed, "Daddy." One hug and one breath later, and Grant said, "present for Grant?"

At least he says thank you, I guess; sometimes, he even says it without prompting.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Headin' Home

It's Tuesday morning here in Shenzhen, and I'm due to fly back to the U.S. tomorrow morning. This is always a good day at work. You get up, have breakfast, checkout of the hotel, go to work, go to lunch, come back for an hour or two, and then head for Hong Kong for the final evening.

This has been my second good trip to China in a row. I got a TON of work done, ate a lot of great food, and probably most importantly, I'm leaving with more friends than when I arrived last week. I can hear the nervousness in Erin's voice when I tell her each night how well things are going, as she assumes this to mean, "Oh great, more trips."

I've tried to convince her that this is a GOOD thing. If I'm going to have to come over here, I might as well enjoy it, and these last two trips have been pretty enjoyable. Plus hopefully she knows that while I have enjoyed my time here in China, I'd always...ALWAYS...rather be home with her and Grant.

Yesterday I took a brief trip up to our factory in Huizhou. Huizhou is a small city of a million people just a couple of hours north of Shenzhen. It was nice to see a little more of the countryside.

I went with a colleague who I've known for a couple of years named Alex. We also were accompanied by a new colleague named George who is moving into the role previously held by Alex. Both guys are in their late 20's and are very personable. Alex is getting married this week, so I've been telling him what a wonderful experience that has been for me. He's concerned because his new wife is a big shopper, apparently. Since I can't get Erin to buy new ANYTHING, I can't really relate, but alas.

When we arrived at the factory, Alex bailed out for a meeting, so George and I had to hunt around for lunch. George had never been to Huizhou either, so this turned into an experience. Luckily we found a place serving the cuisine of northwest China, and it turned out to be excellent. Here's a pic from lunch:

In the back, you can see fried chicken. This is then dipped in spices as you eat it and was quite tasty. On the left side you can see what are basically like tortillas, then you put the beef and vegetables on the right side in the tortilla, and it's very similar to a fajita in the U.S.

Back by the chicken you can see a bowl which contained some sort of pudding that was in little cubes. It didn't have a lot of taste, so I only tried a few bites. The final item closest to the camera was a bowl containing tofu and duck's eggs. The eggs were hard boiled and then placed in some kind of gel. It tasted better than it sounds, but it definitely took a little getting used to. George informed me that this dish is very special in China.

After lunch, we toured our factory. Here's a shot of the inside. It looked just about like every other factory I've been in:

In front of the factory was a large apartment building with many restaurants in the bottom floor. Apparently this building is over half occupied by people from our factory alone.

After the tour of the factory, we returned to Shenzhen where I had the rest of the evening to get packed up for my return home. I'll be arriving to a new airport terminal in Indy, which I suspect will feel a little bit surreal. Hopefully my luggage doesn't end up in the old terminal.

Gremlins, House Elves, or Toddlers?

Can someone explain how a contraband box of Halloween candy (Charleston Chews... what are those anyway?) ended up empty in my bathroom sink? Or how a piece of petrified chicken nugget ended up at the bottom of my Ugg boot? Or how several finger puppets ended up in my purse?

I think I know who is to blame.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Window of the World

After two days of using it to get around, I've now decided that perhaps the Shenzhen city bus is my favorite mode of transportation here. You can ride all the way across town for $1 US, or you can cruise around the local Nanshan district here for under $0.25 US. If you can stand the occasional crowd and small seats, it works wonders.

This morning I hopped the 113 to Window of the World, Shenzhen's premier tourist attraction. In a city developed entirely in the last 30 years, there are few historic sites. Therefore Shenzhen has built several interesting theme parks to keep the crowds entertained.

I won't be able to do the park justice, but Window on the World features miniature versions of dozens of world landmarks. The scale is inconsistent, so you spend all day towering over some things, and gazing up at others, but the place as a whole is a hoot.

Here is a woman attempting to sit on Angor Wat, one of Cambodia's finest historic sites:

The Taj Mahal:

The Sydney Opera House:

And Niagara Falls (doubling as a drain for the toilets, no doubt):

The whole things was fascinating. I even took the plunge and ventured to the top of the 1/3 scale Eiffel Tower, which can be seen for miles. Here's a view of Shenzhen from above:

Interestingly, the Manhattan skyline still featured the WTC, so it is apparently in the process of being redone in another location in the park. They're also adding the Golden Gate bridge and numerous other attractions.

My picture didn't turn out, but they also have an indoor ski center. It was short, steep, and featured some sort of icy frozen substance. People were careening down it at high speed. I considered making a few runs, but decided that without having mapped out the location of the nearest ER, I'd better pass. Overall though, this was a delightful, if not rather bizarre, experience.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fairy Lake

No, really. My butt just doesn't cut it. I look at other people, and when they sit down, they have at least a little bit of padding. Not me. I've been told I got it from my dad. Who knows. All I know is that I spent an hour and a half (each way!) traveling to the Fairy Lake Botanical Garden on a Shenzhen city bus today, and I felt every bump on my little plastic seat. Those buses don't even brake for speed bumps or bodies, and I know I lost at least a little bit of bone on the ride out there. The whole way I kept thinking, "Hmm...If I could get some kind of 'gut-to-buttectomy' I'd be a happier man right now."

In any case, the botanical garden was a lovely experience. It was sort of like a giant state park, complete with trails, a fairy lake, lots of Chinese people, and one out of place Hoosier dude. I'm quite sure that I was the only westerner in the park today. It was a beautiful day to hike around -- right around 72 degrees with a steady breeze. Since the park is located up in the hills, it doesn't feel nearly as claustraphobic as the rest of Shenzhen. Today was one of those days where despite REALLY wanting to be with Erin & Grant at Chuck E. Cheese, my job didn't feel quite so bad.

Tomorrow I'm headed over to Window of the World. It should be equally entertaining.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Banner Afternoon

Mama's had a bit of a stressful week without Daddy, so when Grant woke up this afternoon happy as could be, I made a rash decision. We changed and packed up in ten minutes, and we loaded into the minivan. After a long walk along the White River, we ended up going to the Indiana State Museum (I have a free Educator's pass, and Grant qualifies for the glorious "2 and under" free category).

The museum provided lots of space to run around, but except for the Woolly Mammoth and its remains and the old steam engine, Grant cared more about the elevator buttons and the other kids than he did the museum. You can't blame him; the entire third floor was an exhibit on the history of the Girl Scouts. There was a cool canoe, but on the whole, he couldn't care less about those green sashed do-gooders (well, except for those cookies that come each spring).

Then, just to exhaust him further, Grant and Mommy had a date at Chuck E Cheese. Yep, I said it. I paid my twenty bucks, got a salad and a pizza, and loaded up a cup of gold tokens. But, this is what I realized. Chuck E Cheese might be a parent's best friend. Had Bret been there, we could have had an entire uninterrupted conversation, as Grant ate pizza and watched that dancing mouse. He watched the kids, the TVs, and even danced in his high chair. He loved every single second of it. He didn't care if I talked to him, helped him eat or even looked his direction. I could have read several chapters of a book. See, you think it's going to be terrible, but truth be told, it'd be nice to have a conversation with my husband without having to draw a happy face, cut up apple slices, or pick up chunks of chow off the floor.

Grant LOVED the guy dressed up as Chuck E (is that right...? It just feels wrong), and he didn't need any tokens, as he just enjoyed climbing up into the cars and pretending to drive. There was one "game" (I say that hesitantly as there was no real way to win or even to compete, but it still gave you tickets) where Grant got to push a lever and watch a train go round and round for 35 seconds (it actually counts down for you like it's a pop-a-shot game). It doesn't do anything else, and there's no real point, but Grant loved it, and I guess that's all that matters.

We ended the evening with a quick run to Grandma's (NeNe in Grant speak) church to hang out with some people with special needs. Grant had a good time playng basketball, eating ice cream, and charming everybody. But now, thankfully, he's snoozing in bed, and Mama isn't far behind.

Some pics from our outing:
Cousin Kate bought him these supa' fly glasses a long, long time ago, but he's just started wearing them (as opposed to throwing them, biting them, or trying to bend them like a gumby doll).

Nothing says "a fun afternoon" like a wigwam.

Notice that both buttons have been pushed, and don't think that I haven't heard "is everything all right in there?" once or twice from INSIDE the elevator. "No, I am so sorry; my son just hit the alarm button."

I thought he was scary, but Grant seemed to love the large mouse. Can anyone say trip to DisneyWorld? There's an even friendlier mouse there, Daddy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I can't feel my underwear

I've been in China for going on two days, and I still cannot feel my rear end after sitting on the plane for the 16 hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong. I'm not kidding. Every morning I wake up, roll over and think, "Can I feel the sheets? Nope."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Talking Up a Storm

This video cracks me up because it's so random. Sorry for the bad camera work, but I was holding the camera, talking, and trying to deal with an all-too-mobile toddler.

A couple of cute things to notice: further discussion of his birthmom, which makes me happy. His reference to God (who was Grant's final decision for president). I asked Grant tonight: "Grant, who is going to be the new president." His answer: God. That's deep. I think it comes from his first memorized Bible verse: "God is light" found in 1 John 1:5. He says it all the time now, and it just melts my heart. But, if you wait until the end of the video, you'll notice that God does have his place... and in Grant's world, it's pretty close to cheese. I think cheese is pretty darn important too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I showed up to vote, like I always do, at 5:50 in the morning. Several times, I have been the first voter in my district. With all the media hype, I thought I might be about 20 (dare I say, 30) people back, but nothing prepared me for the HUNDREDS of people in front of me.

I think voting, no matter your candidate of choice, is so important, so I was really excited, but as excited as I was, I was under-prepared for the frigid temps in my flip flops.

I love election night, but with Bret boarding a plane for China as I type this, I will be by myself tonight. But, don't worry. I am planning my own Election Night party complete with a sleeping toddler, leftovers and a bottle of wine. I'm going to watch those California (shout out to the mothership home state) come in, even if it takes until the wee hours of the morning.

Like Mommy, Grant is really into the election too. He identifies Barak Obama (which he says perfectly) and "Cain" (which he doesn't say perfectly) every time either is on the TV (which is a lot). But, when I ask him who he is voting for in the election, I get one of two results (clearly, he is an independent, bi-partisan voter who waits for all the info to come in before he casts his ballot): NeNe (my mom) or, as of late, birfmama (birthmama). He's been talking a lot about his birthmama, as we call her, lately, and I think he might be on to something. In the end, she'd be a great choice for president.

We'll see if she gets enough write-in votes to be a contender.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Piano Man

Grant loves to sing, but getting a complete song that can actually be understood has been a long time coming. Here's a quick video (so many more cute ones to come in the next week) of him playing the piano (he likes the accompaniment) singing his version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." See if you can follow along at home.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pumpkins, Candy, and Grandparents, Oh My

Well, Grant had a great second Halloween. He loves candy now, especially M & Ms and Skittles. He could care less about candy bars, but suckers are high on his list of great things in the world. But more than all of it--more than the costumes, the candy, the neighbors--Grant loved to pass out candy... especially with his Papoo (that's my Dad in Grant speak). Grant had all four grandparents over, so it was pure attention bliss.

Here are a few photos from the evening. I even used a slr camera in hopes of getting some decent pics, but Grant is constantly on the move, and just getting him to look at the camera is hard enough.