Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009

As Christmas came and went, we were reminded--yet again--of Grace's absence. Every year, we assume "this will be our last Christmas without her," but every year, we have to eat those words.

And, I'd like to say that we've learned our lesson. I'd like to report that this year we have no plans of making such declarations. But, then, I'd be lying. It has to be our year.

There are now just 14 "numbers" in front of us. (For those familiar, we have a LID date of March 15, 2006 and LIDs have been matched through Feb 28, 2006). Again, just imagine being at the DMV (BMV in Hoosier speak), and you are waiting for that little dotted number machine to get to your number. When you walked in and took one of those pronged tickets, there were hundreds and hundreds of numbers ahead of you. Now, as you sit in that uncomfortable chair, there are only 14 numbers in front of you. Now, just imagine--that instead of being called up to "renew your license"--you are being called up to pick up your baby girl, a baby you have dreamed about, prayed over, and have waited anxiously for--for what seems like forever.

It would seem, with 14 numbers to go, that 2009 would be our year. Each month, the Chinese agency in charge calls a set of numbers; sometimes, two numbers are called; sometimes, seven. So, if we do the math, it just has to be our year, right? There is a website, with lots of mathy stuff on it, and it predicts our referral will come in March or April. That would be wonderful. I, personally, think we're going to have to wait until June or July, but I'd gladly be wrong (well, wrong in favor of sooner... not later).

Here's what we can expect as we get closer to the date:

1. There will come a point where we "might" be next. We will wait for a whole month, right on the edge of our seats, hoping the Chinese peeps in charge of this process call a few extra numbers.

2. There will come a point where we get THE phone call from our agency telling us that we have been matched; at that time, we'll get some quick information about Grace: age, height, weight, Chinese name, etc. We'll also find out whether Grace has been raised in an orphanage or in foster care. We hope and pray she's been raised in foster care, but we're prepped for the potential issues that come when a child is raised in an institutional environment.

3. We'll accept the match (duh!), and our agency will overnight a package complete with a full medical history, information about her eating and sleeping habits, information about likes and dislikes, and best of all, her pictures.

4. We'll have 6-8 weeks to prep for travel. Since we are not first time parents and because Bret travels to China frequently, we are not remotely stressed about what to pack or what we'll need. The biggest decision we'll have to make at this point is whether or not we will be taking Grant. We are still unsure.

5. Then, we'll travel to China, have a few days to acclimate, and then, on about day 3 of our 14 day trip, we'll get Grace. She'll be legally ours from that moment on...

6. When we touch down in the United States, most likely in Detroit or Atlanta, and her little foot touches U.S. soil, she'll be an official U.S. citizen.

We can hardly wait to see what 2009 will bring. Grant talks about Grace all the time, as he often wants to play in "Gracie's room." I guess I can't blame him. The poor kid has been sleeping in the orange (yes, I said, orange) remains of Bret's former office and media room. The little guy has had an REM poster hanging over his bed for a few months. Today, as I paint (well, prime and paint--it was orange after all) Grant's room, it becomes even clearer that the crib in the other room is for Grace. The bows that are stacking up are for Grace. The few Christmas presents she received were most obviously for her (pink and polka dot). There's always been a space in our hearts for Grace, but today, there's a space in our home too.

Come on home, Grace. We're waiting for you baby girl.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Post-Christmas Takeaway

Here it is, the Monday after Christmas. I'm back at work here in engineering central with one other poor schmuck who's out of vacation days. The upside is that I can listen to my iPod at full volume without the dude in the cube next to me donning gay apparel in protest (in this case, ear protectors designed for military use).

Grant has not recovered as successfully from Christmas as we had hoped. On Christmas day, Erin and I waited until he went to sleep, then we pulled the tree and all offending decorations down, stuffed them back in boxes, dragged them out to the garage and began pretending that Christmas never happened. We figured we had to let Grant know that this was a very special occasion, not soon to be repeated.

Our success was very limited. He immediately began asking to "do the ad caventer" (Grant-speak for "Advent Calendar.") He also informed us on a minute-by-minute basis that he wanted to "do more presents." Oy.

To make matters worse, our house now looks like a Fisher-Price outlet, and I can't walk down the stairs without embedding a small metal car or army man in the most tender portion of my foot. And don't get me started on the trains. I'm about to inform the Israeli air force that the Island of Sodor is housing a large number of Hamas militants.

I, on the other hand, received nothing from the sheds of Sir Topham Hatt for Christmas. I received a new wardrobe of shirts, a six pack of Goose Island ale, a very nice set of earphones for use on my frequent airplane rides, and a GPS to play with in the car.

As we enter 2009, Erin and I are starting a new commitment to trying to live more carefully within a budget. What this really means is Erin is no longer going to turn a blind eye to my unfettered spending. With this in mind, I decided to join eMusic for the coming year's music needs.

This is a sharp change of tone from my past stance on electronically dissiminated music. In the past, I've been a fan of having the whole package -- the CD, the artwork, the little plastic shell that's already cracked. But now, as we stare at the dual realities of being in our house for far longer than we originally intended and the need to not spend more than $10 per album purchased, I've decided that buying my music electronically is not such a bad option.

So I've signed up for a year subscription to eMusic. This will let me acquire the majority of the music I like for a couple of bucks per album, and I'll be able to fill in the albums they don't carry via iTunes or Amazon. I had a short-lived trial subscription to eMusic seven (!) years ago, but I cancelled it because they only had approximately six albums available, and three of them were by Little Richard. These days, they have the entire catalogs of Merge and Matador Records, so I can probably fill my monthly quota with those two labels alone.

Last night, I snagged the following albums for my first post-Christmas tunes (and to play catchup on some stuff I should have already purchased):

Vampire Weekend - s/t
Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
She & Him - Volume One
Arcade Fire - Funeral

In an effort to keep Erin from dreading the next car trip, I've purposefully avoided purchasing (for the time being) any new albums whose reviews include the words "shrill," "feedback," "shards," or "searing." Those can wait until after Valentine's Day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas


We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. We're are so grateful for you, our friends and our family, so thankful that God loves us so much that He gives us gifts beyond measure or belief, and so thankful for our little family.

We're excited to be home this morning, and we can hardly wait for Grant to wake up. Look what is waiting for him downstairs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A student of mine asked if I wanted her brother's old train stuff (he's now 14). Yes, dear student, yes.


We'll post pictures and such when we catch our breath.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm Dreaming...

...of a white Christmas.

We'll fill you in on the Ornament Exchange 2008, three Christmas celebrations, the food (no doubt, Bret's entry), trips to the zoo (and trainland!), and much, much more.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Easiest Cookie Ever

I stole this "recipe" (as there are only two ingredients, I'm not sure it counts as a recipe) from this blogger, and while I just love to bake, there are times when you're in a pinch, and these cookies are a go-to in these situations: like when your husband tells you about pitch-ins at work at 11 pm the night before, or, surprise, you're up for snacks at preschool, or, "wow, I expected that homemade biscotti to fill up that Christmas tin... now what do I do?"

Peanut Butter Dreams
150 calories or 3 points each on Weight Watchers

Preheat oven to 350.
Really Grease mini-muffin tins (Pam or whatever).
Scoop premade peanut butter cookie dough (in a tube in grocery store) into tins.
Bake 8-10 minutes.
While baking, unwrap mini Reeces Peanut Butter cups; do not wait.
After removing from oven, press cups into the soft cookies shell.
Let cool completely and remove.

These are great kid cookies, in that kids can help. Grant even likes to unwrap the Reeces cups (for about 1 minute... and I do end up with gold foil flecks all over the floor). Also, there are at least two cup removing casualties per batch, so it makes for good eating while you're working. There is one key, though, so be warned: do not overfill the tins with cookie dough... you just want the dough in a ball about half way up the side of the tin (that took some practice).

I've been encouraged by a friend (hi, Alison) to put up some healthier recipes, and I'll try... maybe.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Laundry Skillz

I do all of the laundry in our house. Erin bathes, feeds, and provides Grant with the skills necessary for him to become an acceptable, even productive, member of society. I do the laundry.

In this capacity in our household, I have learned to deal with several, shall we say in such a way as to not sleep on the couch this evening, quirks peculiar to Erin in this regard.

First, all of Erin's clothes are black. All of them. She has blue jeans, but they're dark. She has a stray pink or yellow T-shirt, but they're badly worn at this point in an effort, no doubt, to ensure that they are soon replaced by similar black options. At times, I feel like I'm doing laundry for Morticia Addams or Johnny Cash. If Erin removes her shoes and walks across our family room floor, it ends up covered in little black pills from her black socks. Our carpet ends up looking like raisin toast. I have encouraged her to vary up her color selections, but as a male engineer, my words carry little weight.

Second, Erin never unbuttons anything at the end of the day. She really is ridiculously flexible (which irritates me no end because I can't get off the commode without pulling a muscle). When she comes home from work and decides to change into her home garb, she goes through a series of gesticulations and convolutions, waving her arms and legs about in what looks to the rest of us like some sort of Houdini escape act, until all of her clothes are in a heap at her feet -- not a single button or zipper dislodged. It's truly an amazing feat. Perhaps someone in our family can ask her to give a demo after Christmas dinner.

Third (and most astounding to me) is that after my dear, sweet wife removes her, uh, underpants (as we say in the holler), they end up looking like a silk or cotton baton. I don't get this at all. At the bottom of every hamper is a little pile of what looks like baby blue or light pink fruit rollups. They don't even look like underwear anymore. They're just a little wad of completely rolled up fabric. I have to pin one end of them down and spend ten minutes unrolling them like a Biblical scroll before I throw them in the wash. I've tried to make my underwear do the same thing, but I cannot. I've pulled them off real fast. Nada. I've pulled them off slowly. Nothing. I go to the gym, sweat for an hour (or perhaps 12 minutes) then yank them off as I hit the shower. No go. I have no idea how she makes her shorts do this, and I guess I'll never know. (Especially since I have a strange feeling that after this blog, I may never see her underwear ever again.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Class of 1993

Yesterday, one of my best friends from high school left a comment on this blog with a link to her blog, and in one amazing cyber-minute, we were reconnected. How did we conduct life back then in Elk Grove, California in 1993?

Endre (yes, that's her name. She has spent a life time spelling it for people, defending it to others, and wearing it proud... and I don't blame her) is now married with three kids (figures), is still gorgeous (figures), and thin (figures), is in to yoga (figures), reads really great books (figures), is still full of sass and spunk (figures), and is really, really, really funny (figures).

It's validating to reconnect with old high school friends. It's validating to know that I picked good ones. No, seriously. High school wasn't exactly my shining moment (I'm still waiting for that, by the way), so it's good to know that despite my freakish height, total insecurity, loud mouth, and bravado ways, I had cool friends who were good people... well, not just good. Smart and funny too.

Endre has a blog of her own (Rants in My Pants) which is laugh out loud funny. No really, I laugh out loud with every single post. So, when you look to our friends and family section, you'll see my new and old friend Endre, a most important and humorous edition to the site.

Our Morning Breakfast

Here's a long, long interview with Grant, mostly about trains (as that is what we talk about most). It's really only for time-honored fans! I'm trying like mad to get a video of Grant singing some Christmas songs (or his version of Christmas songs which usually only includes about the first four lines), but this will have to do for now. There is talk about that mysterious penguin who lives in his ear... and plenty of talk about trains. He does mention Kai, as he calls her, which is JaKai, his birthsister we just visited with last week. It was a great visit with his birthmom and two sisters! It's such a joy seeing them, and Grant loves them tons and tons. Other conversations include Africa, school and his breakfast of choice. It's fun times in the Hawkins' home.

video

Grant does love his youtube songs, and if you have kids, they're nice: green anaconda, the umbrella bird, the iguana, mr. rhino, etc. He loves them, and if you have tivo, you can pull them up via the TV... nice touch.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Just so You Know...

...if your new personal trainer asks you where you are sore, it's a trick question. If you answer honestly, pointing to various muscle groups, but then admit that--while tired--your legs are not sore, she will do really mean, mean things to your legs. I made it home, but as I climbed my own stairs to the shower, I had to alternate lead legs just to get up the stairs. And don't think for a moment that I didn't put my hands on my knees for added propulsion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All Kinds of Fun


He loves it for about 1 minute at a time... but it's got to stay in the middle of the kitchen floor because those 1 minutes come along all throughout the day. He's getting so big.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Can't Get the Soap Out of My Hair

Today, I did a very dumb thing. Sure, for some people, it might be a step in the right direction, but for me, it was dumb. Very dumb.

This morning, I rolled out of bed, put on my shoes, headed to the gym, and--here it is, the dumb, dumb, dumb thing I did--hired my fat butt a personal trainer. She was small (go figure), cheerful for the 5 am shift (go figure), and she seemed relatively nice.

Looks can be deceiving. She was mean. Really mean. I thought we might tour the gym, drink coffee (really needed) and talk about my goals; I thought we might even lift a few weights, if we had time.

No such luck.

She's a tricky one... that little sprite of a personal trainer. I would think we were done, and then I'd hear dreaded phrases like this: "Hold it, for just ten seconds," "Now, let's do pulses of that," and my least favorite: "Now, let's turn that stretch into something else."

I don't want to turn that stretch into something else. The only athletic ability I have is flexibility, so I want to sit my tired rear down on the mat and touch my toes. It makes me feel good about myself. I don't want to stretch AND do a squat or a crunch at the same time. And, if I hear one more word about my "core," I'm going to go after that little-fleece-and-athletic-pant-wearing-wonder. I don't have a core, and if I do, it's buried. Really buried. So, let's just leave it alone for a bit, okay?

Needless to say, I made it home this morning, and somehow, I had enough energy left to turn the knob to the shower. Unfortunately, I realized as I tried to lift my arms to both put in and rinse out the shampoo, I was already sore.

I'm going to see this Melissa, as she calls herself, on Monday and Friday mornings. Nothing says fun like "I don't think there's enough weight on that one" or "don't forget to breathe" or "tighten up that core."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another Recipe Winner

Are you ready for the easiest way to get rid of leftovers? This idea shouldn't even be legal.

Here it is: refrigerated pizza dough. Now, say with me.

Buy a tube of refrigerated pizza dough. Cut it into matching rectangles (I cut it into four, but if you have small kids, you can cut the dough into smaller rectangles.). Every rectangle needs a partner (a bottom rectangle and a top rectangle).

Fill it with stuff. I'll come back to this point. Seal up the dough, bake at 350 for 14 minutes. Serve with salad and soup.

Okay, so it's nothing more than a glorified hot pocket, but it's dreamy easy and dreamy good. My first venture included cheese, ham slices and ranch dressing. Presto: a hot ham and cheese hot pocket. But don't worry; I've got tons of ideas. Any meat leftover works (spagetti meat sauce, chicken curry (recipe to come... if you can handle the heat), sloppy joe mix (or what Hoosiers call--wait for it California people--Spanish hamburger), beef strogonoff sauce). All you need to do is add a binder: a cheese, for example. You can stuff them with veggies, roasted peppers, lunch meat, pepperonis.

It's as easy as can be. Bret loves them, and they even reheat okay. Next installment: the easiest cookies ever.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Little Guy

Today, after picking up Grant from his little Thursday morning pre-school class, we had the following conversation:

Grant: (complaining) I dropped my manifying (magnifying) glass. Mommy get it.
Mommy: I can't get it, Grant. Mommy's driving. (much wailing [from Grant, of course].)
Mommy: (after a bit) Grant, what were you looking at with your magnifying glass?
Grant: Angels.
Mommy: Oh, where do angels live?
Grant: In Africa.
Mommy: Oh.
Grant: (a stop sign later) I see a penguin.
Mommy: Where?
Grant: Over there.
Mommy: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo (Grant laughs; this "I see a _________ over there" is his current form of joke telling).
Grant: Now the penguin is in my ear.
Mommy: You have a penguin living in your ear?
Grant: No, now he lives in Africa.

It all makes sense now.

Here's a video from the wedding. I know it's dark, but here's a little sneak peek at Grant dancing it up at Bret's cousin's wedding. Too cute!


video

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Holiday Wrapup

OK, so let's see. On Thursday, we ate a lot of food with Erin's parents out at the Kopper Kettle. On Friday, we drove to Bedford and saw a bunch of people I'm related to, as well as their offspring. Grant played with some trains and some cousins, and I got to catch up on the latest game of "Pin the Tail on the Hillbilly" courtesy of the Police Log in the Bedford Times-Mail. On Friday night we drove from Bedford to Louisville, with a brief stop at 10pm at a Taco Bell in Salem, Indiana in an effort to make Grant stop screaming, "I want a quesadilla!" No kidding. What 23 month old child says "quesadilla?" It's ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous that we actually stopped. As I tossed his second dinner to him in the back seat, I half expected, "Where's the hot sauce, pops?" to come out of his mouth.

On Saturday morning, we awakened to a lovely day in Louisville and a 10 hour break before my cousin Nicole's wedding. While Erin and Grant slept, I checked work email and staked out a breakfast haunt called Toast on Market. It got rave reviews online, and it was close to our hotel. We headed that direction at 9am, and when we arrived, we knew we'd hit a gem. I ordered a pretty standard omelette that was wonderfully prepared, while Erin ordered an item on the menu called "The King." The King was french toast stuffed with peanut butter, bananas, and mascarpone cheese. Sound too rich and heavy to be edible? I agree. But it tasted unbelieveable. It really might be the best piece of breakfast food either of us has ever eaten. Erin let me have a few bites of it, and if Grant hadn't been getting antsy to head back into the outside world, I might have been inclined to order a second breakfast. It was amazing.

After Toast, we headed back out to an antique store we'd passed up the street on the way to breakfast. Joe Ley Antiques turned out to be an adventure in itself. They had five or six floors of antiques, and nearly all of it held some sort of interest for Erin and I. It was fascinating. Everything from old furniture to architectural salvage stuff like doors and window frames to old signs to old instruments to gently used caskets. It was a hoot. We turned one corner and found ourselves in front of a case full of old toy trains. Grant literally put his hands on his knees and yelled, "OH...MY...GOSH!" After briefly trying to encourage him in the use of the word "goodness," we let him bask in the glow of the antique toy trains. He pocketed a toy caboose for home and made nary a peep for the rest of the morning.

Already noting that the morning had turned out to be an unexpected joy, we made a brief stop in Jeffersonville at the Schimpff's Confectionary. Grant was, again, spellbound by the all of the different kinds of candy and the art of making candycanes. In the end, he declared that he wanted Chicken McNuggets for lunch, so we made the obligatory stop at McDonald's.

On Saturday evening, my cousin Nicole got married in Louisville, and I got to catch up with lots of the Hunter side of the family that I don't see very often. Nicole looked happy and lovely and glad to be married. Me? I was just happy to have gotten to spend a great couple of days with Grant and Erin, and I spent a little time reflecting on how blessed we are as a family while I watched Grant show everyone his dance moves at the wedding reception.

We relaxed on Sunday and headed back into the work week on Monday. December is a BUSY month for all of us. Erin has the end of her school semester to deal with, and I spend the month preparing for the 2009 model year and CES. Life is a whirlwind, as always.

My next blog entry will be titled "That Thing Growing on my Face" or "Why You Shouldn't Do Surgery On Yourself With An Exacto Knife." Hurry back now, ya hear?.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Budget

Our gas bill (for the car... not the house) went down this last month by 225 dollars. Dreamy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Holiday Pictures

I'll let Bret describe the holiday happenings, which include but are not limited to: the best meal of my life, lots of crazy cousin fun, antique shopping, a beautiful wedding, lots of dancing and one kid figuring out how to use the sit and spin. But for now, pictures will have to suffice.