Thursday, December 31, 2009

One More Day

No, really. My first few days are soooo good! Free stuff, cheap stuff... it's going to be great! So, starting tomorrow, check out Get Real Family (link to the right) every day! Yeah!

Maybe Get Real Family could be your new year's resolution... an easy one to keep, I promise.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two More Days

The launch of Get Real Family (link to the right) is just two days away. I've got some great deals lined up, so I don't think you'll want to miss the blog's launch. I'm so excited.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!



We've already had two Christmas celebrations, and it's not even Christmas day yet! We are so thrilled to have Grace home with us this Christmas, so thrilled to be a family of four with our talkatively funny little boy, so thrilled to be celebrating seven years of marriage, and so thrilled to be loved by God so fully and so graciously.

Merry Christmas...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Personalized Video From Santa

Grant watched his personalized video today (it had his name, his hometown, his picture, his gift preference). It was so cute watching him get so excited. If you're interested, the video is free, and it took me about 3 minutes.

The info is here if interested. Just passing it along...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Pains

As has been well documented on this blog, I am continuing to have problems with my lower back, a problem exacerbated by my toddlers who insist on abusing me at every possible juncture.

On Friday, I was lying on the family room floor, trying desperately to get my back to loosen up enough to get to work.  The pain was akin to driving a screwdriver into the lower left side of my back, resulting in pain radiating around my waist and down my left leg.  It was not good.

Grant has begun mimicking me as I do my stretches, and he frequently tells people that his back is hurting.  It's cute, and it brings me joy.  Grace, on the other hand, does not yet understand that daddy lying on the floor does not mean it is playtime.  Therefore on Friday morning, she took the opportunity to toddle into the room and drop, full weight, onto my pelvis.  I explained to my children that these were tears of joy, and I couldn't wait to spend Christmas with them.  I think they bought it, and I'm sure I'll regain the feeling in my toes eventually.

On Sunday, having gradually recovered over the course of the weekend, I went to retrieve Grant from his car seat, only to find him staring distantly into space.  I kept trying to snap him out of it, but he just continued to stare, as though practicing for the stage production of "Awakenings." Finally he returned to normalcy, going instantly into hysterics, only to inform me that he was "pretending he was in a coma."  I have no idea.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Blog

Don't forget to check out my deal blog as we gear up for its official launch on January 1. You can find the link to the menu on the right: Get Real Family.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grant, Grant, Grant


Today I took Wei Wei in for her 18 month check up (75th percentile height; 60th percentile weight [a jump from the 20th percentile she was only four months ago]). After the appointment, I had to run a work-related errand on the opposite side of town, and through the course of the two hours we were gone, Grant had two funnies.

Funny #1.
Poor Wei Wei had to get a host of immunizations this visit, but she and Grant both needed the flu vaccine booster. So, Grant and I talked a lot about being brave. I told him that--if he was really brave--I would take him someplace special for dinner. He asked where we would go, and I told him we might get to go to Taco Bell (I know, but he's two), to which he responded, "No, I want to go somewhere specialier." Smart cookie.

Funny #2.
We were ordering at Arby's (which I guess to Grant is "specialier" than Taco Bell) when the very old lady taking our order engaged Grant in a conversation about his Curious George shirt while I glanced over the "menu." I wasn't paying too much attention until an exiting patron starting laughing hysterically at Grant. I looked over to see that Grant was showing the old woman his Batman bandaid, a special adhesive strip he received from the nurse after his flu shot. The only problem: to show the lady the bandaid on his legs, Grant had pulled down his pants and his underwear. There in all his glory was a naked boy Grant and his very Batman bandaid. Thankfully, the woman chuckled like she was a grandmother who understood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cards

This morning I grabbed the final batch of our Christmas cards with the intention of getting them wrapped up over lunch. Erin has written approximately 40 of these so far, so I figured I could pitch in and do a couple.

Erin and I have far different approaches to Christmas cards. In fact, Erin's approach to cards in general varies greatly from the approach taken by my relatives. In my family, you relied heavily on whatever the card manufacturer had written prior to you purchasing the card. That was the whole point of spending 10 minutes looking at cards in the store -- to find the one that said what you wanted to say. Why else would you spend $4.95 on a card, if it weren't to pay for some artful poetry?

My mom has written, "Love Mom & Dad" inside a thousand cards, and I pretty well understand the sentiment without being walked through why or when they started loving me. And more impressively, she did this while spending only $0.49 on her cards. She even finds deals on sentimental prose!

In Erin's world, you spend 20 minutes in the store, and then you write a small novel inside the card, in addition to whatever brilliance was already placed there by Hallmark, et al. When I write, "Happy Holidays, Bret, Erin, Grant & Grace" and begin sealing the envelope, I am always informed that I have failed to do my duty. I must write something to personalize the card. (I thought the delivery address covered this base, but alas.)

So when you open your card from us and see whatever I've written, just know that it was written under duress. Happy Holidays.

The other delightful piece of this year's card is that the cover has glitter on it, which means my desk at work, my hair, my sweater, and my crotch (over which I authored my Christmas wishes) is now all sparkly and glittery.

When I trudge through my office this morning, people can now assume that either I've been writing Christmas cards or that I've had the breakfast buffet at a local strip club. Hopefully my cheery, festive demeanor does not lead them to the wrong conclusion.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Now I'm the one who must have brain damage...

Sunday morning, Erin reminded me that she was going to be at work for a few hours in the evening and that I would be left in charge of the children. I love my kids, but I'm never entirely convinced that them being left in my care isn't going to result in me being tied to a chair and discarded on the lawn as they ransack our house.

After thinking about it for a while (not long enough, obviously), I decided that I would take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese, single parent style. I can see all of you rolling your eyes and saying, "What were you thinking?" But I thought it would kill lots of time, plus we had tokens left over from a previous visit so it wouldn't cost me much. I obviously put too low a price on my sanity.

We arrived around 5pm following the Colts game on Sunday, and luckily the place wasn't packed. Upon entering, I purchased a small pizza, one soda, and the salad bar. Total price? $22.50. What the heck? $22.50? Erin says it's for the experience, but nobody charges me to poke myself in the eye, do they?

We made our way to a table right in front of Chuck E., and after getting the kids out of their coats, I decided to grab some salad. It was then I realized that I couldn't go to the salad bar without taking the kids, so I picked them back and up and returned to the bar.

When I got to the salad bar, I put Grace down, and she immediately began screaming. It is nearly impossible to carry a salad plate and a small child and actually put food on your plate at a salad bar. I would put some lettuce on the plate, and in trying to pick it up with Grace squirming in my arms, it would immediately fall off into the olives or potato salad.

After spending 10 minutes getting my salad, I said, "OK, Grant. Let's go back to our table." I looked down to where he had just been, and he was gone. Not far, but far enough that a small corner of my heart exploded in the three seconds it took for me to locate him. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that this went on all night. Every time I would locate Grant, I would lose Grace in the few seconds it took to find him. It was a vicious cycle with no conclusion except for me to have a small heart attack.

But the kids enjoyed the whole experience, and Grant sang Happy Birthday to numerous kids who he didn't know. He loved it. I would just like it noted that Chuck E. Cheese is no competition for Showbiz Pizza, the similar place we had in Indiana when I was a child. Showbiz had multiple dancing characters with lights and three stages -- not just a single rat whose head moves 6 degrees in either direction. Additionally, Showbiz had every video game ever released (approximately 6 in 1982). Chuck's has the claw game and skee ball.

Like many things, I rue the fact that my kids won't get to have the Showbiz experience in their life. Instead they're stuck with Chuck E. Cheese and a father with a blown heart valve.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Home Four Months



Sometimes, it's hard to believe that we've been home with Grace for only four months. She's such a part of our family, like she's always been here. But, in other ways, it seems so long ago, as she has changed so very much. Every two months, we experience a huge leap in her attachment. In October, she stopped some concerning behaviors. Now, she is super affectionate. Baby steps, really, but it's so fun to witness her growing and trusting more.

She continues to be a handful at times, as she can be pretty obstinate. But the hardest part about Wei Wei is the screaming. She screams all the time. Sometimes, she wakes up at 4 am, screams at the top of her lungs, and starts giggling afterward. She screams if Grant looks at her. She screams if she wants something. I have never been so ready for a child to speak! She does have four signs she uses (please, thank you, more and all done), and she says quite a few words: mama, dada, nene (my mom), all done, mine, hello, bye-bye, cracker, bunny, Elmo. My favorite two things she says: "I do" (said when you ask her a question like, "do you want to go eat something?") and "good girl" which she says as she does something (usually closing a door to a forbidden room) she knows she should. She has these two word phrases, but she still doesn't have a word for Grant. We'll see what she decides on that later.

She is a major trooper when it comes to sleep. She only naps for about 1.5 hours a day, but she goes to sleep around 6 pm and gets up around 7 am. She sometimes wakes up to scream (for fun) or to talk to herself and play in her crib, but the majority of time, she's out cold. She takes no "prep" time for bed, though it is one of my favorite snuggle times with her. She'd be "fine" without it, but I have to at least get a few minutes of rocking time with her.

She continues to eat almost anything. She still does not like breads, crackers or cookies (Mommy just does not get it), but she loves rice, grilled chicken, french fries and noodles. Like Grant, she's not a real sweet tooth (no really, what gives), but she has had a McDonald's soft serve ice cream cone, and she thought that was bliss. I have never seen her cry so hard as when I had to take away the dripping cone (just to do some clean up on it).

She has started to really have a preference about her toys. Her favorite: stuffed animals. Grant has never cared for stuffed animals, so Grace has inherited all of his, and she carries them around the house all day. She MUST have one to go to sleep at night, but she's not picky yet. She does love a talking Elmo doll leftover from Grant's first Christmas, but it took one 4 am "Elmo loves to go up up" sing-a-long for Mommy to decide that Elmo was a daytime toy.

She continues to grow and to change, and while this post sure isn't funny, it's important for me to note, as often as I can (though not as often as I would like) how our little girl is changing.

We're so thankful for out little Gracie!



Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ham and Church

During our weekly trips to Kroger, while Erin peruses the fruits and vegetables, I make my way to the deli counter to carefully select the meat which will inevitably makeup my lunches for the following week.

Erin and I are both in favor of spending a little bit of extra money on deli meat. As I've grown older, I've lost my youthful exuberance for things like pimento loaf and the products of Carl Buddig. Therefore I try to select meats that are "non-slimy," to use an Erin term, and not pre-packaged.

So each week I pick a basic, but not too cheap, ham or roast beef for my lunches. On several occasions, I've heard people order "tavern ham" at the deli counter. This stuff is pricey (in the $8/pound range), so I haven't tried it, but this week I thought I'd give myself an early, pork-based Christmas gift, and oh my, is this stuff wonderful.

The ham in question is Boar's Head Tavern Ham. This is the Filet Mignon of the ham universe. So much flavor...so little slime. The perfect tenderness. Erin and I actually simultaneously called each other at our respective jobs, both wanting to discuss the greatness of this ham. Now I look forward to lunch everyday. Thank you Boar's Head.

Now about church. This week, I went to church on Sunday on my own, since Erin and the kids were all recovering from various ailments which would prevent them from entering most civilized countries. As I got dressed and ready to go, I realized how much I dislike going to church alone. (Due to my own ailments and traveling, I hadn't been to church in about a month, therefore I didn't feel right playing the "Get out of church free!" card this week.)

The basic problem for me is that I'm not very good at face to face communication, something apparently valued by other Christians. (Erin covers my deficiencies in this area very nicely, so when she's not around, I'm in a world of hurt. So much can go wrong for me in so little time, "Gee Mavis, I didn't realize you were still alive! Nice mole.") Therefore I left the house with just enough time to get to services so that I would minimize the mingling.

Historically, I have had an amazing knowledge of the streets and neighborhoods surrounding whatever church I attend. I know to the minute how many loops I need to make in order to kill six minutes. Occasionally I have fallen asleep in the church parking lot awaiting the passing of at least one opening song and perhaps a prayer or two.

This Sunday, I arrived just before things got rolling and took my seat at the back of the auditorium. A woman initially came in and placed her Bible a couple of chairs down from me, but when she returned to see "the alone guy" sitting at the end of the row, she shuffled a few seats down with a slight smile.

My least favorite part of any church service is the "turn, shake hands with thy neighbor, and try to ignore the festering wound on their person as you slowly pull your own, now sullied hand from theirs." It's even worse when you're by yourself, and you have a couple of minutes of chit-chat to kill. I discovered on Sunday that my identity in our new church is defined entirely as "the guy with the Chinese kid and the black kid." Until I mentioned that, I might as well have been the meter reader.

I don't blame anyone but myself for this. My answer to "So did you have a good week?" will always be, simply "Yes." And "How are the kids?" will always be returned with "Good." Therefore I don't expect anyone to know that I like 90's indie rock and have a penchant for tavern ham.

In a church made up 90% of families, I always feel bad for the few single guys around the room. For whatever reason, I think a stigma follows single guys at church, perhaps unfairly.

Any time the sermon involves drinking too much, you can sense the eyes slipping over to the 24 year old in wrinkled khakis, flipping through the maps at the back of his Bible. Same goes for sermons on pre-marital sex. You know those poor guys can feel the heat of the stares saying, "Stay the hell away from my daughter, single dude." I had this thought on Sunday as I glanced at Paul's 2nd and 3rd missionary journeys.

Following the service, I was the first one out the door. I was three blocks away before the preacher got to the back door for the post-service meet 'n greet. And when I'm without my family, that's just how I like it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance


Sunday morning, Erin informed me that we needed to get some videos of black kids dancing. I had no earthly clue what she was talking about, but we proceeded to have a discussion about it, and by the end, I was in full agreement.

Last week we were given nearly-free tickets to see Disney On Ice at Conseco Fieldhouse. Grant nearly has a heart attack at the sight of any of the Disney princesses, so we knew that seeing them skate around in a darkened room full of seductive music would pretty much put him over the edge. So we packed up the van and made our way to the 5pm show.

But when we arrived at 5pm, we were informed that Erin's careful fact checking (think "IRS calculation checker" rather than "George Bush grammar checker") had failed to note that there was no 5pm show on Saturdays, only a 3pm and a 7pm. Having already missed the 3pm by an hour, we made our way to the Circle Centre Mall to kill some time, followed a dinner at Rock Bottom.

Rock Bottom was uncharacteristically awful. It was one of those meals where you were left thinking, "Did they hear Gracie shriek and think, 'We can outlast them.'?" The fries were soggy, the beer was slow, the server screwed up our order. It was bad. But we tried to rectify the situation by stopping by Dunkin' Donuts for a donut on the way back to the show, only to discover that the donuts you get five minutes prior to closing can also be used as flint.

Disney On Ice turned out to be a lovely experience. The kids were entranced. As each new song started with new characters heading out onto the ice, Grant would excitedly turn around and announce the name of each person. It was really adorable. Erin and I were both tearing up at the pure excitement he was experiencing. I'd highly recommend a trip to one of these shows if you can get cheap tickets, as both of the kids really loved it, despite it being a little late for them.

At intermission, Grant hopped up to make friends with the row behind us while I investigated the availability of alcohol at a family show. As it turned out, there was a very nice black family with three kids seated directly behind us, one of which was a little boy a couple of years older than Grant.

Grant is a desperately social creature, so he immediately began befriending the little boy. Grant genuinely tries to converse with everyone he meets, but occasionally he doesn't have the realization that not everyone is immediately interested in a discussion regarding the tree on his shirt or who bought him his pants.

In this case, Grant first tried "I know my numbers!!" as a conversation starter. He then began demonstrating his skills by calling out the numbers on everyone's seat. The four year old behind us was unimpressed, but Grant was undeterred. At this point, he brought out the dance.

For anyone who hasn't seen it, Grant has developed a dance over the past few weeks where he begins by knocking his knees together ala Elvis and ends by crossing his hands back and forth between his knees ala the Charleston. In other words, you'd be more likely to see his dance done in blackface than by a black kid.

Eventually he made friends with the family behind us, but it definitely left us a little shaken. We want Grant to feel like he fits in with everyone, but if he keeps pulling that dance out in public, he's going to end up looking more like Carlton than the Fresh Prince.

So this leads us back to Erin's request to find videos of black kids dancing. And we're thinking more James Brown than Gregory Hines, to be honest. Perhaps if we can introduce Grant to some dancers better than Erin and myself, he'll be more impressive when he decides to bust a move.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rough Morning

This morning I was on extended daddy duty.  Erin had to be at work by 6am, so I was charged with taking care of the two extra-terrestrials that reside in our house until they were to be dropped off at school around 9am.

Of course, the minute Erin raised the garage door to leave, the kids started taking turns at being awake.  First it was Grace.  She would just yell at the top of her lungs for 10 seconds, then stay silent for 5 minutes.  Next it was Grant, who needed to go potty. 

I attended briefly to each of them, but then I informed them that I needed a shower, and I needed to take it without a snotty nose pressed against the frosted shower glass awaiting my damp return.

After getting myself cleaned up, I got them both up and dressed.  Grace, as it turns out, had apparently not gone #2 in approximately three weeks, for when I got her diaper off, I was greeted by a rather large gift.  After 30 wet wipes and screaming, "Please Gracie, do NOT put your hand down there!" about 100 times, I managed to get her cleaned up and dressed.

I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the recliner for a moment's peace before loading them up for school.  I got six seconds of rest before Grant walked over and said, "Hey Daddy...I'm gonna put some snot on you."

And then I got to go to work...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tiger, Tiger, Tiger...

Normally we keep this blog pretty much apolitical and devoid of social commentary, but this whole mess with Tiger Woods has been keeping the guys around my office glued to SI.com waiting for the latest updates.  And as a guy who's almost exactly the same age as Tiger and has followed Woods' career as a fan for the past few years, I'm finding myself more prone to watching this play out than all the other celebrity garbage being posted on TMZ and the like.

So with today's revelation that apparently Tiger was indeed playing some games after he finished golfing each day, I have to ask, "What the heck is wrong with you, dude?"  You make a zillion dollars per minute, you have a lovely wife, two healthy kids, and you can hit a golf ball further than I can run -- is it really worth embarrassing yourself and your family to get a little action on the side?

I feel bad for his kids, no matter how this winds up.  As if there wasn't enough scrutiny just for being part of Tiger's family, now I'm sure the microscope will be ratcheted up for the foreseeable future.  They won't be able to push another kid down on the playground without there being pictures of it on the Internet within the hour.

And how about the irony of Tiger getting the crap beaten out of him being helped out of his SUV by a woman wielding a golf club?  It's like Colonel Sanders being flogged with a crispy leg and thigh.

In any case, I realize Tiger's human, and we all make mistakes.  I hope he's able to get himself straightened out and make things right with his family.  Otherwise following his next domestic dispute, he may find himself needing the help of a proctologist rather than a caddy to find his 5-iron...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Can't Pass These Up

I'm not a shopper. And, I hate crowds. So, there is no way on earth that I would venture out into the Black Friday madness. I don't care how much money I could save. It could be hundreds and hundreds of dollars. And, I'm baking cookies and gearing up for Christmas. At home. With my kids.

But, it's not to say that I didn't shop on Black Friday. I've done a good portion of my shopping this year from my home office (read: the corner of my bedroom). I've found some great deals, and while my new site (Get Real Family) is not yet operational, I feel kind of bad to not pass along a few of the key ones.

Here are my two favorite deals right now:

6 pm: a discount site on shoes and such. My favorite shoe deals for this weekend: Nine West shoes ($9.95) and Polliwalks (for the kids) for $6.95. Shipping is a flat $6.95, so it makes sense to add a few pairs to your bag. Just search for nine west or polliwalks in the search bar. You might also search for other brands. I know Clarks and Bass Shoes were also on sale... as might be some others. These are just the two I liked.

Veggie Tales Christmas Bundle
Three dvds and two cds for 11 bucks (plus I'll give you a code for free shipping if you spend 30 bucks). You do have to send in the rebate (comes in your order... not at check out), but these are great gifts (Rachel, I already ordered this for Drew Michael, so don't bother). Check it out here. Enter code: SHIP220 if you spend over 30 big ones.

Just passing along some fun deals. The best part: you don't even have to leave home. Now, off to decorate that tree!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We're thankful for so many things this year: bringing home Wei Wei, a loving son who just continues to get funnier and funnier, a marriage that's solidly moving in to year 8, family and friends the world over, and a God who loves us and forgives us.

Here are our Thanksgiving pictures... our little pilgrim and our little Indian.




Monday, November 23, 2009

New Site

I'm starting a new blog. Oh, we're going to keep this one going (it's the only "baby book" I've got at this point), but I'm going to be launching some new fun on January 1 (can you say "New Year's Resolution" with me), and I think you might be interested.

I've told you many a time that I am "in deep" into the world of coupons and deals, and I'm not going to lie, if I don't come clean and get help, I might not be able to recover. So, in my attempt to at least make good on my new obsession, I'm starting a blog to sift through all the deals I read about every single day and condense them down to one deal every day.

Yep, that's 365 deals--one for each day of the year. The blog will officially launch January 1, but there will be some "homework" you might consider before our January 1 launch.

Check us out at: Get Real Family

I don't think you'll be sorry. I mean: who doesn't like to save a wad of cash?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Daddy's Home... YEAH!

Bret made it back without incident, and we're very thankful. Grant is especially thankful that Bret made it back with a whole suitcase of toy work trucks. Grace also received a gift from Bret: a cartoon character Chinese girl doing ninja moves with the words (written only in Chinese) "don't make me angry" emblazoned on the front. Daddy knows his kids well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dragon's Back


Why oh why would I think going on a hike along something called "The Dragon's Back" would be something I should attempt? What part of "chubby 34 year old with a bad back" says "Go climb a mountain!" But alas, that is what I did this morning.

In 2004, Time Asia ranked the Dragon's Back as the best urban hike in all of Asia. With that kind of recommendation, I had to try it. For as many times as I've been to Hong Kong, I've not really ventured out into any of the vast parks, choosing instead to stay in the urban centers right along the coastline. But I decided that since I had a whole day to kill, I might as well get some fresh air.

So after doing some research and figuring out how to get there, I boarded the subway, followed by a bus, and headed to Shek O Country Park. Basically the Dragon's Back runs along a ridge. To the west, you have Stanley Peninsula and to the east, you have Clear Water Bay Peninsula.

I tried to use Google Earth to get a map to give a better idea of where this thing lies. If you click on the map, you can see Hong Kong island and the ridge where I hiked.



I tried to take some pictures with my cell phone, but they didn't really turn out. Here is one with a good view of the trail along the ridge. Sorry it's so blurry!



After the hike, which in reality only took around three hours, I hopped in a cab and went over to the famed Stanley Market, also shown in the map. This is considered a "must do" for Hong Kong tourists, and it's something I had never ventured out to, so it was worth a go.

It was, indeed, chock full of tourists. It was also, apparently, where all of the European visitors and Caucasian Hong Kong residents chill out. It was easily the most Caucasian place I've been to in China. The market itself was full of the usual stuff you see in all of the Hong Kong markets, but the string of restaurants along the bay made for a wonderful place to have lunch.

After lunch, I made my way via bus back to Causeway Bay, the Hong Kong neighborhood where my hotel is located. For those who might be interested (and I'm guessing that's very few), I did a little more playing with Google Earth and created the following map. If you click on it, it shows Hong Kong island in relation to where I work in mainland China. (Hong Kong island is circled in red.)

(There is one weird strip of bad satellite imagery just to the east of the Hong Kong airport. Couldn't get that to go away...)



Obviously despite my joking about issues at the border and the occasional disturbed taxi driver, I enjoy traveling in China. I'm very blessed to have a job which has given me the opportunity to see this part of the world.

But I miss me kids. And me wife. I'm glad I'm headed home tomorrow...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trouble Connecting

We've had to delete some family and friends from our sidebar because our blog isn't picking up those feeds any longer. I've tried to fix it myself, but to no avail, so it'll have to wait until Bret returns from Hong Kong (countdown: less than two days... yeah!). I just didn't want people out there thinking we didn't like them or something.

Border Crossings

On my way into mainland China earlier this week, I tried a different approach to crossing the border out of Hong Kong. I usually go by ferry or via the Hong Kong subway system, but since I chose to stay at the airport the first night due to my late arrival, I decided to try a cross-border car service this time around.

The company I chose has a very China sounding name -- the Eternal East Bus Company. They have a little booth at the airport, and as it turned out, this was an excellent way to go into the mainland from the Hong Kong airport. I didn't even have to get out of the minivan at the border...it was delightful.

Since this worked so well on the inbound trip, I consulted with my hotel in China about using the same service to go back to Hong Kong. The only difference was that I needed to go into the city, rather than the airport. (I'm staying in Hong Kong a couple of nights due to all of the flights back the U.S. for Friday and Saturday being full...argh).

So this afternoon, I hopped into a similar looking minivan and headed for the same border crossing. Except when we arrived this time, the driver told me to get out of the van. He didn't tell any of the Chinese dudes riding with me to get out. Just me. He informed me that I'd have to walk through customs, and then find the same bus company on the other side of the border. What a pain.

I hopped out of the van and began my trek through customs. I presented my passport to the border agent on the mainland, and he began the usual process of scanning it and punching away on his computer. But then things went haywire.

He called a supervisor over, and the two of them played around for a couple of minutes on the computer. He then let me go on through the gate, but he told me to wait on the other side. He turned my passport over to yet another gentlemen who wandered off with it. I was not pleased. He told me to wait a moment.

About 6 or 7 minutes later, I see the guy still talking to a large group of coworkers with my passport in his hand. I then see a group of 5 or 6 policemen wearing white rubber gloves march past me and enter the fray. At this point, I was a bit unnerved. I was having bad thoughts about where those rubber gloves were headed.

I always get a little sweaty when doing all the border crossings. I don't have anything to worry about that I know of, but I figure all it takes is a computer spitting out a screen that says "Bag him" for me to be sipping goat's head broth soup on the concrete floor of a leaky cell, straining to see the light of day three levels above me.

Finally the guy with my passport plus the original crossing agent came over and presented me with my passport. The original guy was grinning from ear to ear and apologizing. I asked him if anything was wrong, and he just kept saying "Sorry sir. So sorry."

I smiled and told him it was no problem, and I'm sure he was able to quickly find a mop to correct the situation that had presented itself in the spot where I stood for close to 10 minutes.

After the border, I rode a bus through the hills of Hong Kong for an hour before being dumped at a subway station in Mong Kok. I hopped on the train and rode for another half hour before getting out and traversing through the massive Times Square shopping area to get out to my hotel. All in all, the return trip to Hong Kong was a nightmare compared to the outbound trip.

Next trip, I think I'll stick to the trains...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Daddy, Mommy Hasn't Done...

laundry in awhile. Please come home soon. Look at what I'm reduced to wearing. Don't forget my present.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paging Mr. Yue Wee

While riding to work this morning with an unusually agitated Chinese cab driver, my travel companion related an experience he had last week with a cab. On his way to work, the cab he was riding in managed to go several miles without stopping at a stop light. As the cab approached each red light, the driver would make a right turn, followed by an immediate U-turn in oncoming traffic. He would then dive across traffic into the right hand lane and make a right turn, effectively circumventing the stop light.

He said it was a terrifying cab ride, but he did appreciate not having to stop at any of the 5+ minute stop lights on the way to work. For my money, I'd always rather make it to work late but with clean pants, rather than early...

Ni Hao to All MY Peeps

Daddy,

Please say hello to all my friends back in China. Please say a special Ni Hao to my birth family and my foster parents. Also, a big shout out to my friend, the orphanage director.

Here are some pics of me to show them. I do miss them tons, but I'm happy here too. Tell them that I make progress every day, in my skills and in my attachment; they'll know what that means.

Most of all, say hi to China for me. It's where I was born and where I lived for my first year of life. I carry its soil in my heart. Mommy made me say that last part.





Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moo

Thus far in my trip, it has been unseasonably cold here in Shenzhen. Last night after work, it dropped quickly into the lower 50's, making it a far cry from the sweatbox I usually encounter on my visits to Guangdong province. Unfortunately I only packed short sleeves and a light jacket, so last night when there was a stiff wind, I had little interest in trudging back out into the cold for dinner.

The Holiday Inn Donghua where we usually stay, opened a new steakhouse last year on the 2nd floor. During previous trips, I always had to step around someone pushing the dinner menu for Oscar's Steakhouse into my face as I tried to board the elevator. When I arrived this time around, I noticed that Oscar's was now Oscar's Sports Bar, and their once grand, overpriced menu of Australian beef steaks and giant prawns had been reduced to mostly double cheeseburgers and fish stick appetizers.

Since it was already late, we decided to give Oscar's a try. They still featured a handful of their steaks (which were still in the $30 US price range...crazy expensive for China), so I thought I'd give their filet a try. Having ordered steaks in China previously, I knew that ordering meat "medium" here means "hack off the limbs and don't bother with a grill" while "rare" means "don't bother killing it...I'll do it myself." My colleague gasped when I ordered my steak "medium well" but that gasp was only outdone when my steak arrived dazed and bleeding.

In addition to our steaks, we were offered "all you can eat" access to the salad bar, which consisted of a couple of card tables with small bowls of iceberg lettuce, a handful of olives, and "french dressing" which in reality was an oily variant of "thousand island." The salad bar is a concept that hasn't exactly taken off here in China. I think the sneezeguards and "please use a new plate for each trip" signs are tripping them up.

All in all, it was a passable meal at a ridiculous price. They charged me $5 US for a Tsingtao beer which is the same price I can get a 12 pack for at the local grocery store (probably more like a 24 pack, actually), but I did get to hear the hits of Steely Dan and Juice Newton belted out by a raspy throated Filipino lounge singer, so it was all worthwhile. Perhaps tonight we'll venture out for Chinese cuisine or more "fur tea."

Tea of Death

My colleagues here in our China office have found it extremely amusing that I do not have a voice at the moment. Every time I try to speak, it starts off in a raspy gasp, and eventually what little voice I have kicks in and finishes the task.

In an effort to heal my voice and show off her Chinese remedies, my friend Ellen purchased me a special Chinese tea on our way back from lunch today. We stopped in at a little shop where a young lady poured a black substance into a previously used plastic tea bottle (I'm sure it had been thoroughly washed). After she poured the black substance in, she went back and got another pot and poured some more junk into the bottle. After shaking it, she handed it to me.

Ellen explained that this tea is only available in the Guangdong province, and that it is very special and contains many herbs which will heal me right up. I took a swig. It was awful. Not just awful. Vile. I mean VILE. It tasted like bad tea that had been strained through somebody's underpants. It tasted like it had probably already been spit out by at least one other person before reaching my lips. It was bad.

As I lurched after the first gulp, the entire group began laughing at me. She asked, "Is it bitter?"

"Hell yes, it's bitter." And if "bitter" means "crappy" in Chinese, then yes, it's very bitter. I asked her what was in it, and her first response was "fur." No lie. I told her that I thought she probably meant something else, but I could believe that it contained ground up fur. I wouldn't be surprised if it also contained "eye of newt" and some bat wings.

Out of politeness, I drank half the bottle, but I couldn't bear to finish it. Interestingly, my voice is doing somewhat better this afternoon, but I think that's probably just time and has nothing to do with the nasty tea. I figure if the tea doesn't do anything for my voice, I'm sure it'll do SOMETHING to my digestive system in the next 24 hours...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Piano Bar

So that last flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong really sucked. REALLY sucked.

After getting my bags in Hong Kong, I made my way to the airport hotel. Tired, dirty, in pain. After checking in, I decided to head to the piano bar for a quick bite to eat. As I walked in, I heard the girl at the piano playing such classics as "Creep" by Radiohead, done in lounge style, and later "With Or Without You" by U2. Classic.

As I sat down, I turned my head to see the familiar white jerseys of our beloved Indianapolis Colts. Thanks to the Internet in Tokyo, I had already seen the final score, but as luck would have it, I would get to watch the 2nd half on tape delay. Beautiful.

I won't say what I'm sure has already been said, but it almost brought a tear to my eye. It could be that I'm exhausted and perhaps a little drugged, but that game could have only been better if they'd actually caught Brady crying at the end. Unbelievable.

Now I'm off to bed...I need the rest. As I left the piano bar, the girl played "God Only Knows." I think someone was looking out for me...

In Tokyo

Thanks to the graciousness of the guy who endured sitting next to me on the flight from Detroit to Tokyo, I'm sitting here in the Delta Sky Club in Tokyo waiting for my flight to Hong Kong. I've got a cold beer in hand, a comfy chair beneath me, and a lovely buffet from which to eat. Life could be worse.

And actually, it was earlier today. Erin's right...my back is killing me. I took some hefty drugs before boarding the flight to Detroit, but half way through the 30 minute flight, my back was on fire. This left me very scared about the 13 hour flight to Tokyo.

So once I got to Detroit, I decided that I needed to stretch out to try and get things realigned. I found a little nook in the airport, laid down on the floor, and began stretching as discreetly as possible. About 2 stretches in, an excitable Japanese guy came running over, smiling uncontrollably, saying "Exercises! Exercises!" Before I could stuff a rag in his mouth or otherwise stun him, he began doing jumping jacks next to me, blowing my inconspicuousness and thoroughly killing my mojo. I finished the stretches and hobbled to the gate.

Once on the flight, things weren't as bad as expected. I managed to fly all the way to Japan without touching the back of my seat, forced to sit bolt upright with about 4 pillows bolstering my back. As long as I got up every 30 or 40 minutes, stretched, and popped another Vicodin, things were fine. Now I've only got 5 more hours to Hong Kong, and I'm home free. While stretching on the plane, I discovered a little trick that seems to loosen my back up very quickly, so that has helped. Perhaps this is the trip where I try a full body massage. After nearly having my feet seared during the foot massage last trip, I'm still not sure I'm up for it.

I'll post more once I get going in China. I still have no voice, post-H1N1, so communicating with my Chinese colleagues should be a trip. I'll have to make exclusive use of my vocabulary of rude gestures instead.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Off to China

Yep, Bret is off to China again. He left this morning, and his back is KILLING him (two herniated discs have a way of doing that), so please say a little prayer for Bret during his travel. Grant asked Bret the other night, "Daddy, who are you going to pick up this time in China?" Bret told him that no little sisters were planned (for now), but Bret thought he could manage to bring back a toy for Grant. The toy has Grant just as excited (if not more) than another little sister.

While you're saying a little prayer for Bret's back, you better say a little prayer for my sanity. Grant finally did not need my help or attention last night, so I actually got some sleep (the night before he was up 17 times). I've yet to be by myself for a week with two of them, and I'm not doubting my ability to survive the week, but a little prayer for my sanity might be necessary.

And, a few weekend pictures:



Friday, November 13, 2009

HELP!!

Grant is having a terrible time getting to bed and a terrible time with night wakings because he's having some kind of over-active-imagination-nightmare-keep-Mommy-up-all-night-sometimes-on-the-floor-of-his-room type of thingy.

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips you've heard on how to solve the "something is eating at my skin" or "the crab keeps trying to get in my ear" kind of sleep issue?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Brain Damage

I am becoming increasingly convinced that perhaps our children have brain damage. I think Bill Cosby came to this same conclusion about his own kids years ago, and now that I'm a parent, I understand his logic.

Grace has been with us a fairly short amount of time, so we haven't gotten to see the full extent of her issues. One of her favorite things to do is sit on the floor in front of my recliner, screaming her cute little head off while flailing her arms upward in my general direction.

In an effort to appease her, I will reach down, pick her up, and place her in my lap. There is a five second moment of peace, after which she always begins screaming her head off again for me to put her back on the floor. This process will repeat itself until my mind (and ears) have taken leave.

Since Grant is now approaching three years old, I have a fuller picture of his brain damage. We see it every day. Yesterday, shortly after I scolded him for not being nice to his sister, I heard the words, "You're not gonna like this" come from the other room, uttered by his very lips. This was followed by a scream.

Grant is also incapable of hiding anything from us at this stage of life, something I know we'll miss once he gets it figured out. The problem is that now it seems he thinks he's always supposed to confess, even if the issue at hand is not his fault.

Last night we worked the toddler room at our church (or "new member payback" as I call it), and Grant got into a tussle with another boy over ownership of a highly valuable and collectible sticker. The other little boy was holding the sticker, and Grant was stating that he wanted the sticker. I asked Grant if the sticker had originally belonged to the other boy, and he replied "Yes." I then explained in long, drawn out parental detail that he couldn't simply take stickers from the other kids.

After Grant had proffered his apology and been adequately shamed, Erin walked over and informed me that the sticker had originally been Grant's, and she didn't understand why he had stated otherwise. I issued an order for Grant to march over and strike the other child with enough force to ensure that he could retrieve his sticker, and we all went on our way. But I have no clue as to why Grant didn't stand up for himself.

And finally, this weekend we had the ultimate indication of Grant's brain damage. A few hours after he went to bed, we heard Grant crying for us to come into his room. Erin headed in there and quickly called me from my post (i.e. sleep). Grant was sitting in the middle of his bed with his sleeper unzipped and gathered at his ankles, right alongside his underpants.

In front of him was a large wet spot on the bed, and a small, almost imperceptible piece of poo. Grant pointed at the poo and informed us that it needed to be removed. Erin began this process and noted that his sleeper was completely dry, thus indicating that the boy had stripped down to his socks, and then peed and dropped a nugget on his sheets.

Why would a child do this? We asked him, and he had no answer other than to restate that it needed cleaning up. He hadn't wet the bed ever before, and he obviously was in no dire straits since he was able to disrobe prior to creating the mess. It defies explanation.

In the end after further questioning, Grant stated simply that "he just wanted us to come to his room."

In the future, can't you just scream like your sister does?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Return from the Dead


Yes, the swine flu was that bad. Bret, Grant and I did not appreciate the word "mild" being tossed around by pundits, as nothing about our experience was mild. The kids missed Halloween (don't mention it to Grant; he doesn't realized he missed it), and Bret and I have been recovering for about a week. It was no fun. Seriously, no fun. We're especially thankful to my Mom who took the kids on several occasions (she swooped in to save the day just as Grace was sticking her hand in the toilet for the eighth time that day) and made/brought us lots of dinners. We're so thankful to have family so close.

To play catch up, here are some photos and a video. Fortunately, we did make it out to the Indianapolis Zoo's Zoo Boo this year, so the kids did get to wear their costumes. And fortunately, Grant's was "homemade," and Grace's was a garage sale find my mom picked up years ago. So, at least we didn't break the bank on a holiday we didn't get to enjoy.

Here are some pics of Grant dressed up as a construction worker (or Bob the Builder if you ask him, but I didn't want to spoil his fun by letting him know that Bob the Builder has a fat, round head and is an ugly white dude), and Grace is a ladybug (the symbol of Chinese adoption). The one with both their hands out is when they were waiting for Mommy to give them some candy (and the wrapper--I'm sure--was quickly discarded in the zebra area).





Before getting the sickness, we also headed to the Children's Museum. Indianapolis has one of the best in the country, and Grant loved, loved, loved it. Good thing we bought a year pass!


Here's a video of Grace walking (and Mommy sounding so silly). Grace walks a lot now, and it's just starting to become the preferred mode of transportation.
video

More to come now that we know we're not dying.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Creeping Death Continues

Now all four of us have the dreaded bug. Grant is on the mend. Erin is in full swing misery. I have the cough, nose, and touch of fever. Grace has an elevated temperature.

It may be a bit before you get a useful post out of us. Please pray for a quick recovery. I do declare, "This sucks."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Words

Swine Flu.

Two more words:

No fun.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Too Much


After buckling the kids in their carseats the other day, Bret and I hopped into the front seat. Grant looked at Bret and said, "Chop, chop, driver." Seriously.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Diaper Deal

I did this a week ago, and my diapers arrived three days later.

Essentially, buy 50 bucks in diapers or other baby goods for 25 bucks.

Steps:
1. Go to diapers.com
2. Buy at least 49 bucks worth of stuff (to ensure free shipping).
3. Enter this code for 4MOMMAS at checkout for 10 bucks off.
4. If you're new to diapers.com, you get either a free mag subscription, or you can go here for the $14.97 rebate. Info is here. If you turn in the rebate combined with the 10 bucks off code, you're saving 25 bucks.

It's a bit of paperwork, but it's a fast way to save 25 big ones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dishwashers

A few weeks ago, our dishwasher began making a funny noise. It made sort of a weird grinding sound when the pump would run. It was hard to distinguish from all of the other racket normally made by this particular machine, so I wasn't sure there was anything really wrong.

The sound had been getting louder, and then the other night, Erin informed me that the washer had neglected to drain at the end of the rinse cycle. I went over, twisted the giant crank dial on the front around to the end of the rinse cycle again, and it drained just fine. I did this a few times, and it drained successfully each time. Weird.

Last night, it neglected to drain yet again. Stupid washer. Only this time, when I turned the crank, it continued to stay stuck in the dry cycle. Argh. We've hated this thing from day one, and now that we've broken virtually every tine off both racks, perhaps it's time to move on.

But given that my wife is no longer interested in paying for things like groceries or appliances, I decided to take one last look at it before setting it ablaze. I disconnected the water line and drain, pulled the washer out in the middle of the kitchen and discovered a puddle of water underneath it (and no, it was not from me disconnecting things. It was wet before I started). That was it. I kicked the washer multiple times and told it that no self-respecting washer pees itself. I then moved it into the garage and began shopping for a washer.

What I've discovered over the last 24 hours of doing research is that there are a bunch of different washer manufacturers with lots of different features, but the only one I care about is how much racket the thing makes while it's washing. (Well, that and getting rid of the giant turn knob on the front.)

I don't care if it has a disinfecting cycle that uses molten lava to heat the water to 2000 degrees before washing. I don't care if it uses purified lamb's breath to do the drying. I don't even really care if it takes four hours to do the dishes, as long as it does it without interrupting whatever I've received that night from Netflix.

So today a new Whirlpool dishwasher is being delivered. It's supposed to be whisper quiet so that I'm not distracted from whichever of my kids is screaming while it's running. I couldn't be happier.

And best of all, apparently it'll wash dishes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Free Parenting Mag

If you need a bathroom reader, here's an 11 month subscription to Parenting Magazine for free. It looks like it's no strings attached. I don't know much about the magazine, so this isn't some ringing endorsement, just an FYI in case you're interested.

Don't forget to check out expotv (previous post) if you have lots of opinions, know how to work a video camera, and like free gift cards.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making Money

So, I'm in the coupon/discount/how-can-I-get-it-for-free world pretty deep, and for the last week, I have been a member of expo tv, and it's so easy that it shouldn't be legal.

In the last six days, I have earned enough points for 30 dollars in gift certificates (now to decide: amazon, itunes, or the practical, CVS). All you do is make a one minute video (once or twice a week) about a product (the good, the bad and the ugly). I was asked to review about six products, but I only had two at home (going out to buy a product defeats the purpose, for me), so I've reviewed a Vaseline lotion and a Pantene hair gel. I taped my two cents, and I uploaded my video (your first video alone earns you 2,000 points [it's 600 points needed for every 5 dollars in gift certificates]). I'm not saying it is completely effortless: you do have to take the video and upload it, but it's a pretty easy way to earn free stuff.

Now, I've even been chosen to participate in my fist tryology video. Tryology, a subsidiary of expotv, will mail me full samples (this one is a full sample of Gain detergent and Gain fabric softener); I try them for a week (keep them, of course) and do the video thing. It's easy. Sometimes, they even want you to try (and keep) GPS devices, blu-ray players and such. I guess a girl has got to start at the fabric softener and laundry detergent bottom before working her way up the market research ladder.

It's kind of addictive, and when I hit that "redeem" button for CVS (or, dare I say: Starbucks), I'll be feeling good about the ten minutes I spent giving my opinion (something I'm pretty good at anyway). It's all legit; it's just a new way of doing market research, and to be honest, I'll take this over a phone call any day of the week.

If interested, you should check it out here. I'm not trying to drum up my "numbers" or anything; I'm just trying to pass along a cool and easy way to spend five minutes of your downtime (which is about all I've got anymore).

I get why people don't do it: you have to see yourself in a video (one of my least favorite things), but I'm a sucker for free stuff, especially these days.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Incoming!

For the next two weeks, I'm hosting a group of six engineers from our China office here in Indy. Having been through this before it will, no doubt, provide some wonderful stories for the blog. Four of the six guests have never been in the United States before, so this should be good.

Today for lunch, they wanted to go out for "real American" food, so we took them to local BBQ joint Squealers. I considered trying to explain the porky origins of the name "Squealers" but feared it wouldn't translate, and I wasn't about to try and do a demonstration. I have enough credibility problems as it is.

The first issue came when we had to order drinks. They all wanted hot tea, a barbeque staple, but the waitress informed them that this wasn't an option. But after dipping quickly into the kitchen, she came back and said that yes, indeed, you could order hot tea. Unfortunately the jubilation was short lived, when during her next visit, she informed us that they were out of hot tea. She rattled off a list of soft drinks and iced tea and began taking their revised drink orders.

The first guy ordered "hot water." She looked at him for a second, and then without question, wrote down his order. This caused a stir of excitement which led to all of them ordering hot water. Delightful. I've always contended when I'm in China that their green tea tastes mostly like hot water, so this just provided confirmation.

The special of the day was a pulled pork sandwich with potato salad. They all ordered this with various spicy BBQ sauces on the side. When the sandwiches arrived, several of them stared at their sandwiches as though waiting for them to speak.

We tried to show them that you pour the sauce onto the sandwich, mash it down, and then eat it, but apparently we were unsuccessful. One guy got down really close to the plate and sniffed at it. Another one took the entire top off of a ketchup bottle and drowned the pork in ketchup. Another put a pickle in his mouth and promptly let it dribble off his chin, mingled with some delightful hot water. (I recognized this move because I'm fairly certain I've done it myself with a chicken neck or jellyfish foot while on one of my trips over there.)

It's going to be a long week. I shudder to think of what their fellow guests at the hotel breakfast buffet endured this morning...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2 Months Home

It's hard to believe that two months ago today we brought our little Wei Wei home to the United States. She has changed so much in those short two months. It's hard to believe that she's only been in our lives that long, as I almost don't remember life without her. It's like we have always known Grace, and our family just feels more complete (not complete-complete, mind you) with her here.

A few notes on Grace (we call her Wei Wei as much [if not more] than we do Grace; I hope we are not confusing her): She is still not walking, and to be honest, except for pushing around the toy shopping cart, shows no real interest in walking. She's a lightening quick crawler, has figured out the stairs (we're still working on down the stairs, as right now it's a controlled slide on her belly), and is finally starting to figure out the spoon.

She likes to babble or talk, and she's making progress on expanding her vocabulary. Her favorite word, without equal, is the word "daddy," which she says all day long. She says Mommy, thank you, I love you (i-wub-oo); she growls like a bear (think 90-year-old chain smoker growl), hisses like a snake, and just tonight, she tried her hand at barking like a dog. She signs please and thank you, but she shows no real interest, despite my attempts, at learning any more signs. She loves to give high-fives, and she puckers up to kiss when she wants to give a kiss.

She used to eat everything and anything, a hoarding behavior our developmental pediatrician says is probably a by-product of being on a limited diet in China, but now, Grace is pretty picky. She still eats WAY more than Grant ever did (or, heck, does), but she's not the eater she used to be. She loves, loves, loves Jello, and she'd eat fruit all day. But, really, she's a meat girl, and it better not be fried. She's a poster child for the Atkins diet. She'd eat grilled chicken all day long.

She sleeps a solid 13-14 hours a night, and she sleeps between 1.5-2 hours during her afternoon nap. Grant goes down for a nap at the same time, but he sleeps for about 3 hours, so I get some special one-on-one Grace time every afternoon.

She's made some huge progress in the attachment arena. Grace had several behaviors that just didn't seem right, and I knew in my gut that they were attachment related. She would pull her hair when she got mad, refused to make eye contact at times, go ballistic when we held her belly to belly, and wouldn't come to us if upset. But, I am so happy to report that our little vacation to Williamsburg changed her. I was so nervous to take her out of the environment we had created for her here, but I'll tell you what, that vacation was the best medicine for our little girl. It's like we wanted her in our family (of course), but at some point in Williamsburg, she decided she wanted that too. Now, she lets me hold her belly to belly, and she snuggles into my shoulder (at night only... she's on the move all day; there is not an ounce of cuddling during the play hours), and she seeks me out when she's hurt. I haven't seen her start tugging at her hair in over a week, and I'm just thrilled.

We are so thankful for our little girl. We're so thankful that we get to be her parents and her family. She is such a gift.
On the first day we met Grace (she looks so little!):

Our happy, healthy baby girl now:

But she still knows how to make a sad face: