Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Magic Kingdom



When we booked this vacation several months ago, Bret looked at me and said, "I'm super busy, so I want you to plan this entire thing, from top to bottom, and I want it to be a surprise." And, I'll tell you something: I'm a darn good researcher. A darn, darn good researcher. So, it should have come as no surprise to Bret that--when we made our way to the Magic Kingdom this morning--I had a typed out list of the order of events.

Now, before you go all organic on me, swearing that the "mood should lead" or "let the little one decide," let me plead my case.

First of all, tickets are no cheap order. And, when you consider that we are spending one day at the Magic Kingdom and one at Disney's Hollywood Studios (former MGM for you non-Disney-aholics), I wanted to ensure that our time at each park was loads of fun.

In addition, there are people (hoards of people) who study the traffic patterns of the Magic Kingdom. No really. They have algorithms. I'm not a mathy person, but they swear by their predictions, and when my friend handed me a book with a "touring plan for young children" created by the founders of this algorhithm, I decided to try it out. The founder swears that it can save you up to 4.5 hours of line standing.

And, here's the thing: it worked like a champ. We did some criss-crossing and some compromising, but we didn't stand in a line for over 15 minutes all day (on a very, very busy day). I expected to finish half the touring plan by lunch, but we were done with 6 major rides (and a Space Mountain stint for Daddy) by 10:30. We spent the rest of the time finishing the afternoon portion of the touring plan, and we left early and EXHAUSTED.

Poor little Grant was such a trooper! He never complained, never cried, and he never said a word. Not a word. He was so engrossed, so mesmorized, that it took about two hours to make sure he still had a voice. Bret and I tried our hardest to get him to talk, but all we could conjure were a few head nods. He was in heaven. Finally, he would tell us, "another ride."

Grant tried everything: from Pirates to his first rollercoaster (and it was no little coaster). He loved the speedway and Dumbo, and he now has a special place in his heart for Peter Pan. He loved the trains (we went on a few), but by the end, I think he was done processing, and to be honest, I was too.

And sadly (though not surprising), he was bummed beyond measure as he realized our van was in sight, and there were no more rides for the day.

I have been to DisneyLand (that's the original, thank you very much Hoosiers) many, many a time (I did grow up in LA, after all). But I must admit that never has a day with Mickey been so magical for me. Touring plan or not, it was a great day, an easier than expected day, and a day that I'll remember for a long, long time. We don't have many pictures of the day (as we didn't stop for the characters -- we're doing two character breakfasts, so lay off), and as we started taking photos, I realized we could only have so many "here's Grant sitting about to take off on..." kind of photos), so no complaining grandparents!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Disney


On Friday afternoon, we left Indiana for Grant's first visit to Disney World. We decided to drive down through Knoxville to Chattanooga for our first night. Now I realize this isn't the most direct route, but it only adds a little bit of time on paper, and Erin and I have had less than great luck with Louisville and Nashville traffic. Wanting to stick to our "no chains" rule for vacation dining, I had scoped out a little place in Richmond, Kentucky called Opal's. Opal's turned out to be a fantastic little place with classic southern home cooking. We'll definitely be stopping again. We hit Chattanooga fairly late on Friday evening, and all of us crashed.

Saturday morning we got up and headed over to our favorite breakfast joint in Chattanooga, Aretha Frankenstein's. Aretha's was packed, so we ended up sitting at the bar, wolfing down Godzilla sized portions of pancackes and eggs. It was tremendous. I ate all of my meal and most of Erin's.

It was already raining as we left Chattanooga, and as it turned out, it was destined to rain for the next six hours. Our drive through Georgia was absolutely brutal. Erin endured about three hours of hard, white knuckle driving in a thunderstorm. On top of it, I-75 was under construction, and there were several spots with two feet of standing water in the road. There were accidents everywhere, and by the time we hit Valdosta, the trucker's were discussing whether the road should even be open when we stopped at a truck stop. Luckily things changed as we entered Florida, and we were able to stop for a nice dinner and stroll around the Univ. of Florida campus in Gainesville.

Our first day in Florida was spent lounging around our room at Disney's Port Orleans - Riverside resort and eventually eating at the T.Rex restaurant (the dinosaur, not the British glam band) at Downtown Disney. I ate all of my ice cream sundae at the Ghirardelli restaurant, plus most of Grant's (do you see a theme here?) Afterward, we rode the boat back to our resort. Grant was declared the "captain of the boat" complete with a certificate and ovation from other boat-goers. He couldn't have been more pleased.

Today we got up bright and early for a "character breakfest" with Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. Grant smothered Minnie with kisses on her giant plastic nose, guaranteeing his exposure to all potential viruses carried by the other kikds enjoying their Disney vacation. After breakfast, we decided to head for the pool.

Our pool features what looked like a delightful waterslide. Grant was excited to give it a ride with Daddy, so we ventured to the top soon after arriving. I sat him in my lap and headed down, only to be met by the steely glare of a life guard when I reached the bottom, informing me that the slide was "one person at a time."

Not about to let this interfere with my son's amusement, which had been obvious upon our splashdown during the first ride, I headed back up the slide again with him. When we got to the top, I explained quickly that he needed to stay upright. As I let go of him, it occurred to me that I hadn't really gone through all of the potential scenarios in my head, and as he hit the first turn, I saw him sort of rotate in an unnatural direction.

Erin was waiting at the bottom for him, and I was delighted to see her intercept him as he hit the water. I jumped onto the slide and made my way down, this time arriving to the steely glare of Grant's mother AND the life guard. This time the lifeguard was yelling "He can't go down face first." I yelled back, "He didn't start that way!" This didn't help matters. At some point in the journey, Grant rotated down onto his stomach and ended up dragging his lip along the slide, leaving a small but mommy-detectable mark. Erin informed me that as he hit the pool, his eyes were the size of dinner plates, and he was doing all he could to keep his face out of the slide water. He didn't seem at all bothered by the experienced, but we determined that good parenting probably meant no more water slide.

This evening we had dinner at Ohanas at the Polynesian Resort. This is a takeoff on the traditional Brazilian steakhouse, featuring meat carted around on spears. The food was excellent, and the bread pudding at the end was a wonderful finish.

Tomorrow we're headed to the Magic Kingdom, and while Grant has enjoyed most of the trip thus far, I suspect tomorrow is when the wheels will really get rolling.




Saturday, March 28, 2009

Orlando Arrival

It only took two days and a raft of iPod recharges, but we've finally arrived in Orlando safe and sound. Grant had pretty much forgotten how to use his legs when we arrived at our hotel this evening. We're all off to bed, but we wanted to let the grandparents know that despite everyone's ill conceptions of my ability to drive, we did, indeed, arrive with all our limbs in tact.

More to come...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Disneyworld or Bust


We're heading off tomorrow for our trek down to sunny Florida. We can hardly wait!

Grant has been saying for weeks that he has no interest in going to DisneyWorld, but instead, he'd rather stay back in Indiana with grandparents. Mamma is not having any such nonsense. So, today, I put in the Disney promotional dvd, one with lots of pictures of Dumbo, Mickey, and trains (every roller coaster is a train to Grant), and can you guess who is ready to go to "Disneywowd" (as he calls it)?

We'll post often while down there, but we won't have lots of time, so you can expect quick updates, a few pictures, and lots of bragging about warm weather!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

137 miles to nowhere



There are some mornings where you wake up, look at the schedule for the day, and wonder if you've completely lost your mind. In my case, I'm well aware that I've lost my mind (with just a little bit of help from a team of Chinese guys in Shenzhen), but I still marvel at why anyone would do this to themselves.

1. Get up at 6:30am, head out the door at 7:15 to meet my mom to drop off Grant at point B on the map. Now you may look at my little map and say, "Gee, there's no location 'A' on it." You would be correct. A, E, and G are all the same place, which means not only am I going to drive 137 miles, I'm not even going to go anywhere.

2. Drive from point B to the hospital at point C to have more giant needles stuck in my back. Did I mention all the driving and running around I get to do today? On top of it, I'm HAVING MY SPINE NEEDLED. You know what that feels like? It's sort of like HAVING YOUR SPINE NEEDLED.

3. Depart needling at 9:00 and head for work at point D. Work until 11:30, then have big Chinese lunch with the colleagues. On top of the driving, I'm having jellyfish and fish parts for lunch. (Actually, it's quite tasty...not the jellyfish, but the fish parts are pretty decent. Fish don't have snouts or beaks, so most fish parts are pretty decent.)

4. Leave work at 2:00 to go close on our refinancing. Oh wait, I forgot that one on the map. It's only a few miles from work though, so I'll let it slide.

5. Leave closing and return home to E to pickup the wife and head to my parents (point F) to pickup the Grant.

6. Leave point F to return home to point G. I then have a conference call (more Chinese dudes) at 9:30pm. I should add Singapore and Shenzhen to the map, since those are involved too, but alas.

I can't wait for our vacation next week. At least Disney's version of "It's a Small World" doesn't feature conference calls every night and Chinese dudes named Bigtree.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Anti-Facebook--TOP 10

As Bret delves (per previous post) deeper and deeper into Facebook hell (and, yes, I do think that it is an actual layer in Dante's inferno), I--for one--am putting my foot down.

I have lots of reasons that Facebook isn't right for me, and because blogging is right for me, I will now list these highly astute reasons for you.

1. I don't have a smokin' hot picture of myself for my profile. For me to join Facebook, I'd have to look like a Greek goddess. No, really. As I secretly scroll through Facebook profile pictures of friends from previous eras of my life, I'm thinking to myself, "Man, she looks really, really bad." Or fat. Or old. So, I don't want anyone looking at my picture and thinking the same thing. I know I have wrinkles and gray hair. I know I have a few pounds to shed. I don't need the rest of the world knowing it too.

2. I don't want to talk to half the people who would want to be friends. I've checked out peoples' friends, and it looks like most people "take on" friends who they really aren't that keen on to begin with... there are about five people from high school, even fewer from elementary school and college, and even fewer from the grad school years from whom I want to hear life updates. And, for the most part, I'm in touch with those people. And, they complete me.

3. And for current friends, we're current friends for a reason: because you live in INDIANAPOLIS and, wait for it, so do I. How about coffee?

4. Let's be honest. It started as a college thing, became a high school thing, and now it's an old person thing. I'm a trendsetter, people. I don't pick up a trend that's on it's way to some hot or not list.

5. My current students are Facebook junkies. I don't want them seeing me, and I sure as heck don't want to see them. I want to stay as far away as I can from the unparented, uncensored world of my kids.

6. I've got stuff to do. No, really. I have three bathrooms to clean. I have a kitchen floor to scrub. I am behind by over a year on Grant's scrapbook. I have spring cookies to make with my son. I don't have time for this Facebook crap, and I can't imagine you do either! Chop, chop!

7. Not to sound to anti-tech, but truth be told, I'm holding at email. I have not and will not embrace the text, the facebook, or the twitter. Don't even get me started on the twitter.

8. One of the options is "Poke," a lingo I don't get and don't understand. For example, if you pull up a friend, it says, "Poke Kate." Poking is mean and bad. My mom did her work to teach me that a long time ago, and I'm not ditching some stellar upbringing to be a part of what is cool and hip. Just so you know, that was my line for other such vices: sex, drugs, partying.

9. Facebook is shallow. On one's profile, there is room for favorite movies, favorite TV shows, favorite books, and--here's my favorite--favorite quotations. There are no real questions: What do you believe? How do you try to live that belief out in the day to day of your life? What issues are you passionate about currently? What are your deepest struggles, triumphs, and regrets? Sherbet or Ice Cream?

10. Under status, there is no "happily married" button as that is obviously what Bret would have put had he had the option. Obviously.

I will provide one exception to this Facebook boycott: when my own children have one. But, let's be honest, by then it'll be some new fancy technology, but my point remains. If my kids are into some secret, friend only, pass around pictures from last night's party kind of club, I'm in too. Oh, and don't think I won't make them by my friend. That's right. I work with high school students every day, and I think teen privacy is highly overrated.

So, until I change my mind, and it's going to take a whole lot for that to happen, I'm off to be productive... or to sit in front of my Tivo watching lame reality TV.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Facebook

Over the past couple of years, I've gotten an occasional request in my email to "become friends with (insert name) on Facebook!" I've deleted these requests because I haven't had the time to update both a Facebook page AND this delightful blog. But, believe it or not, because of something we're attempting at work, I ended up creating a Facebook account this week.

I have a number of questions and concerns regarding my participation in the Facebook community. Perhaps some of you expert Facebook-ers can be of some assistance by commenting on this post or writing something on my wall in Facebook. In any case, here are the dilemmas thus far.

1. I don't yet know how I feel about the sudden change of intimacy between myself and people I haven't spoken to or thought about in 20+ years. I suddenly have friend requests coming in from people I knew when I still occasionally digested a crayon or two, which leads quickly from "Hmm...I wonder how that guy turned out?" to seeing things like "I took an extra Xanax this morning to stop the voices. Then I had a waffle." I'm not sure this sudden view into the private lives of people I "used to know" is healthy.

2. Given my busy schedule and active social calendar, I don't know if I'm responsible for replying to every comment made "on my wall" on Facebook. Am I allowed to reply in a few days? Do I have to reply immediately? I always feel like I need to actually respond to emails, but does the same apply to Facebook? Do I really need to talk Xanax guy off the ledge?

3. Is it considered stalking to "friend" people who you only knew in 2nd grade? I'm getting requests like this, but is this really acceptable? Can you email a restraining order?

4. It depresses me that if I search based on the name of my high school, I see all these fresh, young faces come up. But I have to keep scrolling until I see the bald dudes to find "my people."

In any case, it's cool to talk to people, albeit informally, that I don't get to talk to very often. And it's definitely addicting to look at pictures of people I knew long ago. But given that I haven't yet mastered the ability to communicate in two sentence bursts (see my previous texting issues), I'm still going to use this blog as my primary forum. But if you wanna hookup on Facebook, here's my page.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Needles and Bags

I had a conference call with my Chinese co-workers last night. (For those of you who read our blog faithfully, I was recently introduced to two new guys -- Kingball and Big Tree. I wonder if they share an office.)

Anyway, the call lasted until midnight and featured any number of discouraging things, so I had trouble falling asleep afterward. After sleeping only a couple of hours, I got up this morning and came to work exhausted. In an effort to catch up on some sleep and take in the 72 degree temperatures, I escaped to the cozy comfines of my Hyundai Sonata for a snooze over lunch. I rolled the windows down, laid the seat back and started to drift off when I heard bagpipes.

I had the radio on, so my initial thought was, "Hmm...it's St. Patrick's Day. They must be playing bagpipes on the radio. I'll turn that racket off." As I turned the radio off, I quickly realized that it had no effect on the bagpipes. They were still playing. As I considered that bagpipes are generally a Scottish phenomenon, not Irish, I look out the window of my car to see an engineer from another company in our building standing across the street playing freaking bagpipes.

It was at this very moment that I wondered to myself whether other people encounter the same amount of bizarre crap in their lives that I seem to, or whether I'm just hypersensitive to seeing surreal things like a 350 pound adult man in worn out loafers and polyester pants huffing on a set of damn bagpipes in the middle of a tech complex parking lot during his lunch hour.

In other news of the weird, I had my first round of steroid injections in my back yesterday. As I lay on the operating table with my rear end exposed for all the world to see, I listened to the doctor and nurse discussing their NCAA tournament pics and what they had accomplished over the weekend. Eventually, the doctor said "This is going to be a little cold."

What I discovered during this whole episode is that if a doctor talks a lot about how the upcoming procedure is going to feel, it probably isn't going to hurt. Doctors will feed you all kinds of "This won't hurt a bit" and "You won't feel a thing." But if it's going to hurt like hell, they only say terse things like, "This might be cold." Plus my doctor is German which makes everything he says sound slightly more sinister. "You von't feel a zing as I push this needle into your spine."

After he rubbed the cold stuff on my back, he informed me that I'd feel a small pinch. This was the "small" needle that provided the anesthetic. This felt like a normal shot. I could then only feel pressure from the "larger" needle being inserted, and it really was no big deal. Then he pushed the plunger.

I let out an audible "Zikes" which induced a small amount of laughter from the nurse and doctor. "Did you feel that?" No, I just felt like screaming for the heck of it. As they pushed the steroid into my back, it felt like a small fire raced instantly from my back to the little toe on my left leg. It only lasted about 2 seconds, but I definitely knew I was on fire.

From that point on, the doctor kindly warned me before he hit me with each injection. Some I barely felt, others burned in various places on my rear end and thigh. Afterward, I sat up. He asked how I felt, and my response was "I haven't felt this good in years," and I wasn't kidding. I felt no pain in my back. He informed me that unfortunately, this was due to the anesthetic. But it was still a good sign because it gave some indication of how I might feel if they got my nerve pain under control. Unfortunately this initial high wore off after about three hours.

The doctor said that the injections went very well and that it will take several days for them to have their full effect. I'm still sore today, but I'm not hobbling around as much as I have been. I may have to do several rounds of injections before we move on to other options. I'm cautiously optimistic that the injections will at least get me back some mobility.

Now if I could just get some sleep without hearing Amazing Grace at 200 dBs on the bagpipes...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

3 years

Three years to the day, we've been officially "in line" in the Chinese adoption world. Our LID date (Log In Date) is March 15, 2006, and again we say, "THIS IS THE LONGEST FREAKIN' PREGNANCY EVER!!. We're not even counting the paperwork (or the years and years of infertility). It's hard to think that process has taken so long, but it is really exciting to think that Grace's arrival is imminent. She'll be here soon, and we're just giddy (well, Bret and I are giddy; the jury is still out on Grant). There are lots and lots of rumors swirling around the adoption community right now that the CCAA (Chinese agency in charge of adoption) might actually get to our number in a few weeks, but we're not holding our breath. We'll let you know as we get closer!

Grace continues to be a part of our hearts and our prayers... she'll be our little girl... someday!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Winner Is...

Well, it sure has been exciting to see those poll results a comin'. When I asked Bret who he thought had the higher credit score, he responded by saying, "Well, I would hope I would." I'm not sure what that means, but he (and all-ya-all who voted for Bret) are wrong. It looks like this budget queen came out on top... if only by four points!

We've decided to refinance our home, and we got a killer deal! I, for one, am okay with a tanked economy. Here's what I've scored so far: a killer refinance deal, a cheapo trip to Disney, and no where to go but up with our 401k.

So, off to crunch vacation numbers so Bret knows how many fruity drinks by the pool are in the plan! Every man has his priorities.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We recently had to pull our credit scores, and let's see how well our readership knows us. A Quick Test for our readers...

Who do you think has the better credit score?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Conversations

Here's a conversation with Grant from a few weeks ago. Topics covered: preschool, family, food and other toddler fun. video

Saturday, March 07, 2009

STILL...HURTING...

I know, I know. I've been using this blog as a forum to complain about my ailing back for the past several months. But at this point, every time Erin has to pickup Grant or bend over to retrieve my discarded ice cream bowl or empty beer mug, she throws me a glance which says, "Either get your back fixed, or there will be other things that will be far more difficult to repair or reattach." So on Friday, I visited the Midwest Pain Institute to see what could be done.

It's never good when the doctor's first words are, "Your MRI is impressive."

Impressive? You mean like, I have such a stunning body and frame that it showed up as such in the MRI? Or, my body is in such perfect alignment that I should have my own statue next to David?

His next words were, "You have two herniated discs, and an additional small tear in one of the two discs. Both discs are badly dehydrated and degenerated." Not good. Apparently the reason my back "goes out" every few months is that just about the time this tear heals, I rip it back open while shoveling snow, chopping wood, or reaching across the table for another cheeseburger.

The solution, which you can watch performed in detail by clicking on "Patient Education," then "Orthopedics," then "Non-Surgical Procedures," then finally "Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection" on the Midwest Pain Institute website, is to have some steroids pumped directly into my back to try to reduce the inflammation caused by all of this. You'll note if you watch the video that it starts with a small needle then proceeds to a larger, thicker needle. Not good.

If they can reduce my inflammation and get me upright once again, I will be starting an exercise regime to "strengthen my core." Basically, I support everything (mostly carried by spoon and fork) using my lower back, rather than my largely ignored stomach and other core muscles.

The good news is that the doctor doesn't think I have permanent damage, I just need to get in shape. I have this first procedure in about a week. I'll let you know how the "larger, thicker needle" feels.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Judas, who?

I teach smart kids, National Merit Finalist, Harvard-bound kind of smart kids. But, a conversation happened in class yesterday that leaves me wondering about students.

We were watching a clip from Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (the Sidney Poitier version not the P Diddy version... someone should have told Sean Combs there are just certain things you don't touch; it would be like someone trying to outdo Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch. But, I digress). In it, one of the characters references thirty pieces of silver. I paused the film to make sure my students understood the reference. Here's how it went down:

Me: "So, you guys get the thirty pieces of silver reference, right?
Class: silence
Me: "No, really. Can someone explain the reference?"
Class: silence
Me: "If I say 'Judas,' does that help?
Class: silence
Me: "No, really. Judas Iscariot?"
Class: silence
One student: "Is that the guy in Pirates of the Caribbean?"

I died. Needless to say, I started some cultural literacy training today. We're going to cover important people in literature, mythology, the Bible; today's lesson: Job. I wrote his name on the board, but I made sure I supplied a pronunciation key, as I didn't want my Harvard-bound students at a cocktail party talking about the guy in the Bible who experienced terrible hardship and fake friends but had a cool name that rhymed with sob. Or lob. Or mob. Or cob.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Zip It

Last night I was gathering up our laundry with the intention of "takin' it out back and beatin' it 'ginst a rock 'n some soapy water to warsh it," as is our way here in good old Indiana. As I normally do, I was in the process of zipping all the zippers and buttoning all the buttons when I managed to disassemble the zipper on one of Erin's favorite skirts.

I made a desperate attempt at emergency zipper repair, and I thought I'd succeeded. But when I handed the article over to my gentle, loving wife, she immediately tore the zipper asunder.

Logically, I suggested that perhaps she could still wear the skirt via the use of some cleverly placed safety pins or buttons, but she found this suggestion to be nonsensical. I was surprised by this reaction.

You see, Erin has a coat -- a winter coat, no less -- that does not have a usable zipper. Long ago, the zipper was yanked from its tracks, but she still wears this coat in all manner of frigid, Indiana winter conditions. I often suggest that she purchase another winter coat, one featuring a working zipper even, but she simply tells me that there's no reason to do so. She is perfectly content to dart from car to building and back, coat blowing in the breeze, rather than purchasing a new coat and staying healthy and warm from November to March.

Similarly, soon after we were married, she wore a pair of overalls from which the shoulder straps had been excised. In fact, her overalls were really nothing more than a pair of denim shorts without a waistband. They were shameful, but didn't bother Erin in the slightest. She wore them until they suffered some sort of accidental death while being sorted for the laundry one evening.

So it makes no sense to me why I should be expected to throw out a perfectly good skirt, just because of the absence of some semi-necessary closure hardware. Surely there's "some rope 'er somethin' we can use to tie it to 'er waist."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Croup

Grant's got croup or, as they say in Indiana, the croup. On top of it, his bark cough is so bad, he's thrown up several times: on my favorite quilt, all over his car seat, and then, all over me. It's been a really fun mommy day. Let's hope (and pray) the steroid the doc gave him provides him a peaceful night's sleep. Here's to wishful thinking!