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.

1. Go to
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, 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


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


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:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brand Names

While my wife is busy swearing off various retailers and spending time figuring out ways to get grocery stores to pay her for purchasing their goods, I've been noticing some changes around our household.

For example, the other day I noticed that we had Softsoap Ultra Rich Shea Butter Creme bath wash in our toiletry closet. It was just sitting there in its smooth, artwork covered packaging with those little colored soap crystals inside. I picked it up and stared at it for a second, trying to figure out what it was.

You see, up until this point, I was unaware that you could buy bath wash that didn't say "equate" somewhere on the packaging. In fact, I thought "equate" was some sort of New American slang for "soap."

Likewise, I've recently found cookies in our cupboard by someone named Keebler and a medical product called Aleve. Where, oh where, have my Great Value and naproxen gone?

As it turns out, one of the upsides to the wifey's new coupon obsession is that she's forced to buy name brand products to get the good deals offered up by her coupons. My body is not sure how to react to this.

When I was a kid, my mom was also a connoisseur de coupons. But for whatever reason, she still ended up buying lots of products that came in white label packages that could have housed soap, cookies, or motor oil, depending on which end of the factory line they occupied.

Additionally, my mom would pickup on little deals when she went to the store. For example, if there were a few gallons of milk getting ready to go south, she'd pick one up, hoping that I'd use it up quickly on my morning mixing bowl full of cereal. And to this day, I have no idea who "Sweet Acidophilus" is. His name sounds like he might have been one of the Harlem Globtrotters, but in any case, I ended up drinking his milk on occasion due to its closeout price.

I love my mom, and I'm sure she saved us a fortune on various products while growing up. And honestly, it seems like as people approach 70 or 80 years of age, they start paying more attention to these kinds of deals anyway, so she was just ahead of the curve. I still don't completely understand hers or Erin's system, but as long as I'm eating real Oreos and not a Hydrox (or variant thereof), and cleaning up with Charmin and not generic recycled tree bark, I'm a happy man.

So Erin has managed multiple benefits with her new shopping habits, and we haven't yet had to embarrass the kids.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Swearing Off

A good portion of my 20s were spent as roomie to Sarah, and Sarah and I had two competing outlooks: mine, POW Training; Sarah's, Assertiveness Training.

As a consummate pleaser, I took with fervor to what I called POW Training, a training that presented itself anytime I had to pee, to stand for long periods of time, or to do anything remotely uncomfortable. I told myself I was preparing "just in case."

Sarah knew the real reason I participated in POW Training was because I was too chicken to deal with the situation. I was too chicken to stand up in the middle of the row in the middle of the sermon to go pee. I was too chicken to send back the hamburger when I had ordered the Cobb salad. I don't know why I was such a chicken, but Sarah felt the need to start a course in assertiveness training, a regiment that Bret has finished for her, and I am now a proud graduate. I still have my "I'm too chicken to ask for that" moments, but I am much improved. I now pee when I have to pee, for the most part.

But, assertiveness training or not, I have always had my own ways of fighting back. For example, I conducted a 19 year ban on any product made by Herbal Essences. Back in the 1990s, the company ran ads that played on the similarity of the words "organic" and "orgasmic" with footage of girls shampooing their hair while having far too much fun doing it. Now, I'm not a prude, and I spent several years working in the advertising world, so I understand the "sex sells" philosophy, but that particular brand of advertising crossed a personal line for me, and so, I swore off the product. I didn't feel others should swear off the styling line, but I simply refused. I had no delusions that my small protest meant anything to anybody, but it meant something to me. (I recently just purchased a bottle of shampoo by Herbal Essences; the ads have been off the air for over five years, and I consider forgiveness a virtue.)

And tonight, which is the point of this post anyway, I have a new swearing off. That's right. Walgreens in Brownsburg: you're on notice. Without going into detail, there was a register fiasco involving a slew of items, a plethora of coupons, and a handful of what Walgreens calls "Register Rewards," reward "checks" you get to use during your next shopping trip. I had read up on the rules of these "rewards," a term I now use loosely, so I knew what I was doing. When it didn't quite go as planned, I politely asked for an explanation. And, here's why I am swearing off Walgreens (not because I didn't get what I wanted and not because I was made to feel weird for asking): the manager finally admitted that she didn't really "know how they worked either." If you're the manager of Walgreens, you've got to understand how your little "reward" coupons work. She counted up my items: 14. She counted up the amount of "rewards" I had: 12. She did the "math" (she was wrong, but I didn't think it right to correct her, assertiveness training or not) and told me that I "should" be able to use my two extra "reward" coupons, but for some reason, a reason she couldn't explain, I couldn't. I don't care about the money, but I don't like when the person running the place doesn't even get basic company policy.

So, it's over. I'm done. I might just transfer all of my prescriptions if I get around to it, but for now, I'm not buying another item in the main part of Walgreens, at least the one in my city. I am reasonable, after all.

We're Home

With Grant waking up Friday morning with a 102 temp, we decided to head home early. The two day drive, with a drive through Shenandoah National Park, was absolutely beautiful (we love autumn!), but we have a very sick boy, a pretty sick girl, a mildly sick mommy and one tired daddy on our hands. We're doing laundry, eating junk food (there's no food in the house yet), and pumping the kiddos up on pain killers (okay, children's tylenol), so we'll be back to blogging soon.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday in Virginia

Bret and I are both pretty beat, but I'm going to post this for posterity's sake. I'll add lots of pictures to make up for the boring information.

After a huge breakfast at the Five Points Cafe (much recommended for breakfast), we went to a local park to let Grant burn off some morning steam. The park was amazing, complete with zip lines and slides that caused Grant much distress.

Then, after early naps, we headed down to Virginia Beach. We decided to rent one of those surrey boardwalk bikes, and the owner was so taken with Grant and Grace that she gave them free candy bars, toys and sunglasses. She "threw" in an extra hour on the bike, but after forty minutes of pedaling in first gear, we were done. Grant and Grace loved the bike, turned lots of heads, and had a fun afternoon at the beach. Grant started down to the water but asked to turn around because he was "well dressed" and "afraid of the sharks." Hmmm.

We, then, went to meet Bret's cousin for dinner. Erin lives in Norfolk, and we ate some yummy, yummy Mexican (which I had been craving all week), but little Grace showed a wild side we have yet to see in her small self. She was unhappy, unhappy, unhappy, but, thankfully, Erin was patient with our screaming child, and though quick, it was great to meet up with Erin on her turf.

Cinderella and Snow White (two princesses that Grant "saves" on an hour-by-hour basis) tagged along all day. Sometimes, they drove in a car behind us. Sometimes, I was sitting on them at breakfast. Sometimes, they were "going to meet us at our vacation home" (what Grant calls the condo we are using).

Also, yesterday at the Mariners' Museum (which sounds boring, but it was really fun... and Grant had an absolute BLAST), Grant struck up a conversation with a lady who was waiting for a movie to start. During the wait, pictures of old ships passed on the screen. Grant told the lady (and I swear, this is EXACTLY what he said) that he had "seen a ship wike this before when I wived in Africa." I asked him when he lived in Africa, and he told us that he "wived there when he was thirteen, and the boat shot awwows at him." I think the lady thought Grant was "seeing dead people." I was less concerned when later he told me that Bret and I were there with him, and we "ate wots of Skittles."

Tomorrow is our last day in Williamsburg, and we're going to take it easy. The best part of this whole trip, though, is that Grant and Grace have become good friends. Grant has been trying to be friends with Grace after the initial shock of her arrival, but she has been less than thrilled every time he came near. They have been sleeping in the same room here in Williamsburg, and now, Grace has a deep and abiding love for Grant, and he works so hard to keep her happy. They still have sibling moments, but we made more progress than I thought was possible with two toddlers.

Now, here are some pics:
At Virginia Beach with gorgeous weather. We watched dozens of fighter jets fly overhead. Grant now wants to be a fighter jet "piwot."
Surrey with the fringe on top

Good Friends... FINALLY!

After dinner with cousin Erin, and Grace is still mad at the world.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mariners' Museum

This morning, we made our way to the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia. This was a very cool excursion, and one we highly recommend.

But first, we made a stop in Williamsburg at The Gazebo for breakfast. Erin was a little shaky about this place at first, despite my research telling me it would be good for pancakes. It looks like a discarded Rax restaurant from the 80's, or perhaps a Hardee's. And the only decor is a large gazebo in the middle of the restaurant, but the food made up for the lack of ambiance. I had banana and pecan pancakes, and they had just the right amount of sweetness. They also served local sausage and bacon, which was very tasty.

After The Gazebo, we headed for the Mariners' Museum, 25 minutes away. The primary feature of this museum is a wing devoted to the story and recent discovery of Civil War era ironclad, the USS Monitor. Erin and I are both pretty much history illiterate (this trip has been full of "Is that Civil or Revolutionary?" type questions), which I find highly embarrassing for both of us. The older I get, the more I feel this situation needs some attention, but alas. But we all learned a lot from this display. Plus it was highly interactive and very exciting, even for Grant.

After the museum, we drove along the western bank of the James River. I had read that Bacon's Castle was worth a stop. (We had learned about Bacon's Rebellion on a prior stop in the trip.) After a fairly dull drive, we finally arrived at Bacon's Castle. As we pulled up the drive, I asked Erin what it would be worth to get a tour. "Not much" was her reply, and alas, I missed out on seeing any of Bacon's artifacts. The house did look lovely though.

While driving towards Williamsburg, Erin managed to injure herself with a Dum Dum sucker. Somehow she managed to bite off part of the pop, leaving a very sharp edge on the remaining portion, with which she promptly cut her lip and chin. And I'm not talking a small cut, but one large enough to turn her lip purple and leave a visible vertical gash on her chin. As she mopped up the resulting blood, I informed her that in a way, she was a Dum Dum cannibal. A few minutes later, she begin trying to injure me.

After taking the ferry back over to Jamestown(e), we landed back in Williamsburg. For dinner, we ventured out to a very good Chinese/Mongolian/Thai/Japanese buffet. Normally this wouldn't be our stop while on vacation, but Chinese food sounded good, so we checked online for the best place locally, and voila. This place was very interesting, because they had a lot of Thai stuff on the buffet, which was nice. Grace slurped up her first noodles since we came back to the U.S., and she seemed highly excited by the experience.

After dinner, Grace had a diaper blowout which required a lot of laundry and household cleaners. She's happy as a clam, but my gosh, if dinner did to me what it does to her, I might actually lose some weight.

Tomorrow we're off to Virginia Beach and Norfolk, where we'll be hooking up for dinner with my cousin. We're looking forward to it!

And P.S., there are no pictures because yours truly forgot the camera...such is life.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


For those following our descent into vacation, I'm glad to report that today was a vast improvement over yesterday. The kids are feeling somewhat better, and Grace has decided that she now feels well enough to enjoy her surroundings with only an occasional shriek.

This morning we ventured over to the Yankee Candle, uh, store. Actually it's referred to as a "village" in their literature, and that's probably more accurate. Needless to say, it's not the dinky, stinky store we're all accustomed to in our local indoor shopping mall. There were animated characters, candle dipping, a couple of small restaurants, and a real live Santa. No crap. They had an employee who looked JUST LIKE SANTA. I'd never seen a better Santa in my life. I was checking the dude's boots for reindeer crap I was so convinced.

Grant and Grace loved the place, and it was an easy way to kill a couple of hours. Unfortunately just before we were to leave, the employee of the popcorn store gave Grant a sample of cheese popcorn. We're not sure if he got a little kernel in his throat or just a big mouthful of "cheese dust" but he started his usual hacking and gagging. Erin got him to the parking lot before she caught a handful of regurgitated cheesy corn. She caught the second batch in Grant's removed shirt, so Grant had to wear a winter vest back into the village while we checked out. It was a good look for him.

I'd like it noted that this is the 2nd time in 2 days that Erin has successful caught Grant vomit without a single drop of spillage. She's really becoming a pro. And let me tell you, if bile had a sexy odor, she would be a S-E-X-Y mama. Yes, sir. (And for those of you who are wondering, no, Grant doesn't have some sort of stomach disorder. He simply begins gagging and hacking whenever he tastes something he doesn't like, and this usually leads to spewage. It's been this way his whole life, and unfortunately, it seems to bother everyone but him.)

This afternoon after naps, we went over to the Jamestown Settlement, another Virginia "living history" museum. In an effort to create confusion, there is a "Jamestown Settlement" with a replica of the fort and Indian village, and there is a separate national historic site called "Historic Jamestowne." Apparently adding the "e" to the end makes it boring for kids, with nothing to look at except a bunch of signs that say "sick people trying to keep Indians from killing them lived over in those bushes once." I found the actual site interesting, but I had to do it at 35 MPH to keep the family happy.

For dinner we went to a place called "Food For Thought." This was highly recommended on Tripadvisor, and we heartily second their endorsement. Erin had potroast, and I had Jamaican jerk chicken, and both were full of flavor. The side dishes were excellent, and we had a wonderful helping of bread pudding for dessert. Do yourself a favor and bypass the 600 chain restaurants on U.S. 60 to try this place if ever in Williamsburg, as it was well worth the trip.

We're now getting the kids ready for bed, and we couldn't be happier that today went so much better than yesterday. Grant did pee his pants when we tried to go to a playground after dinner, but given the variety of bodily fluids Erin has endured in the past 48 hours, wet jeans didn't seem so bad. If neither of these kids bleeds from the eyes between now and the end of this vacation, I will consider it a hearty success.

Monday, October 05, 2009

...and then it all went south...

We got up this morning planning to head over to Colonial Williamsburg for the morning. The plan was to get the lay of the land, and then come home, take naps, and do the real in-depth visiting another day.

When we woke up, Erin, Grant, and Grace all had colds. I don't know if I've had it or will be getting it, but I feel OK for now. Erin and Grant are in OK shape as well, despite runny noses. But Grace...oh Grace.

You see, it's not that her cold is necessarily worse than the others, it's just that her reaction to it is so extreme. It's very much the "if I'm not happy...NOBODY is happy" mentality, and she apparently extends the "NOBODY" to include all of the state of Virginia.

She literally cries and screams at everything today. You pick her up -- she screams. You put her down, she's happy for 2 seconds, then she screams. You give her some food...she's happy for a moment, then she screams. You put her in the stroller, she begins slapping at Grant's head...while screaming. It's crazy.

So we tried to do Williamsburg for a couple of hours, when we decided that it just wasn't happening. But we did want to have dinner at the King's Arms Tavern at some point during the trip, and since we were there...

Unfortunately we were placed in a room with 6 or 8 other parties, none of which was apparently speaking to each other. The room was virtually silent, except for Grace's screaming. The only levity was when the costumed inn keeper arrived and began interacting with Grant in front of everyone.

"How old are you young man?"
"I'm two! How old are you?"
"Oh, I'm older than that. I have a six year old son."
"Where is he?"
"Out tending the horses. He's learning how to do it himself."
"I learn about God." (Crowd "awwwwwws" which fuels Grants fire.)

As we left, Grant waived and told everyone in the room "Goodbye!" which elicited the only energy from the other patrons in the room.

We're now back at the condo relaxing, plotting our next move. I honestly doubt we'll head back down to Colonial Williamsburg on this trip. It was just such misery this morning that it will take some time to recover from. I think the rest of the trip will consist of parks, maybe some shopping, and everyone recovering from their colds.

Hopefully Gracie awakens in a slightly better mood...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Busch Gardens

This morning we got up and made our way over to Busch Gardens. We came because a) they have a new Sesame Street section for the kids b) they have a "Lunch With Elmo" buffet and c) Erin is a total junkie for amusement parks. She can pass it off as "for the kids," but truth be told, she gets as much out of it as they do. And as long as the weather is as gorgeous as it was today and the crowds as low, I'm good with it as well.

The first stop upon arrival was the "height measurement wristband" center, which I will refer to from now on as the "Dream Crusher ride." Child after child started their big day by being told just how many rides they would be unable to ride due to stature and handed back to their parents, sobbing, to begin the rides.

As Grant approached the height measurement, I noticed that it was going to be a close call. As he jumped up to be measured, squirming and ready to go, the guy slapped an orange wristband on him -- the death sentence. The "you might as well be a suckling infant, 'cause you ain't riding squat" band. I tried to get Grant to stand up straight, go on his tip toes, etc, but no go. So we headed off to Sesame Street land to ride the smallest, most meager rides.

As we approached Sesame Street, I saw the small roller coaster for the kid section. We walked up, and I immediately saw that it took the band one level higher than the dreaded orange wristband. Erin quickly tore off the wristband, and I put Grant in line to be measured by another worker, but she saw our deception. She informed us it was a no-go, but then she let him go ahead and be measured.

She began taking his measurement, and it was quickly apparent that Grant had learned something in the previous 15 minutes. He immediately began trying to get on his tip toes, but she kept telling him that wouldn't work. She then sighed and said, "It looks like he JUST BARELY makes the red wristband. Here you go." Score. Crisis averted. On to the roller coaster.

As expected, Grant had a wonderful time riding everything he could. And Erin and I got a chance to go on the bigger rides by alternating watching the kids, so all was good. We had a great time.

We also had a great time at the "Lunch With Elmo" although I nearly made myself ill on the "hot dog and chicken finger" buffet. I figured if I was going to sit through those songs, I was going to do it with bad buffet food coming out my ears. The kids loved watching all the characters sing and dance, and we got to take pictures with several characters. Grace even blew her first kiss to Oscar the Grouch.

My personal favorite character was "The Count." He came out and informed the audience that he had no friends to hang out with on Halloween because he keeps counting the candles, the cobwebs, the candy, etc. He even counted the number of friends who wouldn't hang out with him! I leaned over to Erin and said, "Can you say O-C-D?" Methinks The Count needs to seek out an SSRI and some therapy.

After Busch Gardens, we came back to our condo, took a quick break, and then had a nice low key dinner at ZPizza. I've never had yams or raisins on a pizza, but it was very tasty. I don't know how it will blend with the Cookie Monster cupcakes, but only time will tell.

After dinner, Grace kept us entertained with her developing walking skills. It was a big night -- she took four steps on her own! It's pretty apparent to me that she'll be running all over the place very shortly. Grant had better watch out.

Tomorrow I think we're venturing out to Colonial Williamsburg. As we left Busch Gardens, I said to the kids, "Tomorrow the fun will REALLY begin! Historic sites! Period costumes! No rides! No electricity even!" Should be a blast!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Williamsburg Arrival

Why is the work week prior to a vacation ALWAYS filled with absolute misery? Meetings were scheduled, meetings were canceled, deadlines were missed...chaos. I couldn't be happier that it's over. By the end of the week, I would have rather severed my own head than work another day, and thus, we set out for Williamsburg, by land and by Kia.

We got a late start on Friday, so we found ourselves eating a quick dinner at the Spiceland Family Restaurant in Spiceland, Indiana. If you've never heard of Spiceland, you wouldn't be alone. It's just a bump in the road, but we always try to eat in locally owned places on vacation, so we ventured into what turned out to be a very typical, rural Indiana greasy spoon. I was again reminded that now that we are a tri-racial family, we are instantly noticeable in little places like this, always in a good way thus far. Everyone was very friendly, and Grace only threw a small portion of her food on the tile floor.

We departed Spiceland and headed for Dayton, Ohio. Since it was already dark, we were very aware of how late it was, and we were also very aware that we had a non-refundable reservation (it was free using points, but non-cancel-able anyway) in Beckley, West Virginia. Oy. We made a quick stop at the Root Beer Stande for shakes and root beer, and then began a long evening crossing southern Ohio via U.S. 35.

In the end, we cruised into Beckley around 12:30am. I wasn't in bad shape, but the kids had slept on and off for the prior few hours, leaving them in a weird state. Grant thought it was morning, Grace thought it was the middle of the afternoon. They both fell asleep, but both were up at various points during the night. None of us got a lot of sleep.

This morning we got up, ate Cracker Barrel (so much for my chain restaurant ban), and headed for Williamsburg. It became apparent fairly quickly that nobody in Big Whitey (our beloved minivan) had had enough sleep. If each of us had been handed a pointy stick, I'm pretty sure nobody would have escaped the van alive.

We got checked-in around 4:00pm, went to dinner at Ruby Tuesday (it was quick and close), did some quick grocery shopping, and now we're crashing. Tomorrow is a BIG DAY at Busch Gardens, featuring Lunch with Elmo. Frankly, Tickle Me Elmo's laugh makes me want to introduce his furry little paw to the garbage disposal, but hopefully if I get some sleep, things will go OK. G'night.