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 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 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...