Friday, January 29, 2010

Side Effects

One of the side effects of Erin's current trend toward "deal-based consumerism" is that we never have the same brand of any given product twice.  In general, this doesn't bother me at all.  In fact, it's sort of exciting in a "I'm middle-aged with two kids and a house covered in siding" kind of way to wake up and use Crest one morning and Aquafresh the next.  It keeps things spicy.

There is one area where I find this troubling -- toilet paper.

I know, I know...not another bathroom blog.  But next to sleep (and only slightly ahead of my job), the bathroom is where I spend most of my day.  And let's be honest -- everyone desires consistency in the bathroom.  It's why old people eat cereal made from packing material and young people refuse to do the "big job" in strange places.  We all long for consistency.

The problem with Erin's shopping is not that we end up with different brands of toilet paper.  I couldn't care less if I'm using Charmin or White Cloud.  (My only request is that our toilet paper not be made from "recycled" materials.  I'm all for saving the earth, but I'm more in tune currently with saving my a**.  The earth doesn't make riding a stationary bike at the gym uncomfortable.  Find me some fluffy recycled materials, and I'm game.)

The problem lies in that we end up with different thickness and ply in our various bathrooms.  As each roll in each bathroom runs out, a new roll, a new brand, and a new thickness goes in.  This leaves too much room for error.  I frequently find myself zinging off enough TP to make my arm look like an oversized Q-tip, only to discover that in THIS bathroom on THIS particular day, we're using some sort of 8-ply product with super fuzzy softness, leaving me with enough paper for 10 trips (and too much to, uh, fit for just this one trip).

Even worse is the converse.  I pull off a couple of sheets, fold them over gently, and quickly discover that I'm doing a home cancer screening of some sort because we're using a single ply paper meant only for RVs and stadiums.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, this seems small.  But you can't deny that there are few worse ways to start your day than a) plugging up your bathroom toilet with 5 pounds of Ultra Charmin or b) making first contact with yourself in an undesirable way.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Any One Want In..

I want to buy a quarter of a grass fed cow. Any one want to split it with me?

Not joking.


Again, sorry it's been so slow here the past couple of weeks.  We are STILL waiting on our new home PC to arrive.  It's due to arrive the first week of February, so hopefully we'll get back to more regularly posting then.

The other big thing going on with us right now is that our kids are, again, sick.  It started last week with Grace, and now Grant has it.  Colds, fevers, runny noses, coughing all night.  It's making all of us extremely tired, although right now Erin and Grant are in the worst shape.  Never before have I been so ready for winter to end.  Poor little Grace's face has been chapped since October, and we're on at least our third major round of illnesses for the winter.

I hope everyone is doing well, and we look forward to getting back to more interesting posts in a couple of weeks!!

Monday, January 25, 2010


A new antagonist has made its way into our house.  It's an air freshener.  It's one of those new fangled air fresheners that only goes off when someone enters its line of sight  or when it hasn't gone off in a while.  I do not like this thing.

First off, it makes a really fearsome hissing noise when it goes off.  Phhhtthfffft.  Followed by what sounds like some gears grinding.  It's very disconcerting.

The air freshener is currently placed in the bathroom within our bedroom.  I will not comment on why Erin chose to place it there.  Perhaps she has a problem of some sort that she needs to disclose.  In any case, I frequently forget that that air freshener is in there, and as I enter, I get the "Phhthhhtffftt" as it decides to emit its fragrant spray.  I feel like it's judging me.

And finally, when I need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I have learned that the air freshener will not go off in the dark.  This pleases me.  At least I can have some peace in the middle of the night. 

Unfortunately last night I needed to take some medicine, so I flipped on the light, only to immediately receive a blast of fragrance, the sound of which scared me into needing to also use the toilet.  The thing is right at eye level, so you literally feel as though you've been fragrantly maced in your nighttime stupor.  Not cool, I say.  Not cool.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Go Colts!

Dear Troy and Riley,

Tomorrow, when the Colts v. Jets AFC championship game is a few minutes from starting and the cameras are panning the frenzied Lucas Oil Stadium crowd, as they pass over Section 409, Erin and I will make sure to give you guys a hearty wave.

I'll even eat an extra hotdog for ya...  :-)


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gee, it's awfully quiet in here...

...and that would mostly be because our home PC died a painful death last week.

Erin mentioned to me casually one morning last week that our computer wouldn't come out of Standby mode.  I went over and took a look at it, and when I reached down to push the Power button myself, I got a nice big static shock.  So whatever was left of the PC probably went kaput when I zapped it.  In any case, we were able to recover all of the data, and now we're just waiting for our shiny new PC to arrive.

We promise we'll get back to our zany posts ASAP, but in the mean time, here are a few pics from Grant's 3rd birthday party, courtesy of my cousin's husband Paul. You can checkout his website here!

(And you can always keep reading Erin's new blog -- Get Real Family until we get back up to speed).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vegas Finale

You know, I'm a pretty safe guy to be around, especially when compared to some of the other individuals who inhabit Sin City during any given week.  But my last full day in Vegas proved that things can go wrong, and you can still land in hot water through sheer ignorance.

Things started off well enough.  At the end of the show, most of our boxes arrived from storage early, so we were able to pack up most of our gear for the convention before the end of the evening.  This meant that in theory, we would have little to do the next morning, outside of packing up a few last things and turning it all over to the shipper.

As the show had reached its close on Sunday, people had started inquiring about purchasing some of the TVs we had on display.  We made some inquiries and got the needed paperwork, so we told a few people to return the next morning, and we'd make them a deal.  It was a win-win.  We didn't have to ship the stuff back, and they got a good deal.

So on Monday, one of the bikini models from the show arrived bright eyed and barely clothed to pickup TVs with a couple of girlfriends.  While she waited for her ride to arrive, several other guys, primarily union guys working the show, came by to discuss making purchases.  Since some of them had helped us get our boxes out of storage quickly on Sunday night, we had no problems making them a good deal.

Eventually we had sold most of the product, but it was still sitting around waiting to be picked up.  The bikini girl waited a couple of hours before her ride arrived, and she was able to use her feminine wiles to get a guy to haul her stuff out on a forklift.  (The shirt she was wearing gave him a view to next Christmas, so I doubt it was a tough sell.)

Another lady called and said she'd be by in a few minutes with a truck to get her stuff.  It was shortly after this that a policeman walked into our booth and yelled, "Which one of you is Bret Hawkins?"

I looked over at my boss, and I could see him thinking, "Nice work.  After you left us last night, what did you do?  Cheat somebody?  Get in a fight?  Snort coke off a hooker's back?"  As he finished this thought (and while I was busy trying to keep from filling my shorts) the cop called his name also.  The officer's next question was, "Which of you is in charge?" at which point I began bowing and stepping away backwards from my boss.

During the discussion, a small crowd of other officials began to gather.  Some were officials from the show, some were security guards, others were policemen. I marveled at the various modes of transportation -- some had walked, others were on bikes, one was on a Segway.

Eventually, we were informed that there had been some issues with our sale.  Apparently you can't do what we did, per convention rules.  We also got a lengthy lesson regarding sales taxes and business licenses.  Who knew?  Apparently people who work at the show can get into trouble for buying stuff, so hopefully we didn't get anyone in trouble with our attempted good deed.  (In our defense, we saw a lot of stuff being sold toward the end of the show, so we thought it was fine.)

As it turns out, as the original group of girls exited the convention center, the guards took note of my name on their bill.  Soon after, another individual parked their pickup in the loading dock, blocking semis taking equipment out of the show, resulting in a complaint being filed.  What a mess.

The police took some names and info from us (which I'm sure will somehow inhibit my ability to get a passport in the future) and informed us that where possible, we needed to refund the cash.  (They were probably laughing at the idiot Midwesterners who found the one way to get in trouble in Vegas.)

This was fine with me, except that it meant that I now had to locate all these union guys to give them their money and explain the situation.  This only took a few hours which I could have spent enjoying lunch on my last day in Vegas, but alas.

A little while after we left, glad for the ordeal to be over, my boss got a text on his cell phone from one of the ladies, asking if we could get a TV out of the convention center and then meet her on the street to sell it.  We figured this was probably some kind of sting, and Chris Hansen from Dateline would pop out asking us if we knew who he was.  No way.

The story might have been better if we'd actually landed in jail, but the whole thing was painful enough as it was.  I can't afford a conviction right now...I need to be able to get a job in the future.  It's just unfortunate the several angry union guys from Vegas are now staring at my business card...waiting...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Look Who is Three or What the HECK?

I can hardly believe that our sweet and funny little boy is three years old today. I know everyone says it, but it does seem like just yesterday that we were bundling him up to bring him home from the hospital.

Grant has brought such joy to our lives. We love how hilarious he is, how big a heart he has, how he can play with such boy energy. He is our beloved son. We are thankful to his birthmom for the gift of Grant, and we are thankful to God who is the greatest giver of gifts.

We'll have pictures from Grant's superhero party (which is Saturday) later in the week. Grant's favorite part of every birthday has been when all eyes turn on him to sing "Happy Birthday"; we'll see if the presents outweigh the song this year.

From 2007

From 2008

From 2009

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Would you like some WHINE with that...

Now, I know what it is to miss family. I know what it is to work long days without any love from the boss man. I know what it is to be in limbo about future plans.

BUT, don't feel too sorry for Bret; after all, he's in Las Vegas on the company dime. He's staying at a nice hotel without having to ask for a pack-n-play. He's eating really, really nice meals, ones without sippy cups, dropped forks, or cold food because you've spent the first fifteen minutes cutting up food into manageable bites.

I'm eating chicken noodle soup out of can. On a good night. This morning, I woke up to Grace covered down (no joke... moms do not joke about such things) to her socks in poop. I have changed THREE outfits this morning because of poop.

So, if you're starting to feel a little sorry for homesick Bret, let's remember little old me here with two runny-nosed toddlers and a house covered in marshmallows (thank you, Papaw and Mamaw for getting Grant a marshmallow gun for Christmas) and load upon load of poopy laundry.

So, honey, we can't wait for you to come home. You better take all the uninterrupted nights on high thread count sheets and glasses of free wine you can get... because when you get home, I need a break--at the very least, I want to go the bathroom by myself.

Halfway there...


So this is how things turned out for our booth at CES.  It was fairly amazing to see the transformation after seeing how it looked at the beginning of the week.  Other people with more CES experience tell me that it always seems like a miracle has to occur for the displays to turn out so well, but they also agreed that this year's miracle seemed particularly mind boggling.

Despite the booth looking good, it's been a hard week out here.  As always, I miss my family, and there's been a lot of "job stuff" (for lack of a better term) swirling around that has made the week particularly trying.  It's been difficult to even be interested in what's going on with the rest of the show, partly because I'm exhausted.  I'm eating lots of great food and seeing some cool stuff, but none of it is having much of an impact on me.

So with that, I'm going to try to get some sleep tonight and regain some energy for the rest of the show.  Perhaps if I write an entry tomorrow, I'll be feeling a little more positive.  Tonight I feeling like I'm just trying to get by...albeit with a good steak from Les Artistes aiding the process.... 

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ready To Roll

Tomorrow is the opening of CES in Las Vegas, and I couldn't be happier to actually get the show rolling.  We've had a relatively miserable couple of days trying to get our booth together, but things are looking good now, and I'm ready to go.  The above picture is the "before" shot.  I'll send the "after" later this week...

In celebration of keeping the local union guys from killing any of my Chinese colleagues ("Get off that ****in' ladder right now, or we will kick you out of this show!!!!") our team had an amazing dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio.  I had, I kid you not, spaghetti and meatballs, but it was pretty amazing.  Plus I ended the meal with some amazing Bananas Foster.  It was a very nice conclusion to a rotten couple of days.

Here's a shot of the crew hoisting one of our logos overhead. The ability to maneuver these gigantic arms without destroying everything in sight is an amazing skill. (The operator, in this particular case, possessed both this amazing skill as well as approximately 20 piercings in his face. Both features were truly amazing.)

And finally, you love it when your sign unintentionally obstructs a major competitor:

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Welcome to Paris!

...Paris Las Vegas, that is.

I have arrived in Vegas for the International Consumer Electronics Show.  While there are perks to getting to spend some time in the desert in a nice hotel (it IS supposed to get to 60 degrees here today), there are definitely some down sides.

Since we're staying in Paris this year, the first thing I'm having to get used to is the use of what I'll term "hack French" on every sign.  "Le Buffet," "Le Garage," "Le Machine That Eats Quarters."  It's a little over the top. 

I understand wanting to provide ambiance, but couldn't they have just piped in some body odor and had a "Hurl Insults at Americans" booth in the lobby?  (I keed, I keed.  I worked for some delightful French people for many years.  Until they sold me to China.)

This morning I got up and got dressed for a workout.  Since my back has been such a mess, I have worked out faithfully.  And since I'm going to be on my feet for the next week, I wanted to be sure to not let that lapse.

I headed down to the 2nd floor where the workout center was located ("Le Spa.")  Upon arrival, I was informed that I would have to buy a daily spa pass at $25/day in order to use the elliptical machine for 35 minutes.  Uh, no thanks.

I did what any good midwesterner would do and told "Le Attendant" that I thought that was sort of a crock.  It didn't seem to phase her since there was a line of willing suckers already behind me at 6am.

And this is the problem, as I see it, with Las Vegas today.  Our cabbie on the ride to the hotel lamented the days when the mob ran things here.  At least then you could get a cheap room and a cheap meal, and in between you could dump loads of untraceable cash into the casino. 

Today, you just get robbed at every turn.  It'll cost me $20 for a bowl of oatmeal and a coffee this morning, which leaves a taste in my mouth which is, well, "Le Crappy."

Sunday, January 03, 2010

One of My Favorites

Wei Wei does one of my favorite things, and it has to be a by-product of being adopted at 14 months. When she came to us, she had no idea how to kiss. It was, no pun intended, a foreign concept. Now, she kisses all the time... and anything. She'll kiss the table, the lamp, the floor.

But, the best part is when you ask for a kiss or tell her to go kiss someone. To Grace, a kiss on the knee or the elbow is just as common as a kiss on the lips, probably more so. I kiss Grace everywhere: on her tummy, on her eyes... so, of course, she thinks that's the norm.

So, if you're lucky enough to get a kiss from Wei Wei, you best expect it to land just about anywhere.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Year

I can't believe that it's 2010; I remember thinking (when I was of the ripe ol' age of 13) that the year 2000 seemed sooooooooo far away, and when we got to Y2K, I'd be sooooooooooooo old. Things look different when you're on the other side of Y2K by a decade.

But, this isn't a nostalgic blog post. Yes, 2009 was great. Yes, we finally got to meet our daughter. And even though I value reflection, if the ringing in of 2010 has taught me anything, it's that time is fleeting. So, get a move on.

First off, don't forget to check out my new blog, which launched today. Fun and free stuff! Link to the right: Get Real Family.

On a housekeeping note, I should recount a few stories from over the holidays; these stories are more for me (and my record keeping) than for you, but hey, if you're here, and you're reading this, and you've already made it this far, you might as well keep reading.

1. Grant continues to be so easy in some ways. I remember at about 22 months when we moved him out of his crib--straight to a twin bed. No issues. Pacifiers? The pacifier fairy came one night... no issues. Potty training (I shouldn't admit this out loud, I know) took two days at 27 months. Easy. And now, we just took his guard off his bed, and he fell out once the first night... and, you guessed it, hasn't since. Easy. There is a terrible karma that happens to parents when they say these type of things out loud; the next kid will be a royal terror to transition.

2. One of my favorite things Grant said this Christmas involved music and his cousin Mary. Mary, a good 12 years Grant's senior, was trying to introduce Grant to rap music through the song "I'm so hood," which Grant sang at high volume. But, then, being the good student of music that Grant is, Grant asked Mary if she had any "folk music." We didn't know that he knew what "folk music" was, but hey, the kid knows that anything folk has got to be better than anything with the lyrics "I'm so hood."

3. Presents. Let's just use one word: ridiculous. The spoiling of these children is out of control. For future reference, in lieu of presents, please make checks payable to Grant and Grace's college funds. I'm just kidding. Kind of.

3a: Presents continued. Grant couldn't tell you his favorite present if he tried. He received sooooooooo many toys, and with his birthday a mere 13 days away, we're pretty sure we might as well convert our dining room into a playland, giving up any hope that our house isn't outright owned by Fisher Price. Grace, who received many, many toys as well, was far more interested in the candy and the two dollar microphone in her stocking than much else.

3b: Presents continued. No, really. Consider the college fund.

Here are a few pictures of Grant and Grace... to finish out 2009.