Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Game Changer

So, I've got some--hmmm--interesting news. Let's see if you can guess it...

Here are some clues:

1. It's nine letters
2. I just talked to my obgyn about it
3. It does crazy things to my body (and, I mean crazy!)
4. It's not something I expected, at least not at this stage
5. My body might get back to normal in October

Any guesses?


That's right, you guessed it...



I


AM


GOING


TO


HAVE


A






























MELTDOWN!

... because I am going through MENOPAUSE (there are your nine letters)! Yep, that's right, I'm going through a state of forced menopause (thanks to a monthly injection) for the next 8 months! I just had a whole series of night sweats two nights ago (not fun); the mood swings haven't been too bad yet (though, I feel full freedom to blame any misspeak on said hormone fluctuations), but the exhaustion... oh, the exhaustion (though, that might be two toddlers, both of whom are sick, and often up through the night)!

So, I am one of the few lucky women who will get to go through menopause twice. At least, I might know what to expect the second time around. Gotta go--a hot flash is a comin'.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Sayings

Friday was sort of dreary in Central Indiana, with some light spring showers putting a gray haze over everything. At breakfast, Erin opened the curtains revealing this situation, which Grant immediately declared "Boooooring."

This weekend we took it easy and tried to heal up from the various colds that have continued to plague our family. We watched the basketball games, continuing to cheer for the Butler Bulldogs and favorite Brownsburg son, Gordon Hayward.

Last night, I stopped and picked up Papa John's pizza on my way home from the gym. (Nothing says "dedication" like ordering an extra large pizza on your cell phone while toweling off the elliptical machine.)

When I got home with it, I immediately tore into the garlic butter and bread sticks. I realize that the garlic butter is a bad way to go in social situations, but in the privacy of my own home, I indulge. A little while later, Grant crawled up into my lap and immediately said, "Daddy, what's that terrible smell in your mouth?" Thanks.

Finally last night, Erin was giving Grant a bear hug before bed, requiring him to buy his way out of it by "saying what mommy wants to hear." I suggested several release phrases to Grant during this interaction, including "Fine...I'll clean your stupid van out myself!" and "I'll put the seat up in the middle of the night next time, I promise!" But Grant decided to choose his own path.

He started with "Go Bulldogs!" which he learned during the ballgames. He then tried "Go Colts!" And finally, he landed on "I love you!" in exasperation. There's nothing quite like strangling the affection from your child.

This morning, Grant informed us that he was excited to go back to day care, having spent the last week with mommy on spring break. He then told us that he planned to continue teaching the other children the "savages song" from Pocahontas. Click here to see the lyrics. Perhaps this isn't the song we want Grant teaching other children outside of the context of the film......

Friday, March 26, 2010

Things You See On the Road

I took a long walk in a not-so-great neighborhood today. Erin's van ("Big Whitey" for the uninitiated) is getting ready to go out of warranty, so I took it down to get some minor repairs done during my lunch hour. It was only going to take an hour, so I thought I would dump it, find food, and return.

Unfortunately the dealership is in a somewhat downcast area in Indy (38th and Lafayette, if you're a local). If providing my location, it could have been triangulated by two strip clubs and a Hooters.

I knew I could find food close by, so I wasn't worried about having to walk too far, and frankly, I kind of miss all the walking I do in China, so I was sort of looking forward to it.

What I discovered in the couple of miles I walked is that humans leave a lot of weird crap strewn about. Here are just a few things I took notice of while walking.

1. There were several giant parking lots that were just surrounded by fencing and going unused. Based on the area, I suspect these were all car lots, and given the state of the economy and the ability of automakers to build cars with brakes that work, these lots are now vacant. It seems odd that there's nothing you can do with these giant spaces. Perhaps a break testing track could be built.

2. Gas station food wrappers. I've rarely seen anyone eat the hot dogs, corn dogs, burritos, and deli sandwiches available in gas stations, but on my walk, I saw wrappers for these very items everywhere.

3. Clothing. I saw an old pair of shoes in a new shoe box. Underpants. Lots of socks. Knit caps. More underpants. How do old clothes end up on urban streets? I doubt I want to know. And why do only men who wear tighty whities lose their underpants in the street? There were no nice boxers or women's underwear, only underwear that looked like it might have been worn by Abe Vigoda on Barney Miller.

4. Lots of plastic baggies. Again, this probably falls under the "I don't want to know" category, but I saw dozens of Ziploc bags with unidentifiable contents.

The urban junk you see in China is far different. Lots of food products -- orange rinds, apple cores...an occasional fish head. But not so much underpants. Very strange.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Conversation with Grace

Considering she heard Mandarin for the first 14 months of her life (and she's only been in the states for 7 months or so), I think Grace's language skills are amazing. She knows more English in 7 months than I would Mandarin!

Sorry for the poor quality; I don't have time to wait around while a better version uploads!

video

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cincinnati Getaway


For Christmas, Erin and I received a gift card from BedAndBreakfast.com from Erin’s parents. The goal was to give Erin and me a breather from Grant’s questions and Grace’s diapers, while allowing my in-laws the opportunity to watch the kids.

An unfortunate side effect of my father-in-law’s recent surgery is that we didn’t think it prudent to leave our two crazies with a man who recently received more bypasses than are present within the whole of the U.S. interstate system, therefore we dumped the kids with my parents and headed to Cincinnati for the weekend.

We left Friday after work, and as usual, I had researched several restaurants for dinner along our path to Cincy. I have learned that my best option is to select a variety of places at evenly spaced intervals, so if we get hungry, we are always within striking distance of food. In this case, we made it all the way to Cincy and Maury’s Tiny Cove.

I had wanted to try Maury’s during our last several trips to Cincy, but it had never worked out. The descriptions online made me think it would be my kind of place – good food, whacked atmosphere. This turned out to be mostly true.

Maury’s is covered in wood paneling and features no windows. It sort of gave you the feeling that there could be an Al Capone-style shootout eliminating everything on two legs in the place, and it would take the cops a few days to discover the bodies.

Erin was especially intrigued by the collection of bulls that were featured around the top of the dining room. We learned, mostly through eavesdropping, that Maury’s is on its fourth owner. Apparently the current owner digs the funky interior, which I can understand.

There were crackers, butter, and thick cut pickles on the table prior to our meal. We were disappointed that the crackers were never replaced by bread, so in retaliation, I ate all the Captain’s Wafers and left a pile of Saltine’s in their place.

The menu was the usual for a steakhouse – steaks, burgers, and some random seafood. Erin and I both ordered steaks, which in the end were quite tasty. I was sure that I was doomed though when our salads arrived prior to the steaks. The salads consisted of shredded lettuce, a big no-no in Erin-world. We both ordered the House dressing, which made the salad taste basically like a giant bowl of coleslaw. I was pleasantly surprised when our steaks made up for this egregious error.

After dinner, we made our way to the Six Acres Bed and Breakfast on the old Northside of Cincinnati – an area whose recent tourism campaign "Next Stop: The Morgue" was a dismal failure. We had an extremely difficult time using our gift card from BedAndBreakfast.com, and Six Acres wasn’t actually our first choice, but in the end, it turned out to be a good experience.

The B&B is comprised of two old houses, and the place is run by a delightful woman who provided us with a couple of hours of very interesting conversation on Saturday morning. She also baked us fresh brownies and served a wonderful breakfast, so she could have essentially spit on me by the time we left, and all would have been forgiven.

After our arrival on Friday night, we ventured out to the Sidewinder coffee shop for dessert and a night cap. We returned to the B&B and did what any self respecting couple does in the bedroom at a B&B with no kids around – watched the NCAA tournament.

On Saturday, we ventured out to our favorite place in Cincinnati – IKEA. In reality, we don’t like IKEA THAT much, but we did have some cheap, European furniture needs, so we made a stop. Personally, I enjoy what I am sure are the fake Swedish names given to all of IKEA’s products – a cup called “DRINKENBOTTLE” or a lamp called “STICKOLIGHTEN.”

I also appreciate that IKEA has found a way to make even the most basic piece of furniture require 600 screws to assemble with an Allen wrench the size of your pinkie. Their instructions feature little genderless beings helping each other pick up heavy objects and read the instructions to each other. Nowhere does it show them hurling large pieces of press board into the street in anger or un-assembling and re-assembling the same bookshelf three times until the piece with six holes on the left and four holes on the right is on the INSIDE of the bookshelf. This would make the illustrations far more accurate.

After purchasing a few things that we had not planned to purchase, we made a quick stop at Jungle Jim’s before heading back toward Indianapolis. In an effort to extend our getaway, we made a brief stop at Indiana Downs. Erin assured me that there were at least two machines at Indiana Downs that were guaranteed to pay out. In the end, she was probably correct, only they were guaranteed to pay out to somebody else.

We had a quick dinner, watched the Butler v. Murray St. ballgame and headed to pick up the kids. We both marvel each time we get away at a) how much we miss the kids and b) how easy it is to shop without them. You forget just how many times you say, “Grant, do not touch that” or “Grace, get back over here” or “Honestly sir, I didn’t think she’d actually use it like a real potty” when shopping with kids. All in all, it was a lovely weekend getaway.


We love our kids, but we were excited to drive several hours without back seat companions!



Our bed and breakfast: you should have seen the before pics!




The clock at wake up time. It was the greatest gift to wake up naturally... without kid involvement.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Talking

Grant has entered that phase of life during which he talks. All. The. Time.

It's constant. Without ceasing. He's very polite and well behaved, but his quest to understand the universe around him through endless inquiry is wearing down his parents (who quite frankly don't have a clue as to how to answer most of his questions).

A couple of days ago, as we got into the minivan (a place where he's guaranteed to have to duke it out with momma for ear time with daddy), I explained to him very calmly that he didn't need to talk 100% of the time. I told him that there were times when he would need to be quiet, and now was one of those times. He very calmly replied, "OK daddy. Some day I'll understand you." Thanks.

In addition to being without end, his questions frequently leave me unable to even make up a good answer. Some sample exchanges:

"Daddy, what color is that car?"
"Blue."
"Do you like blue?"
"Yes, blue is a nice color, Grant."
"Have you ever seen a blue dinosaur?"
"Nope."
"But why?"

---------

"Daddy, have you ever seen 'Star Wars'?" (A movie his mother won't let him see until after high school graduation, no doubt.)
"Yep, I've seen it."
"Where did you see it?"
"I don't really remember. Probably at home."
"Why did you see it there?"
"Because that's where I was."
"I saw it in Africa when I was older. Have you ever been to Africa?"
"Nope."
"Why?"

---------

"Daddy, do you like my train?"
"Yes, it's a neat train that makes neat sounds."
"Have you ever seen it?"
"Yes, that's how I know it makes neat sounds."
"Why have you seen it?"

(Daddy's brain explodes.)

Grace is also starting to wade into the speaking pool. She only has a few complete sentences, but they serve her well. "Get away from me," "I want that," and "Serve me, infidel" are three of her favorites.

Her other favorite thing right now is to sing. She sings in the car all the time. Mostly she sings the melody of various songs and just mumbles gibberish for the words. My favorite is that she sings the "A, B, C's" using all "zh" and "c" sounds.

"zh zh zh zh zh zh zh"
"shir shir shir shir shir shir shir shir shir"
"ch ch ch ch ch ch"
"zh zh zh zh zh zh"

Unfortunately this letter substitution occurs frequently with Grace. "Milk" is "Mop," "Coat" is "Coke" and most unfortunate is what she calls her "Sock" (I'll give you a hint...it rhymes with "Sock" but it ain't a sock.)

Grant can actually sing very well now, when he slows down to do so. Just last week, they sang a bunch of Beatles tunes at day care. It only took us an additional week to convince Grant that the Beatles 1968 hit single was NOT, in fact, called "Hey Jew." Kids...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Potty Training Seats

We're quickly approaching the point of ditching the diapers with our dear Grace. She was pretty well potty trained when we got her in China, but we didn't finish the job then, so we need to now. It's a little embarrassing when your kid squats down and makes a "pooh" sound with her lips in the middle of a shopping center.

One of the many dilemmas with Grace's potty training is that she refuses to sit on the toilet without a training seat of some sort installed. Upstairs it's a little puffy seat with some Sesame Street characters; downstairs it's a plain plastic seat with a little plastic guard on the front for keeping boys from hosing down the wallpaper while seated.

I'm fine with her using these, and I understand Grace's fear of falling into the bowl (a problem I never had, since my rear was larger than the toilet seat by the time I entered Kindergarten.) My issue is that when I need to make a quick visit to the bathroom in our house, I have to maneuver around these blasted training seats. (And no, I'm not talking about when I need to take a seat. That would be a fate that the poor Sesame Street characters don't deserve.)

My initial thought is to just leave the training seat in place, as I really don't like picking the seat up and moving it. (Frequently the undersides of these things look a little too truck stop for my tastes.) The only problem is that the toilet is now a little bit like those hoops at the carnival. You know the ones -- they're just big enough to put a basketball through, but they're definitely not regulation. This is what happens with the toilet. Suddenly I've got a real challenge on my hands. (And let's not talk about what happens when nature calls in the middle of the night. Poor little Big Bird and Elmo get hit with an occasional monsoon.)

To make matters worse, Grant is now asking for me to teach him how to go while standing up. It's hard enough to get Grant to stand still for ANYTHING, but if he has to stand still AND have good aim, we might as well give up now and install one of those stainless steel "walls 'o wee wee" like they have in stadiums. The cleanup would be easier.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Update

My Dad (Erin) had 5 bypasses and part of his aorta replaced, but he made it. He has a steep climb to recovery in front of him, but we are grateful to God and to those of you who partnered with us in prayer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Erin's Dad


My Dad is undergoing major (up to six bypasses and an artery replacement) heart surgery tomorrow, and while he is healthy and young, we would sure covet your prayers. I'll keep you posted.

This is all very unexpected, so we're trying to cope quickly with all the change. Your prayers for him, his doctors, his recovery and the rest of my family would be so very appreciated.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kid's Zone

There's a church a few minutes from our house that has a giant, indoor, public play area for kids called the Kid's Zone. It features a very large structure comprised of tubes, tunnels, a play house, and a big swirly slide, all suspended up in the air. You have to climb in one of two towers to get up inside the thing, but once you're up there, you have lots of stuff to do.

Grant has steadfastly refused to have anything to do with this structure. He loves kicking the balls around the rest of the gym, but once whoever he's playing with heads for the slide or playhouse up in the tower, he's out.

A few weeks ago, I was able to get him to climb up inside the tower, but once he got up there, he was terrified. It took me 20 minutes to "unstick" myself from the inside of the tower, but then once I got out, I had to endure watching Grant yell at me to come retrieve him. I delayed just long enough to give him time to pee everywhere. Nothing's more embarrassing than having to sneak out of a church due to public urination.

This time, I thought things would go better. A couple of nights ago, Grant informed me just before bed time that he was ready to go up in the tower at the Kid's Zone. I was thrilled. So yesterday, we made a return trip.

Upon arrival, there were several issues. First off, there was a lady in rubber gloves spreading saw dust around the adult seating area. Apparently one of the kids had lost their lunch, and the cleanup had begun. The thought of some pukey kid dragging her germs throughout the play equipment was bad enough, but then I looked up at the slide and saw some kid with his underpants around his ankles, scooting around on the equipment. Couple this with the fact that the last time we were at the Kid's Zone, another kid (not mine) had peed in the playhouse forcing its closure, and I was having a germ meltdown. The Kid's Zone was more like the Hot Zone.

Reluctantly, Grant and I made our way into the tower. Grant was not happy, and he kept trying to stall. Once the two of us got wedged up inside the thing, he decided he was even less pleased and forced me to sit with him on my lap as other small children ran past. I kept hearing things like, "There's a man in the tower!" and "Some giant kid is stuck in there."

After much stalling, Grant finally started climbing around the thing. After playing up there for a while, I made my way back in to meet him and go down the slide. This took a LOT of pushing. As I climbed up the final portion of the structure to get onto the slide, I realized, "Man, this is REALLY high." It wouldn't have been bad, but I'm fairly certain that the structure was not meant to hold a 6' tall adult, plus I was wedged in the thing. It was highly claustrophobic.

Eventually I shoved Grant down the slide, and as I followed after him, I discovered that the combination of my jeans and the plastic were creating some wicked static electricity. I'm sure if my iPod had been in my pocket, it would have been toast. At one point my foot touched Grant's face and a giant arc appeared. He was not pleased.

In the end, we were successful in getting Grant to face his fears, but I'm not convinced that he'll be asking for a return trip to the Kid's Zone any time soon.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Check Your Head

I have been informed by the management that my entries have become bitter and cynical, and that if I don't pick it up, I'm going to have to find a new publisher. So here's one about ramming your head into things.

In the past 72 hours, three of the four members of our household have rammed their heads into various things around our house. (Let the record show that she whose head has not yet been bashed is the same individual who's griping about my blog writing abilities.)

It started a couple of nights ago when I was doing dishes. I opened the cupboard door above our dishwasher to put some glasses away, bent down to get more clean glasses, and then BAM. Full speed with the top of my head into the corner of the newly opened cabinet door. The corner dug in and then dragged along my scalp a little ways, insuring maximum bloodletting.

As the kids watched, I danced and jumped around the first level of our house, all the while holding my head and yelling everything that wasn't an obscenity. At one point, I yelled, "This is gonna be a mess!" based on the excruciating pain.

Strangely, I kept waiting for the inevitable gush of blood, but it never came. I took a look in the bathroom mirror, and I couldn't even SEE where I had cut myself. Erin, in between fits of giggling, was able to locate the gash, but unfortunately it wasn't nearly as severe as my dancing and shouting had indicated. In the end, it did leave a whopper of a knot, and I can no longer lay the right side of my scalp against a pillow (or my desk).

Not 24 hours later, Grace lost her footing due to a book left on the faux-wood floor in our kitchen and introduced her forehead to the corner of the wall. Wailing ensued, but again, no blood.

And finally, Grant snagged the corner of the banister on the top of his head last night. I couldn't have been more proud, as he danced and wailed...just like his old man. The only difference was that Grant's dance also involved the use of a sword, as most things do with him these days.

So that's three heads in three days. So honey, to quote Cheap Trick, -- tonight it's you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Keep Away

This is a warning to all of our friends, family, and people who might get within 10 feet of our children at a shopping mall, grocery store, day care, or church:

PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM OUR KIDS!

We can't take it any more. Yet again, Grant and Grace have low grade fevers and colds. Yet again, my Tivo remote and surrounding furniture are covered in a thin veil of snot. Once more, I am forced to listen to my two precious children hack and cough all night, forcing me out of my own much needed beauty rest.

So please, help a family out, and stay the heck away from us. If you have kids, and you think they might have a cold or have had one in the last, let's say, five years, stay away. If you've recently touched a sick person or have ever known a sick person, stay away. If you've ever handled anything like a door knob in a public place -- stay away. If you yourself have ever needed a Kleenex, for any reason, please, stay away.

Just give us a chance to heal for more than two weeks this time. Please? PLEASE?! We're begging you. Grant and Grace are really going to hate living in a plastic bubble in the garage.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Grouchy Old Man

Grant informed me as I dropped him off at daycare this morning that mommy and I "needed to go back to China to get him some more brothers and sisters." I don't know whether this should be taken as an endorsement of Grace, who in alternating moments loves Grant to pieces and shrieks at him endlessly, or if he thinks, "Surely if they take another shot, they'll get one that doesn't scream all day." In any case, it was a sweet gesture.

In other news, I was glad to see the end of the Olympics last night. Erin thinks I'm becoming grouchy in my old age, but I find the Olympics to be increasingly depressing. First off, in order to win an Olympic medal, you have to practice continuously for years on end, starting at 18 months after birth. An Olympic medal is really a testament to allowing sports-induced OCD to take over your life.

Second, the behavior of the athletes seems to be increasingly distasteful. You have speed skaters berating their coaches for mistakes (albeit costly ones...in terms of endorsements, no doubt), snowboarders not being bright enough to get out of the limelight before allowing pictures to be taken of yourself in compromising positions, and hockey chicks getting drunk (underage, no less) in the very arena where they just played. I doubt this behavior is anything new, but it certainly seems like our current batch of Olympians doesn't even have the good sense to do stupid things in private where NBC isn't following them, taping for a "Today" show segment.

And finally, it annoys me that many of these athletes are filthy rich. Erin and I watched a segment where Shawn White was showing off his car which cost more than our house, Apolo Ohno was in a commercial for cold medicine every 10 minutes, and the announcers repeatedly stated that Kim Yu-Na (nicknamed "Queen" Yu-Na, no doubt because of her easy-to-work-with nature) is the most famous person in South Korea.

I know there are many exceptions to these rules, but if I want to watch overpaid athletes who act like spoiled children in their down time, I can watch the NBA. And I don't care to do that either. Grouchy old man mode set to...OFF.

Now bring back that NBC prime time lineup so that I can go back to ignoring it as well. (This post might be an indicator of the need for a vacation...or at least for the temperature to go "above freezing.")