Thursday, August 25, 2011

Work and the House are Winning

Over the past few weeks, Grace has started getting up around the same time that I do for work. After I get cleaned up and grab breakfast, I usually plop in a recliner for a few minutes in an effort to gather myself and take a deep breath prior to my hour long commute and full day of work. During this time, Grace usually snuggles with me and watches the news. It's one of the rare times where she sits still and doesn't act like a complete goof.

Yesterday morning, she decided to join me for our morning ritual, and as she climbed into the recliner with me, I noticed she was being very careful to properly position herself. After wriggling around for a moment, she said, "I don't want to make you spill coffee on your new belly." Thanks, Grace. I appreciate that.

It seems that every night when I return from work, there's a project of some sort awaiting my arrival. Some nights I do the laundry. Some nights I have to work. There's always something, especially given the current state of our house.

Tonight when I got home, Erin had purchased a composter. Our children repeatedly asked, "Daddy, what's a composter?"

"That's an excellent questions, kids. Ask your mother. I'm pretty sure it just makes dirt."

"Do we need a machine that has 5000 screws in it and takes four hours to assemble to make dirt when we already live in the woods where there's plenty of dirt, papa?"

"Again, young lad. Ask your mother. I'm sure this is a special dirt making machine that will make better...TASTIER dirt than what we currently possess. It came from Costco, so it has to be a wonderful dirt machine, right Grant?"

I'm sure someday I'll be saying, "How did we ever live without this wonderful plastic tub in which to throw our coffee grounds and banana peels?" But I strongly fear that that day will coincide with me loading the composter into a guy's truck who just purchased it from us via Craigslist.

Is there a category on Craigslist for "items purchased by girls from L.A. who move to Indiana and suddenly make purchases as though they now live purely 'on the land?'" Or, "stuff you impulse buy at Costco only to discover later, 'Hey, wait a minute...this is a freaking trash tub merely labeled as a compost bin?!'" There should be...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


With the two kids in preschool together two mornings a week (Grant goes three mornings, but little Wei only goes for two), I find myself with some extra time on my hands. The house is clean; the laundry is done; dinner is prepped; the next two weeks of meal plans are made, and I've cut coupons for this week! I could get used to this!

So, what's a girl to do? How about plan her Disney vacation down to the tiniest detail? Sounds good to me. Allears... here I come.

And, if you breathe a word of this to Grant, you're a dead man walking...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Off To School

Grant starts official preschool this morning, and Grace is off to Jr. Pre-K. Could they be any cuter and more excited?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Date Night

Does it get than this better for two overweight food lovers?

Best thing Indy does...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Bret doesn't get it. At all. And I am sure that if I had a smart phone with nifty apps that were usable in daily life I might not be so amazed.

But, nothing--nothing--has changed my tech life more than Pinterest. I can't stop. Essentially, I collect things that I find interesting, store them in a nifty and accessible file locker, where I can retrieve them with no issues, at a much later date. It's exactly what I needed the web to do to be useful!!!

Simply amazing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

State Fair

Another August means another run to the Indiana State Fair. I adore the state fair! A.D.O.R.E.... and I am making quick converts out of Grant and Grace. And, Bret, well, he doesn't need much of an excuse to eat copious amounts of fried food. The first day, we did it big: lots of food for Bret, chicken on a stick for Grant, loads of rides and a milkshake or two. Grant's favorite part (I expected him to say "rides") was when he shot five targets at the gun safety booth. Grace's favorite part: feeding the goats.

But, I love the fair so much that we went back again, just the kids and me. We all got in for free, rode one ride with leftover ride tickets, packed our lunch and drinks, hit a ton of the stuff we didn't get to do the first time, and didn't spend a dime. And, it was still bliss. Grant's favorite part: boy scout camp, complete with pinewood derby racing, shooting a water gun at a candle, and trying to start a fire. Grace's favorite part: feeding the goats.

Might even go next week on free AAA day. Just might.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Ellicottville & Salamanca

I intended to write a post last night, but I was informed that commemorating picking up our daughter in China was more important than whatever I was bringing to the table. But I ask you, dear reader? Grace in China or a cat on a leash?

Last night I took Grant out for ice cream at Frostbite, our local ice cream haunt. While we were deciding whether to go cookie dough or banana split, two old ladies walked up. They had their old lady uniforms on -- floral print tops, white sans-a-belt slacks, wraparound shades, and pristine white sneakers. And oh yeah, one of them had a cat on a leash.

The whole time we were standing in line, the cat pulled and strained at the leash and harness attached to his body. Finally when it was the old ladies' turn to order, the one with the cat ordered an ice cream sandwich (a totally inappropriate Frostbite order, I might add. If you want an ice cream sandwich or a Drumstick or any other ice cream product that comes in a wrapper, you need to find a gas station or a grocery store. At Frostbite, you're just slowing down the line.)

As the ladies walked away from the counter, the lady holding the leash simply dragged the cat, as it clearly had no interest in going her way. The entire time Grant and I enjoyed our ice cream, the cat tugged and pulled at the leash, as if someone had told it "when she goes subterranean, you go with her." It was the only time in my life that I've felt bad for a cat.

Today I made my way to western New York for a work trip. After landing in Buffalo, I headed south and made my way initially to Ellicottville, New York -- a town that some folks call the "Aspen of the East." (I'm guessing that those folks are selling timeshares in Ellicottville.) In reality, Ellicottville is a delightful little ski town in the Alleganys. It has a couple of quaint little streets filled with the kind of shops just made for an afternoon break from the slopes.

But on a Tuesday night in August, Ellicottville was dead. So I quickly made my way to the Ellicottville Brewing Company, my prescreened restaurant for dinner. When I arrived, I quickly saw the EBC beer bottles on display and realized that I'd had their brews in Indiana previously, and they're very good. I was therefore excited to have dinner with a minimum of a good drink involved.

EBC didn't disappoint for dinner. I had the English pub burger and a pint, and it was all excellent. Since I was the only guy in the place, the service was fast, friendly, and the whole experience couldn't have been better.

After dinner and a brief stroll around town, I headed on to Salamanca, New York, the site of my Holiday Inn Express for the evening. As I drove through Salamanca, I found myself questioning why there was a hotel in the area. There didn't seem to be much in the town, so I figured it must just be a good stop on the interstate.

After I checked in, my host went into a little speech --

"Now when you're ready to head up there, just come down here and wait right over there. When you're finished, you can call this number, any time of day, and we'll come get you."

What the heck? I couldn't figure out what the guy was talking about. Just as I started to give him my "back away from the crazy man" move, I see a group of about 10 Asians wearing visors arrive at the designated waiting area. Asians with visors can only mean one thing in my world. Casino.

I stepped out the front door and looked over toward the back of the hotel. Situated on a hill behind the hotel was a huge casino. Apparently Salamanca is the heart of Seneca Indian country and the home of the Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel.

I checked my watch and it was 8pm. I decided that I could give up an hour to wander up to the casino, just to check things out. In reality, I had no interest in playing slot machines or cards -- I was far more interested in finding a donut or more ice cream.

Inside, the Allegany Casino looked like every other Indian casino I've ever been in. It was nice enough, but the smoke and threat of being bowled over by a great grandmother with a walker and an oxygen tank always leaves me a little cold. So I wandered into the smoke-free portion of the casino and decided that I'd spend $10 max to entertain myself for at least the next 30 seconds.

I fed $5 into a penny slot machine and played for around 25 minutes, ending up around $1.50 on the positive side. I cashed out, in boredom, and wandered over to a different penny slot machine. I fed in my $6.50 voucher and pressed what I thought would be a bet for 10 cents.

Instead, it turned out that I'd managed to bet $1.00, which initially horrified me. It wasn't that a dollar is so much cash, it's just that losing a quick buck would knock off a solid 15 minutes from my evening's entertainment. I watched, dejectedly, as the wheels spun. Suddenly the thing started making noise and told me to "Pick 8 treasure chests." I did what I was told, and the thing spun for about 4 or 5 minutes on its own. At the end, it informed me that I had $48.00 in credit. I hammered the "Cash Out" button like it was on fire.

Based on the excitement in my voice when I called Erin, you would have thought I'd won a million dollars. But it's the small things that keep our little family happy. $43.00 won in a casino (well, $40.00 if you count the $3.00 ATM fee I paid). Pictures of our kids. Good beer. And cats on a leash. The good life.

Two Years Ago Today

I can still remember how skinny she felt in my arms. I can still hear her crying, and I can feel her belly heaving as she stifled big sobs. I can still see the fear in her eyes.

And I can still remember the first hint of a smile. I can still hear her first real laugh as she played with Daddy on the bed.

It seems like it was decades ago that Wei came home to us. How can it just be two years? Hasn't she been a part of our lives forever? This kind of love can't just be two years old... can it?

But, in some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday that we headed to China to bring our little girl home. There were plenty of ups and downs in that first year, but we are raising the child we were meant to raise. She is God's gift to us, and we feel so blessed to call her our daughter. She is so very funny, so very quirky, so very, very sweet, but more than anything, she is so very, very loved.

Grace in China two years ago today...

And, now, our beautiful Wei Wei today...

Monday, August 01, 2011

End of Month... in picutres

In an attempt to post many of the pictures I don't bother with and in an attempt to feel like I am--in some fashion--chronicling my kids' lives, I have decided to put a blog up at the end of each month with random happenings and pictures. It might not do anything for you, our faithful reader, but it assuages Mommy's guilt. And so, here are the fun pics left over in my July 2011 folder...

Leftover pics from the 4th of July

Two of our canoe trip in Sugar Creek

Whew... now I feel better!