Monday, June 29, 2009

Blocks go in the Bucket!!

Isaiah was caught on tape tonight in an extended incident of direct parental defiance. It was really, REALLY cute. :)

Why do you think I'm still walking?

Sorry for the sudden blogging hiatus. Over the past six days, Isaiah and I kind of holed up in the air conditioning and rode out the heat wave, so to speak. Evan was in Indiana for four days on another business trip. This time, it was a training seminar on the exciting world of environmental auditing. Sounds thrilling, I know! He had a pretty good time, though, and he learned a lot. It was kind of weird.....after him being gone in China for 15 days, this brief venture to Indiana was barely a blip on my radar screen. I kind of didn't even notice he was gone most of the time!!

We're on the brink of transition here at the Kooiman house. At any moment, we could decide to pull his crib out of his room and officially give Isaiah a go in the big boy bed. What's stopping us? The fear of losing sleep! He's become such a good sleeper and I love it and I love my sleep too! I know it needs to happen sooner rather than later so he is all moved over and used to the big bed before the baby comes, but I am just so reluctant to start the process. I think Evan is too because I asked him to take the crib out of the room on Saturday and he "forgot."

Speaking of Saturday, I brought Isaiah to the Farmer's Market in Madison in the morning and he had a great time running around on the lawn around the capital.

He did pretty well for the majority of the outing, but he did get pretty sick of the stroller after a while. When we had completed our circuit of the Square, it was Isaiah's nap time and I really wanted him to sleep before I took him swimming, so I did what I had to do to get a nap out of that boy. That's right - I walked my pregnant butt up and down the entire length of State Street, pushing that stroller the whole time to make sure my little nugget stayed asleep. On my trek back up toward the capital, a man peeked into the stroller and commented with a smile that "he's fast asleep." I replied quickly with, "Why do you think I'm still walking?" He chuckled and commented that "You moms work so much harder than you get credit for. Bless you!"

After the nap and lunch, we headed to Ashley's apartment for a swim in the pool! Wouldn't it just figure that after a week of heat indexes around 100 degrees, we go on the one day that it actually felt chilly! We probably were only in the pool for 20 minutes or so, but I did get this short video of Ashley dunking Isaiah underwater for the first time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kiddie Pool and other Assorted Items

Wow, it was HOT today. In anticipation of the exceedingly high temperatures, I turned on the hose to fill Isaiah's kiddie pool at about 6:00 this morning so it would have all morning to warm up before I attempted to put him in it. It paid off because he got to play in it just before lunch and it was still plenty cold, but he didn't seem to mind too much. He mostly stood and splashed around and didn't sit down in the pool at all. He preferred to play the "Get Get Out" game where he was constantly going in and out of the pool. Of course, he needed Mommy to give him a hand every time, so I got rather sick of that game pretty quickly. He screamed bloody murder when it was time to come in and eat lunch, but I guess that is to be expected, right?

Ah, now the photo above was taken when we went back in the pool for the second time. This time, it was around 4:45 so the pool had several more hours to heat up and it was MUCH warmer. Still refreshing, but definitely more comfortable. As you can see, Isaiah was very willing to kick back and relax a bit more this time around. He still played his annoying "In/Out" game a lot, but it really was a lot of fun. It's amazing how much energy playing out in the sun like that zaps out of you because that kid ate like a pig at dinner and then absolutely crashed later on in the living room. He snuggled with me on the couch for a good long time and then I was able to put him to bed at 8:05, which is really early for the current season. I'm pumped to get him down at 8:30 lately! I'm hoping it actually stays good and warm for the weekend because I am already making plans to bring Isaiah over to his Aunt Ashley's apartment so he can swim in her BIG pool!

On to other business! I had a routine prenatal checkup today and nothing extraordinary to report on that front. Baby's heartbeat was at about 147 beats per minute, blood pressure was good and low (even with a toddler throwing a tantrum in the chair next to me), and everything is measuring right on target. I did gain 10 pounds since my last appointment, but.....and I cannot stress this enough......I DO NOT CARE!!! I let the whole weight gain thing really get to me during my last pregnancy and I have decided to be completely ambivalent this time around. I've got enough to be concerned with in my life then to let that bother me, so whatever!!! I'll deal with calling Weight Watchers come October.

One other thing I want to rant about briefly, so bear with me. I knew it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway. I watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 last night on TLC. Here's my beef about the whole hour long "divorce special." These people keep repeating that they're going to do what's "best for the kids" and over and over they repeat how much they are willing to do for those kids. Now, I am a mom too and I would, of course, go to the ends of the earth for my kids. However, my marriage comes FIRST. That's right....I said FIRST. I was a wife before I was a mommy and I will go back to being primarily a wife when my kids are grown. And, let's face it, there is nothing more beneficial to the upbringing of a child than a set of parents who are committed to loving one another because that love translates to the child. That being said, I think that the Gosselins are being very selfish and I feel sorry for those eight babies. I used to really enjoy watching the show because I saw a couple that loved God, was real, relatable, and doing the best they could. What it became was the typical reality show syndrome: drama filled and all about money. If they really wanted to do what was "best for the kids," they would have figured out how to take a hiatus from filming the show and focused on getting their butts into marriage counseling and re-committing themselves to each other, and to their family. I guess they figured it wasn't worth the effort because the checks will still come in, right? But, like they's been a tough "seven or eight months." Well, best of luck to you Jon and Kate. I won't be tuning in anymore. I wonder which of the kids will write the first "Growing up Gosselin" tell-all book?

Video: Watching "Cars"

Isaiah is absolutely obsessed with watching movies lately. Here's just a brief glimpse into his glee as one of his favorite PIXAR movies, "Cars," gets started. Seriously, PIXAR rocks!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

27 Weeks!

Less than 3 months to go until my due date and I figured it was about time to take another belly photo. Oh, the difference 6 weeks can make! I already feel HUGE, so it's going to be pretty scary over the next couple months when I get even bigger and the weather gets even hotter. Can't wait! Oh yeah....and I cut my hair.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

18 Month Photos

Considering the fact that there will be a newborn in the house in 3 months (Holy Crap!!), I decided to get some 18 month photos of Isaiah taken. We went to McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg earlier in the month and my friend Jenn Van Wyk took some really great shots of him running around like the little crazy kid that he is. They are very casual photos, but I love them because they really showcase Isaiah's personality well. I just wanted to share a couple of my faves with you! I only chose three to upload here out of the 25 or so that I've managed to narrow down my choices to for buying prints, so there are a LOT more awesome shots. Please visit Jenn's website at to check out her entire gallery.....she's really talented and VERY reasonably priced!

Oh, and these photos are obviously PRE-buzzcut. :-)

Jenn, if you happen to stop by and read this, would you be interested in taking the newborn photos of Isaiah's baby brother this fall??

Monday, June 15, 2009

Isaiah's New 'Do!

When the weather warms up, I think we all contemplate shaving our heads at some point. The past couple days that it has reached the upper 70s, it hasn't taken Isaiah long to end up with his hair plastered to his head with sweat. So, we decided to do what we will probably be doing every summer for the next decade or so - cut his hair all off! I held his head as firmly as I could while he screamed and cried as Daddy took the clippers to his head and buzzed off his locks. Here is how Isaiah looks now with his new haircut! I think it makes him look like even more of a big boy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Baby Update

I had an ultrasound on Friday to follow up on a couple issues that I previously wrote about. One was a cyst that had appeared in the baby's brain on the 20 week ultrasound. The good news is that the cyst was gone at my checkup on Friday, so I was very relieved about that. However, the problem with the kidneys that had presented itself earlier did not go away. The fancy name for it is fetal pyelectasis and you can read more about it by clicking HERE. It is not a serious condition by any means, but the baby will need some special care once he has arrived come September. Evan and I are both grateful that our baby is 99% perfect and healthy and we look forward to meeting him in only a couple months! We still have so much to do to get ready for his arrival. Hard to believe my due date is only 3 months away!

When You are Engulfed in Flames

When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

At the pool I currently go to, one of the regulars is a woman with Down syndrome .... Odd is the great satisfaction I take whenever I beat her from one end to the other. "I won three out of four," I told Hugh the first time she and I swam together. "I mean I really creamed her."

"Let me get this straight," he said. "She's obese. She's as old as you are. And she has Down syndrome?"

"Yes, and I beat her. Isn't that great!"

This is the kind of crazy stuff one can find in this collection of essays by David Sedaris. What really gets me is that he only won 3 out of 4 races!!! As I was reading this book, a clear departure from my typical fare, I found myself making little notations on my bookmark of page numbers and anecdotes that were my favorite. Sedaris doesn't write about anything exceedingly extraordinary like climbing Mount Everest or learning how to play the piano with his toes, but he does turn the normal events of his life into quirkly, sometimes hilarious reading. One of the snippets that had me chuckling out loud in the middle of a silent study hall was his observations on the Stadium Pal, an accessory he had purchased:

It was my search for something discreet, masculine, and practical that led me to the Stadium Pal, an external catheter currently being marketed to sports fans, truck drivers, and anyone else who's tired of searching for a bathroom....

The following analysis of the uses of the Stadium Pal at a long public reading, on an overbooked coast-to-coast flight, or when you just didn't feel like looking for a bathroom, had me in stitches. Combine this delightfulness with telling his parents about his double major in patricide and matricide at Princeton and his adventures in quitting smoking, and the dry humor of this piece of work is just that - a piece of work.

Some of it is vulgar. VERY vulgar. Complete with everything from F-bombs to the N-word, the language of this book can leave the sensitive reader reeling. It would be easy to hold this against Sedaris if the bulk of the book wasn't so freaking hilarious. I do wish he would have included more pieces on his family since the part about their babysitter, Mrs. Peacock, demanding that he and his sisters scratch her hairy, sweaty back with a plastic monkey hand on a stick was just too good. I definitely would have preferred more focus on his quick-witted sisters rather than on his somewhat mundane boyfriend, Hugh. He got a little boring after a while.

The verdict on this one? Read with caution. It's off key, tasteless at times, and very weird. It's also very, very some. I will end by sharing what was probably my favorite moment from the whole book. While discussing how modern society has drastically changed its view on smoking from previous generations, Sedaris writes this excerpt. It's so horrible I was almost peeing my pants I was laughing so hard.

It seems crazy to cut smoking mothers out of textbooks, but within a few years they won't be allowed in movies either. A woman can throw her newborn child from the roof of a high-rise building. She can then retrieve the body and stomp on it while shooting into the windows of a day care center, but to celebrate these murders by lighting a cigarette is to send a harmful message. There are, after all, young people watching, and we wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My life rocks!

Honestly, I have it so good. My hubby is back at home and we've easily gone back to our usual routine, for the most part. He didn't really get smacked with the nasty jet lag everyone promised him, so that was very nice for both of us. I really think he's been enjoying how much I appreciate him being home since I have played up the Susie Homemaker role the past few days. I'm extra pumped today because I finally got to do a little scrapbooking! The office is "in transition" right now (translation: A MESS!!) as we are starting to prepare for the baby's arrival, so my scrapbooking stuff is all over the place, even worse than usual. I grabbed a couple stacks of photos I knew I wanted to get done and pulled bits and pieces that I needed and dragged it all out to the kitchen table. I had to do a lot of laps back and forth to the office, but eventually I succeeded in completing three layouts while Isaiah napped today! It's the little things that get me super-excited, I guess!

Layout 2 of 3: Once again, Blogger didn't allow me to post the pics for all three layouts I did because it kept rotating the first picture in a goofy way. I don't have the patience to monkey around with it, so I guess you just get to see this one! If your vision is excellent, you'll notice these photos are from March. Yeah, I'm a bit behind. Maybe that's why I was so thrilled to have completed these today! I still have a long way to go on this book to get caught up plus I am way behind in the baby's book too. It'll get done eventually!

Layout 3 of 3: I had been dying to scrap the photos of Isaiah from this past March because they were just so HIM. Running around, getting dirty, putting pinecones in his mouth, etc. Once spring started, that kid discovered how much he loves being outside!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Home At Last

Well, I'm finally home.

Here's what happened the last day of the trip. We were able to get a late start on the final day of the trip. Fortunately, the only thing we really needed to do was make it to the plane at around 4 in the afternoon. We decided to visit the DVD store first. While there, I was able to buy movies like Wolverine, Yes Man, and many others for about 75 cents apiece. I got quite a few. Hopefully they will all work at home but even if they don't it's not like they were a huge investment. I was also able to stop and buy Isaiah 6 or 7 shirts. Nothing like getting Ralph Lauren shirts for 5 bucks apiece. After that, we stopped at a Brazillian grill and had lunch. All the meat you can eat. Now that's my kind of meal. The food was excellent. With Japanese last night, Brazillian today, and Chinese for all the rest, I'm becoming feeling quite international. Sounds like a good time to go back home.

We got to the airport and everything went smoothly. It helps to be with someone who has enough points built up to get you into all of the First Class lines and lounges. Like Joe says, when you spend that much time traveling, it is all about making the little things easier. You don't have to wait in long lines, or sit in uncomfortable chairs to wait for the plane. Makes things a lot more easy. The plane came in on time, and here's a shock - it wasn't cancelled. Because it wasn't cancelled, we were able to sit in the seats that we reserved. We had 2 aisle seats and a window seat. These were in the economy plus section which gives you an additional 5 inches of leg room. As a taller person, I'll tell you that this makes all the difference in the world. Also, while most of the plane was pretty full, Joe and I were lucky enough to sit in the 3 seat section on the side of the plane and there was no one in between us. SWEET. It made the 13 hour flight (shorter because we had a tail wind) much more comfortable that the trip to China. However, 13 hours is 13 hours and it was a long trip. I was able to sleep a little on the way back which helped with the 3 hour drive back to Arena. By the way, did I mention that the half hour trip from the airport to my car at Joe's house was in a limo? Very nice.

I made it home around 8:30 and Isaiah was still awake so I was able to say goodnight to him.

I am happy to be home. The trip was a lot of fun (well, as fun as a business trip can be) and I got through it safe and sound. You can't ask for more than that. Thank you for reading about my trip and leaving the nice comments. Also, thank you for any prayers.

Finally, for those of you who were kind enough to help my wife and child while I was gone, I can't thank you enough. It was a tough time for them and your help was much appreciated.

Safe and Sound

Evan is home!!! Just wanted to let everyone know that he arrived home safely last night so I am thrilled to have my guy back. There were a lot of people who really came through to lend me a hand while Evan was gone and I am so sincerely thankful. It would appear that the trip to China is going to become a pretty regular thing for Evan. He figures it will probably happen a couple times a year, but I'm not going to think about that yet. I'm just happy he's home!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

China: June 4-5

Nothing all that thrilling to talk about on the 4th. We spent the whole day at Milwaukee Tonglu Valve (MTV). Last time I mentioned that they are adding on a new section. They were pouring concrete for the floor for most of the day. Always interesting. But not exactly interesting enough to write about.

I did some paperwork that needed to get done and then we went to supper at a local restaurant with a few of the guys from work. Overall, it was a pretty relaxing day.

Finally, we are on the home stretch. On the 5th we decided to wake up early and go to the foundry in town to see them pour metal. Because the molten metal adds so much heat, they pour the castings between 2 and 7 in the morning. We really wanted to get a good look at this process so we got to the foundry around 6. They had just finished getting the pot ready to pour and filled each mold individually with ladles of molten bronze. There were 2 men who walked back and forth between the pot and the molds. Bronze melts at around 2100®F. They were just carrying it back and forth as if it was no big deal. Yet another example of a job that I am glad I do not have. They looked like they had everything under control. They did the things they needed to do, and our foundry expert seemed reasonable pleased with the process, so who am I to argue.

After the visit we went back to MTV and wrapped things up. We said our goodbye’s and left for Shanghai. It was a 4 hours drive. We got to town and have checked in to the hotel. It is the Renaissance, and is very nice. It is the same hotel we stayed at the first night we came here.
Once we finished checking in and bringing our bags up to the room, we went out and visited the market. More correctly, it is the black market (not that kind of black market, I didn’t see any rhino horns or gorilla hands if you know what I mean). They have all the knock-off purses and watches you can think of. I took a nice look around and got something for my darling wife who had two hard weeks without me. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time there. There was a pretty big storm moving in and we didn’t want to get soaked.

We had dinner at a Japanese grill similar to Benny Hana’s, or Ginza of Tokyo in Madison. It was very good. We had grilled meats and sushi.

Tomorrow, we will get an early lunch and then we will head over to the airport. Just another 14 hour flight and we are home. I am ready to get there. Traveling this much is getting to me. It was been an unbelievable trip and I am very glad that I have had the chance to do it, but now it’s time to get back home. I miss my wife and son. The thing I have noticed is that no matter how relaxed your trip is (we really weren’t rushed too much on the trip) you never are really relaxed like you are at home, even with a 18 month old.

The next time I write I’ll be home, safe and sound.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

China: June 3

Last time I wrote I mentioned the apartment we stay at here in Tonglu. It is very nice, although it is definitely a bachelor pad. You can really tell that only guys stay here. From the bed that doesn’t have a fitted sheet, to the tin poster of the Three Stooges, it is all dude. Ashley, you would probably pass out. But there are all of the copies of Maxim and Motorcycle Weekly that you can read. I am going to leave the copy of Wood magazine that I brought with me to really round off the dude magazine collection. But the couches are comfy and they have thick foam pads on the beds to make them more comfy. However, we make the trips to the apartment as few as possible. This is because it is located on the 6th floor of the apartment building and there is no elevator. Quite a workout if you do it a few times. The first night trying to get my suitcase up there was really fun.

The first day in Tonglu was mostly a meet and greet. They took us on a tour of the facility and we met many of the office staff. The first stage of the facility is up and has been running for a few years now. It is 4,000 square meters (about 42,000 square feet). They are building on an addition that is another 6,000 square meters which will make it nearly 107,000 square feet. In addition to that, there is still enough land to add 6,000 more if they need it in the future. It’s a big facility. It is still smaller than the plant in Prairie du Sac (about 180,000 sq ft). We only have machining and assembly operations here. All of the castings and forgings are purchased. We have about 120 people working here.

After meeting the office staff and taking a tour of the facility, I sat down with Jelit (the quality manager here at MTV) and he walked me through the quality system. Not surprisingly, it is very similar to the process we use in the states. Seeing as the QA system was set up by my boss, it makes sense. So it was easy to figure out what they are doing. We walked through the facility and he showed me how they use the documentation to control their process. I don’t have to tell you how truly exhilarating it was.

After the walkthrough we went to the final vendor. He is a local guy and he has probably the best facility we have seen yet. The combination of location and the facility pretty much make them the best choice. We went for a tour of their facility and I asked them a few basic questions about how they control their foundry process. We kept it pretty basic at this point because they have not done much work for us yet. Once we have gotten past the initial engineering / pre-production stage I’ll have to come back and do a more thorough audit of the facility.

Afterwards we went to dinner with them. Normally this means taking a little drive and visiting a nice restaurant. Not this time. What did they do? They walked across the street to the local dive restaurant in the neighborhood. All I could think the whole way to the table was SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT. I am screwed, hello food poisoning. About 10 minutes into the meal Joe leaned over to me and said that he had only ever been to one place that was worse than this and at that place the Chinese guys even refused to eat the food. I was able to find a few things that didn’t completely repulse me. I was able to try eel, which could have been worse. It would have been nice to know that there was a bone in it before I bit down on it, but it tasted ok. Joe was leery of the eel since our CCO ate the eel a while back and found out the hard way that he was allergic. It finally hit him while he was in his hotel room. He couldn’t breathe and when he fell down he knocked the phone off the hook. Fortunately the front desk had the wherewithal to see that the phone was off the hook and that there might be something wrong. They were able to help him out and he ended up being fine. Scary stuff. The only other thing that I found that I could actually stomach was some crawfish that they brought out. They were very good. At the end of the night my plate was piled high with nothing but crawfish shells.

We got back to the apartment, trudged up the 6 flights of stairs and thanked the Lord that no one got sick. I must have a pretty strong constitution because if I was going to get sick, that was the place.

From here on out, it is going to be pretty easy and a lot more relaxed. I will try to type another blog before I get home. Only 3 more days left. I can’t wait to get back home. I am starting to miss Sarah and Isaiah quite a bit.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Photos!

I went on a photo bender tonight and managed to get all of April, May, and June (all three days of it!) uploaded to Snapfish for your viewing pleasure. I sent out email links to those who are signed up on the group room list, but if you were left out and want to see said photographic masterpieces, please leave a comment or zap me an email and I will make sure you have access.
After Isaiah's bath tonight, we were playing around on his big boy bed and I got some really cute shots of him with his books. He doesn't actually let me read them to him yet. No way. He just enjoys pulling them off the shelves, paging through them for a moment or two, then tossing them aside and saying "Moh? Moh?" as he points to the shelf. He'll hardly be the child prodigy that can read an entire Dr. Seuss book before the age of two, but at least he's having fun, right?

Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Wow. This is far and away my favorite novel by Jodi Picoult to date. It was heartbreaking, yet so real and relatable. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as I was desperate to know what was going to happen next, eager to find the hope that could lie on the very next page. This book was particularly difficult for me to read since it does center around a Columbine-like school shooting where 10 people are killed. It's painful to read as a teacher, but even more excruciating to read as a parent. I found myself putting myself in the shoes of the parents whose children were killed, but even worse was identifying with the parents of the shooter. How well do we know our kids? How do we know that we are doing all the "right" things to make sure that they turn out well? Questions like these were even more scary to me than trying to make sense out of the bullets flying in the cafeteria.

So, Nineteen Minutes is set in Sterling, New Hampshire. The small town is shaken to its core when 17 year old Peter Houghton enters the high school one morning with 4 loaded guns and proceeds to go on a firing spree throughout the school, ending in the deaths of 10 people. The whole shooting lasts only nineteen minutes, but the events that took place during that time are, of course, significant enough to change the lives of the entire town. What's so enthralling about this novel is that Picoult doesn't just focus on the shooting itself and its aftermath. Instead, she jumps around in time, visiting the kindergarden years of the shooter and his childhood experiences. She takes us into the life of Josie, the daughter of a judge who struggles with something all too familiar to today's teen: wanting to be popular and what it costs. While Peter is being bullied and tormented in ways that made me want to cry, Josie's plight of continuously denying her own identity in the effort to fit in and "play the role" was just as painful. One of my favorite lines from the book that really illustrates how the dividing line between the "classes" in high school is drawn creates a clear picture of the world these characters (and we) live in: "Because if there isn't a them, there can't be an us."

It's hard for me to even put into words how much this book grabbed me and wouldn't let go. As a parent, as an educator, as a former high school student, there were so many ways that I could identify with this book. I'm almost hesitant to read another Picoult for a while so that I don't set myself up to be disappointed! Read this one!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

China: June 1-2

We visited 2 vendors today. They were both possible foundries. Hence the reason why Roy is in town. As I said last time, Roy has taken the lead, along with Joe, and they are assessing the capabilities of the companies we are looking at. For the most part, I am just following along and trying to learn as much as possible as we go. I do ask them some basic questions, but nothing too complicated. Basically if they can certify that the material they provide is any good.
After a long day we checked into our hotel. It was OK. The room was nice. It was actually more of a suite with a bedroom and a separate room that had a couch and mahjong table in it. Also the bed was a little softer than the normal Chinese bed. You will notice that for the most part my assessment of hotels is based largely on the softness of the bed. It could be the biggest crap-hole in China, but if it has a nice soft bed I’ll rave about it.

That evening we went out to dinner with the guy from the 2nd foundry we looked at. Or at least we thought it was going to be with the guy from the foundry. It ended up being him, 3 guys from the foundry, and 3 girls from the office. We walked into the dining room and were all like, what the heck? Why in the heck are there 30 people in the room. It is getting a little annoying that every place you go to expects you to have a blowout dinner and drink massive amounts of alcohol. For some ungodly reason, no one here can have a nice cold beer during dinner, and leave it at that. All alcohol is gulped here. It’s getting really old. I have to order a beer right away, no matter where we go so that I’m not forced to drink a whole glass of Baijiu. They only drink to get drunk. It’s getting a little annoying.

Other than that, the meal was pretty good. I was a little scared when things started with some of the most horrifying appetizers you’ve ever seen. There was the octopus jelly, the weird nutty things that apparently grow on algae on the sea surface (that’s right folks, apparently they were serving the stuff that grows on the side of boats), and some of the most disgusting stuff I have ever put in my mouth. It was a cold, shellfish of some sort, and the shell was still in with the rest of it. I can’t even describe the taste. I made the mistake of putting it in my mouth since it looked like the lesser of 5 evils. I was WAY off. Just nasty. The rest of the dinner was quite a bit better. However, all 80 people the guy brought along to the dinner decided that they each needed to have a drink with me. Together, you ask? Oh no, we need to do this individually. Every single one of them needed to raise a glass to me and the other guys. Some of them felt like doing it multiple times. However, as I’ve said before, thank goodness that the beer is weak here. I proved that night that I can drink it all night and not get affected.

Today we did another two quick visits with two vendors that we’ll probably never use. Then we left Yuhuan and started the long drive to Tonglu. It took about 5 hours. It was a long trip in the van. When we got to Tonglu we stopped for a simple dinner. We were only with the guys from the trip. It was the first time I haven’t been asked if I wanted a beer.

The company is renting an apartment in a complex a few miles away from the plant. It is nice. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. It is used by the white guys when we are visiting. That is almost all the time so it gets plenty of use. I’m going to try to get a load of laundry in before the end of the night.

Swine Flu and Crawly Critters

Well, it's confirmed. We now have three official cases of H1N1 (swine flu) in our school district. Yippee skippy. The students were all sent home with an informational letter from the county health department yesterday and I'm already having to field several inquiries as to whether or not the librarian is out with Swine Flu - since I've been her sub for 2 days in a row now. What really annoys me is that this official information from the county sites "fever with sore throat and a cough" as the big red flag for H1N1. Seriously? That's it?? Of course, this gets me freaking out when I woke up with a sore throat this morning and I remembered the hacking fit I had during school yesterday. Must be Swine Flu!

They're baaaack! ANTS!! I hate them! The sandy soil in Arena is just primo for housing the little demons and I was greeted by about two million of them yesterday when I got home from school. Brian apparantly must have Swine Flu too because he had left me three cute little piles of dog upchuck to find upon my arrival. This in itself is enough to make me go Ewwwww, but add to it that 2 of the 3 piles were literally MOVING with all the ants that were crawling all over them and I about lost it. Seriously. Gross. Last year, I had those little ant traps placed all over the house, but I don't think I can realistically do that this year considering I have a toddler who runs all over the place and will pick up anything he can find and put it in his mouth. Any brilliant suggestions on how to keep my house from being taken over by these critters?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Checkups and Follow-ups

I had a routine prenatal checkup last week and everything was A-OK. Baby's heartrate was 152 beats per minute and my fundal height (the measurement of my uterus) was exactly on track with where it should be. I am purposely not looking at the scale when Kari weighs me at each visit, so don't even ask how much weight I've gained so far. I really don't want to know. Maybe I'll ask for a final number come September so I can record it in the baby book, but maybe not. I was still hanging on to about 20 leftover pounds from Isaiah when I got pregnant, so I am not exactly looking forward to what that scale will be saying by my birthday. Yikes.

As for follow-ups: I have another ultrasound coming up on June 12th. At our 20 week ultrasound at the beginning of May, Dr. Schad noticed a couple things that warranted some follow up. First, the baby's kidneys were two different sizes when they should be about the same. This can mean nothing or it could also suggest some kind of blockage to the bladder. He said it is fairly common and should go away within 6-8 weeks, so we'll be checking on that on the 12th. Also, he found a cyst in the baby's brain. I know.....that sounds scary. I about swallowed my tongue when he first said it too. He assured me, however, that this too is a fairly common thing that develops in fetuses and that it too should go away on its own within 6-8 weeks. The cyst is NOT a tumor or anything like that. So, we'll be checking to make sure that it has disappeared at the next ultrasound. I will be sure to share the results once it's done!

Apart from that, I thankfully have little to report! When it comes to pregnancy, no news is good news at this point. As long as things stay relatively uneventful, I know things are progressing as they should be. I do have days every now and again where I can literally feel my belly stretching out as I go about my day. It's weird and uncomfortable, but at least I know my little guy is growing. He still moves around a LOT and is capable of some very strong kicks. Maybe he's already trying to play with his big brother!

China: May 30-31

Note from Sarah: Evan said that it felt like this must be Blog #80 or something like that! He's concerned that his blogs are getting boring, but he's going to stick to it because he's afraid his mom will kill him if he doesn't. I assured him that people are reading them and sincerely enjoying them. If you are reading his blogs from China, please leave a Comment so I can share them with him and let him know that we appreciate him writing these! Thanks!

May 30-31
Started the morning driving a little ways to the final vendor we will visit in the northern section of our trip. They are a larger company near the city of Yantai. We did the audit and tour jazz and then left for Quindao. Quindao is a very large city and is fairly well off as Chinese cities go. It is located on the southern half of a peninsula and has therefore made a lot of money off of the Import/Export business. While in Quindao, we stayed at the Shangri La Hotel. It is very nice. It is a little older than they hotel we stayed at in Yantai, but still very nice. The beds were a little bit softer, and the room was very nice.

We did stop and visit someone in Quindao. We were able to go out to lunch with a man who runs a company in the area that we use. He is a representative of many companies. The companies use him as an organizer. He acts as a sort of go between for the companies and their vendors. AKA, he takes 5% off the top. He is a middle man. This sort of this is going the way of the do-do here in China. They are being cut out of the process as more and more of the American companies are coming over and dealing directly with the vendors. He was a total salesman. Schmoozing the customer. And we have another instance of a setting where the drinking could get out of hand. He took us to a magnificent restaurant that Joe affectionately calls “the fish bowl”. This is because when you first walk into the restaurant, there are about 30 fish tanks with all of the live fish and sea creatures you could think of. There were fish, shrimp, sharks, crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers (didn’t have them at the meal, thank God), lobsters, and anything else you can think of. The host walked around and pointed at what he wanted. He pointed at the lobster (I like this guy already), the grouper fish, and many others. Apparently the grouper fish is one of the most expensive there. Our host liked to get the most expensive things (like I said, a salesman) whether it was wine (white wine from Chile), baijiu, or beer it was the best. I was able to stick to the white wine and baijiu. Overall, it was an excellent supper and I enjoyed it very much.

At the end of dinner I was pleasantly buzzing, when he announced that we were going to go to the massage parlor and have a foot massage. This is a common thing in China and is done often. There is an ancient belief in China that the foot is the gateway to the body. Therefore a foot massage is a very healthy thing to do. We went in and they did the full foot massage. This included something that none of the guys there had ever had. This is extraordinary, because I was with two Chinese guys who had too many massages to even count. They ended the massage by taking glass jars (imagine mini fish bowls) and spraying alcohol in them. Then they lit the alcohol on fire so that it burned and got the jars hot. Then they took the still burning jars and pressed the opening to the bottom of our feet. The heat and fire created suction and they stuck to the bottom of my foot. They then proceeded to slide the glass jar along the bottom of my feet. It was a very different feeling. I have seen this type of thing before, but it was always done on the back. They believe that it pulls the toxins out of your blood. I don’t know if it worked or not, but it is a very pleasant way to spend 2 hours, especially when you have a nice buzz going from the alcohol. Yes, you can now be jealous of me. I am basking in your jealousy. Anyhow, it was a pleasant way to end the night. I got back to the hotel and slept like a baby.

The 31st was strictly a travel day. We flew out of Quindao and arrived in Shanghai at around 12:00. We waited there since Roy was flying in from the states to join us. Roy works in the foundry in Prairie du Sac and is our Foundry expert. We had to wait about 3 hours for him to arrive so we just sat in one of the restaurants and messed around on our laptops to waste time. This also marked the end of our travels with Daniel. From here on out we will be joined by the Milwaukee Tonglu Valve (MTV) crew. This is 3 people. We have Kevin who is the General Manager at Tonglu, Sanwan who is the Purchasing agent there, and Mario (as in Andretti) who is our driver. For those of you who don’t know, Milwaukee Valve has a wholly owned plant in Tonglu. They buy most of the Chinese product, assemble much of it, and send it overseas to the Stateside Milwaukee Valve. It is a large plant, and we are only 1 or 2 stages into the development of it. Once complete, they will basically be a sister plant that handles all of the overseas product. They all seem like pretty good guys and Kevin speaks very good English. He will be taking over the duties as interpreter for the group.

We said our goodbyes to Daniel, and our hellos to the rest and set out from Shanghai. By the end of the day we were about 2 hours from Shanghai, and around 1 hour from Shanghai. We had a possible vendor in that area so we shacked up for the night.

Over the next two days, Roy will be taking the lead. The vendors we are looking at are only possible vendors and therefore do not warrant a full ISO audit like I have been doing the past week. I’ll just ride along and ask questions and learn.

Big Boy Room

Nothing like a project to take my mind off of Evan being gone. Too bad that project involves assembling and moving furniture. Howie and Sandy were extremely helpful people yesterday! Sandy watched Isaiah while I was at work and Howie drove all the way to Baraboo to pick up the furniture I ordered for Isaiah's room. He then spent a good deal of time assembling the dresser and picked up a chair I purchased off Craigslist. Talk about a big help!! Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone and after they had left for the day, I started messing around with stuff.

I dragged Isaiah's dresser out of his room and emptied most of the drawers. I managed to get the recliner out of his room as well, but that took some effort because A: it was heavy and B: I had to turn it at a really goofy angle to get it through the doorway! After that, I proceeded to assemble Isaiah's big boy bed! I wish I had thought to take pictures, because Isaiah helping me was all too cute. There I was, squatting down by this frame, trying to get the suckers to snap together properly. I was making a "grrrr" sound and here comes the boy......squats down, pushes on the frame, and goes "GRRRRR!!" It was so freaking cute. Anyway, we got the bed put together, box spring, mattress, bedding and all! All it needs now is the headboard that I bought, but I'm going to wait for Evan to return and assemble it for me. Isaiah was immediately eager to climb up on his bed and play, but there was still more work to be done.

I brought in Isaiah's new chair (a cute little green glider) and his new dresser. Evan called when I was in the middle of wrestling with the chair and he thought it was pretty funny to listen to me try to talk to him, holler at Isaiah, and gasp for air all at the same time. When all was said and done, I ended up with a very full and chaotic start to Isaiah's big boy room and an office in a complete state of workable chaos. A good night's work! I popped a couple Tylenol and hit the sack. Pictures to come!

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