Sunday, May 31, 2009

China: May 28-29

The hotel we stayed at last night in Yidu was pretty nice. It was still definitely a hotel that is meant for Chinese people though. There were no English channels on the TV, and the bed was as hard as a rock. But it was very nicely decorated and the outside of it was decorated in the classical Chinese look. I was able to take a few pictures. I will try to add them to the blog once I have returned to the US. I don’t have the cable for the camera, so I can’t download them and send them now. If you take a look in a little over a week you should be able to see some pictures that show you some of what I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, this is a business trip, so there isn’t much time to do any real site seeing. But then again, if we were over here and were spending multiple days not doing anything, I would wonder why we were even here. So it’s a bit of give and take.

The people at Yidu were also kind enough to give me a gift. It is a book containing every denomination of Chinese currency in its latest revision. It starts at 100 RMB (just under $15) and works its way down. Very nice.

On the 28th I performed another audit and went on another tour, I could bore the crap out of you with this minutia, but I won’t. We had a couple hours long trip to Yantai to visit a few more of the vendors. I am constantly amazed by the amount of landscaping they do here in China. Every inch of the freeways here are covered in them. I have seen whole forests of planted trees. What I have not seen is any natural forest. There are trees growing on the mountains, of course. But we haven’t driven through even one natural forest.

The hotel we stayed at on the night of the 28th was by far the worst one yet. It wasn’t bad enough that I felt I needed to sleep in my clothes above the covers, but it was bad enough that I didn’t even think of taking a shower. There were rusted spots on the shower floor, and I can’t remember when my last tetanus shot was so I thought better not chance it. Also, the bug repellent in the counter was a nice touch. But with those types of places, you just go there, sleep, and leave.

On the 29th, we performed 2 audits. We then drove another hour or so to a hotel that was closer to a third vendor that was in the city of Yantai. We checked in to the Marriot in Shanghai. It was a little different than the hotel the night before, I’ll tell you that much. It is easily the best hotel we have stayed at so far. It is beautiful. I have taken a few pictures of the foyer, and I took a little video of my hotel room. It just opened in May. Wow. Like everything in China, it is huge. I was on the 34th floor, and there were many more. Do you know what else it was? Almost empty. And this was on a holiday weekend here in China. We went to supper in the hotel and we were the only 3 people there. There were probably only a hundred people there, total. Can you imagine the amount of money it must cost to run a building like that, and then only have 100 people there? Ouch.

But they did have a grill at the hotel so I was able to have an honest to goodness steak that night. Hot damn. I like the food here quite a bit, but it is nice to have a little bit of the food from back home every once in a while.

Tomorrow will be another audit and then we’ll be driving back down to Quindao.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Henry Vilas Zoo


What perfect weather we had today for Isaiah's first visit to the zoo! In the spirit of keeping busy while Daddy is away, I made plans to bring Isaiah to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison today. Nothing like a zoo, and a free one at that, for a fun activity for us. I managed to talk Ashley into ditching a wedding and coming with us instead (it wasn't very hard to convince her) so we got to share a really enjoyable day with the Nugget as we wandered the zoo.


He was his usual self - wanting to run all over the place and not listen when Mommy said to stay close. Many a time he had to be put back in his stroller against his will, which is why I don't really have any super-cute photos of him looking at cool animals. He was being a bit of a buggar for a lot of it, but I think he still had a good time. We saw monkeys, and rhinos, and a giraffe, and bears, and flamingos, and all kinds of cool stuff!




When he finally passed out, we took the stroller out by Lake Wingra and parked it in the shade under a tree by the beach and Ashley and I lounged with our feet in the sand while the boy slept. Afterward, we wandered the mall for a bit and then Ashley was nice enough to buy the boy and me dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise. Free zoo + Trip to the Mall without buying anything + Dinner on sister-in-law = FREE day out! Woohoo!!! It really was a great way to spend a day and I'm so glad I got to share it with a couple of my favorite people. Now, I'm exhausted!

China: May 26-27

The 26th was a pretty relaxed day. We didn’t have much to do. We visited a small operation that might do some work for us and were pleasantly surprised by the operation. However, the quality system was horrible despite the fact that they had an ISO 9001 approval. To tell you the truth, I am not sure that the companies in China are held to firmly by the ISO system. Most of them most likely pay for the certification and aren’t audited vigorously. The facility we visited had no system for routing the parts though manufacturing and had not written anywhere what their testing procedures were. Both are huge no-no’s in the ISO system and there is no way that a competent auditor would allow a company like that to keep their ISO certification. But like a lot of things in China, if you pay enough money to the right people, you get what you want. The ISO certifying agent gets a company that has to pay them for the certification, and the company gets a certification that gets them business. It is a win-win situation for everyone except the customer who gets the product.


However, if they add the routing and testing documents to their system, we’ll do business with them. Especially since they are the only ones we can find who are capable of making the parts we need for a new line of valves we are making. That sort of situation can make you ignore things that would normally make you shy away from a company. Such is life.
Once we were finished with that, we went back to YMV and wasted some time until lunch. I spent most of the time writing up the reports I’m doing on the audits I’m performing. We went to supper and had a nice meal then came home and went to bed.


The 27th was a travel day. We are leaving Yuhuan and traveling about 1000 miles north to Yidu. It is on a peninsula above Shanghai. First, we drove to the ferry that took us over to Wenzhou where we were flying out of. It was a perfect day for a ferry ride. It was sunny and about 80. I was taking a look at the surrounding area and was surprised to notice that there were very few if any houses on the waterfront. This surprised me because in the US the waterfront property would be the most valuable in the area and would be bought up quickly. He explained that there were many reasons why people didn’t build on the water. The first was hurricanes. They come through the area regularly and can destroy the houses. Second was the water. It is so polluted that no one will swim in it. That takes a bit out of the pleasure of living on water. Finally, he said that they rarely air condition the houses in China and that means that moisture would quickly deteriorate the houses and they would fall apart. I guess all of those reasons sound like a good enough reason not to buy a house on the water to me.


Finally, we arrived in Whenzhou and flew up to Quindao (sounds like Chin-dow). From there, we drove up to Yidu. It made for a long day. We didn’t get in to the hotel until about 9:00 at night. After a day of that much travel, there is only one thing you want to do, go to sleep. However, the people at Yidu had a different idea. We have to eat supper. The food is a little different than in Yuhuan. Because they are on a peninsula, there is a lot more seafood. This lead to the most interesting food I have had to eat so far. And by interesting, I mean disgusting. They are called sea cucumbers. I have been forced to eat sea cucumbers 3 times now. They are absolutely disgusting. They don’t have a very strong flavor (thank god), but the texture is truly horrible. Imagine a bumpy, slimy, greenish-brown, 4 inch long, super ball and you might have a slight idea of what it’s like. I have included a picture that gives a good idea of what we are dealing with.


So anyhow, I had another 2 hour meal and then finally had a chance to get to bed. It was a long day, but fortunately most days we don’t start until 9 or 9:30. I was able to sleep in.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mercy


Mercy by Jodi Picoult

I have grown very fond of the books by Jodi Picoult, as I am sure you have noticed. It reminds me of the phase I went through in my middle school years when I was obsessed with reading Stephen King novels and would scour the Princeton flea market for titles I had not yet acquired for my ridiculous collection. I still remember staying up until 3 am one night just to finish Pet Sematary, or it might have been because I was too scared to fall asleep. The moral of the story is that once I find an author I like, I want to read everything they have written; the good, the bad, the ugly. That being said, I can safely say that Mercy was the first Picoult novel I have read that I didn't get completely enraptured with. That's not to say I didn't like it, because I did. However, I didn't love it and it didn't grab hold of me like, for example, My Sister's Keeper had.

Mercy is a novel about love. What does it mean to love someone? Would you do anything for that person? Would you kill for them? Is it possible to love someone too much? A woman dying of numerous forms of cancer who is suffering horribly asks her devoted husband to kill her, to put her out of her misery. He does what she asks him and the rest of the novel explores the aftermath of the murder and the question of what it really means to love someone, as well as the many definitions of the word "mercy." The subplot, which really operates on a level equal to the euthanasia plot, is the affair the police chief (and cousin of the accused murderer) has with his wife's assistant. Strangely, it was this plot that left me feeling more uncomfortable than the one that involved the murder of a woman.

Picoult's prose is good, as always. She writes in a very straight forward manner that the reader appreciates. This novel is written in a much more gentle manner than those I have previously read. It explores its subject matter with a certain sensitivity and grace. However, I felt this novel spent unnecessary page space on the obvious details of sexual encounters, but lacked a certain panache that may have made these scenes more interesting. Furthermore, this novel was very predictable. There were none of the twists and turns that keep you flipping the pages at a breakneck pace. Instead, you kept reading in an effort to confirm your suspicions about what you expected was going to happen, realizing that you were dead on.

With likable characters, a dash of Scottish Gaelic, and an interesting ethical dilemma, this novel is certainly enjoyable. However, the predictability of the plot that leads to the expected ending leaves something to be desired.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

I have no interesting tidbits to share about rice wine or foot massages from small Chinese women, but I can share some of the fun stuff Isaiah and I got to do over Memorial Day! Oh, and yes - Evan did get a foot massage yesterday and I gave him endless crap about it.



On Monday, Isaiah and I headed all the way up to Van Dyne to hang out with my sister and Chris. They live literally a stone's throw from Lake Winnebago and the wind was very strong that day, so it was significantly colder than I expected it to be. Nevertheless, after feeding us a really yummy dinner of pork tenderloin, rice, and veggies that Isaiah successfully threw all over the floor, we went outside to play on the neighbor's trampoline. Isaiah had an absolute blast! He and Erica were bouncing around in there, wrestling, crawling, and he was reluctant to finally be pulled out. It's hard to compete with a trampoline.


After that, we headed to Waupun so Isaiah could hang out with his grandparents and his Aunt Ashley. I love it when I get to bring him to places surrounded by family because I can really go "off duty." I plunked down on the grass and just let him go, knowing that one of the other adults would be more than willing to chase after him for me! Isaiah and Howie took a long walk around the neighborhood and then Howie grilled us an amazing supper of BBQ chicken, asparagus and red potatoes. Once again, my son doesn't know what he's missing. He refused to eat any of it and instead ate only a piece of bread and some grapes. Seriously, kiddo. Getting him to bed was a bit of a challenge again, but I expected that with being away from home. I finally put him down around 9:00 or so and he slept really well all night.
If there was any doubt in my mind that Isaiah misses Evan, which there isn't, it would have been erased while we were trying to get Isaiah ready for bed last night. When it was time to settle down and get ready to go to sleep, Sandy picked up Isaiah for some cuddle time, but Isaiah reached out to Howie and wanted him to hold him. The second Howie picked him up, Isaiah layed his head on his shoulder and snuggled right in. Gee....I get it, kid. Someone is really missing his Daddy. I tell Isaiah every night when I put him to bed that when he wakes up, he will be one day closer to seeing Daddy again and that Daddy is far away, but that he loves him very much and thinks about him all the time. That speech I give is partly for me too. I miss him more than I can say.


China: Food!

Believe it or not, the food here in China is a little different than the food I am used to eating back home. I know, shocker. To tell you the truth, I was a little worried about what the food would be like here. I had heard the horror stories from the guys who have been here. Fish with the heads still on. Eel, snake, undercooked fish, jet-ass, undrinkable water, etc., etc., etc.

However, I am pleased to say that it is not nearly as bad as everyone has made it out to be. Actually, I’m probably eating better/healthier than I have for quite a long time. First of all, there is no salt here. They don’t put it on the table, so that keeps me from adding it. Hardly anything is deep fried, it’s mostly boiled here. Also, nearly all of the meat dishes come with vegetables, so you get equal parts of both. Sure there have been a few dishes that I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole, but that’s to be expected. Fortunately, the way the meals are done here, you can just pass it by and try the next dish.

Here’s how it’s works. Almost all of the meals I have eaten have been family style. We all (and normally there are at least 5 or 6 of us) sit around a round table. This round table has a glass plate in the middle which spins. All of the dishes are put on this middle plate and the plate is rotated so that everyone can get to the food. So far, all of the dinner tables have looked similar to the one in the picture below when we get there. Interesting tidbit, see the napkin that is folded so that it is much taller than all of the other ones? It is always at the seat that is opposite the door and is meant to be for the most important person at the table (the patriarch of the family, the CEO of the company, the person who is paying for the meal, etc.) It is opposite the door so that he can see who is coming in or leaving the room.

He has the place of honor. The most important person beside him is seated to his left, and the third is seated to his right. I have been honored with the 3rd seat at most meals because it is my first time in the country. Daniel, our guide through this part of China and an intermediary for the Chinese companies, normally gets the second seat.

Most of our meals have been in private rooms. Each room has a girl who is the waitress. She serves drinks (always starts with a tea of some sort) and brings the food dishes to the table, and brings in more cigarettes when they run out. She is the only one who helps our table, and she only is in our room. There is no tipping in China, it is included in the price of the meal. It’s amazing how quickly you become accustomed to no one smoking at meals or in buildings. It took me by surprise at first, but now it is commonplace. Most of them smoke. At meetings, at meals, everywhere. But they don’t pressure you if you don’t, so it’s not a big deal. But, I digress.

The meal.
The ordering is done either at the table out of a menu, or it is done separately. At least 2 of the places I have been to have examples of dishes out in the entryway for everyone to look at and choose from. They are shrink-wrapped. There are hundreds of them, as well as a fully stocked aquarium with every type of fish or crustacean you can think of. The white guys don’t pick the food. We just go upstairs to the room.

It starts out, as I’ve said, with tea. Green tea, Black tea, Chamomile tea, you name it, they have it. They drink it instead of water. They have it at meals, at the office, everywhere.
Everyone takes a seat and the meal starts with appetizers. Normally there are peanuts, cucumbers, mushrooms of some sort, maybe another cold vegetable of some sort. Last night we had a dish of sugar cane boiled and coated in an oil vinaigrette of some sort. It was cold. I tried it, but didn’t have seconds, if you know what I mean.

Then they bring out the main course. This is anywhere from 5 to 9 dishes of food. Large dishes. There is always enough for everyone and then some. To not have enough food for everyone would dishonor the group and reflect poorly on the guy who is buying.

The food is everything you can think of. There are always shrimp (head on of course.) Also, they always serve some sort of soup. Chicken, duck, bamboo (not my favorite). I’ve had beef and peppers, a salty fish that must be preserved, boiled fish, beef and potatoes (now you’re talking), as well as many mixed dishes. There are too many to count and I’ll never remember them all. They have an interesting dish which is almost a stirfry. It has vegetables of all sorts, shrimp, and a substance that they call rice cake (or something like that.) It is made from rice, obviously, but they break it down and make it into a firm gelatin. It is cut into strips that are about ¼” thick. It is pretty good. Like rice it doesn’t have a strong taste of its own, but takes on the flavor of the dish. Since the dish is flavored with soy sauce, garlic, and onions, that’s a good thing. It is a good dish when there is drinking going on. The rice cakes are solid and give you a good base.

Speaking of drinking, they do plenty of it here. It is seen as a way of making things more relaxed and getting to know each other. There are 3 main drinks. They have beer (Tsingdao) which was brought here by the Germans about a hundred years ago. It is only 3% alcohol so it just fills you up more than anything. They also have wine. I have seen both rice wine, and red wine. And finally, there is the Baijiu, or rice liquor. Potent stuff, they love it here. So far I have been able to stick to beer, although the other night I had some Baijiu as well. They do pressure you on the drinking part. Especially one guy (we call him Phil). He likes to drink, and he likes us to drink with him. They do a lot of saluting here. They will say something and then say to drink up. They will either make you take a drink, drink half of what you have, or drink the rest. Some good advice I got from Joe is to use a glass with the beer. By using a glass you control how much beer you drink and can stem off the inevitable. Fortunately, as I’ve said the beer is only 3% so I have a bigger chance of getting full than I do of getting too drunk. I believe some of it has to do with my size as well. All of the guys over here want to see how much a big white guy can drink. They want to feel things out a bit. It’s good for me that about 6 beers will impress them enough that I don’t have to get in any real trouble. I’ll leave the Baijiu to them. That stuff will get you in trouble. It can be up to 140 proof and will mess you up. It is inevitable that I will drink some of it (to not drink a toast with them would probably offend them.) But if I keep the baijiu to a few shots and stick to the beer, I should be fine.

If you will believe it, I have impressed them here at meals. Not with the amount, but with my willingness to try multiple things. For those of you who know me best, that will probably shock you quite a bit. I have tried to try most of the dishes that are passed. Again, I’d rather try to avoid offending them by being a prick about the food. That, in combination with the fact that they think I can drink, seems to have impressed them. It helps that they don’t use any of the white cream condiments that we use in the states (ranch sauce, mayo, cream cheese, sour cream) that I’m not a huge fan of. Overall, I like the food and am eating fairly well.

If you have any questions for me, I am getting both my hotmail and outlook email now so I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

China: May 24-25

I mentioned a little about the way the cities look here. I am thinking what makes it really stark is that it is juxtaposed to the landscape here, which is amazing. We are surrounded my large hills (I don’t know if I’d call them mountains), think the bluffs around Prairie du Sac but about 100 feet higher. They are covered in trees and bamboo and climb out of the earth all around and through the major cities. Very cool. I’ll try to get some pictures. They have built tunnels that go through them. It’s cool to watch out the window at the landscape. Another thing that they have done here is to add landscaping everywhere. There are trees and bushes in the medians. It looks like a lot of work. Daniel mentioned that it is to combat all of the smog that they create. It’s not working. The smog is heavy. It covers everything like a haze. Hills that are a half mile away are barely visible. Like there is consistent light fog. Everything is covered in soot. The windows of my hotel room are covered in dirt. I have to open the window to get any good pictures of my surroundings.
Speaking of pictures of my surroundings, we checked into the hotel in Yuhuan and there, outside my hotel window is a huge pagoda. It looks similar to this one, but not as complex (the picture is of a pagoda in Hangzhou). I’ll try to get some good pictures of it.

My bed is as hard as a rock. Seriously, it is like sleeping on the carpeted floor. Apparently, that’s how they like it here in China. When the Chinese guys come to America to visit us, many of them have to sleep on the floor because the beds are too soft. I ended up waking up 4 or 5 times the first night. Fortunately, I was not as sore as I thought I would be after the nights sleep.

I did a pretty extensive audit of YMV on the 24th, and on the 25th we visited 2 vendors in the area and did small audits on them. We took a look around the place, that sort of thing, pretty easy. The only interesting thing I’ve found around here is that they factory may be a dump, but the owner’s office is unbelievable. No matter where we go, it is always that way. Huge desk, leather chairs and couches, and huge meeting rooms with plush chairs. Joe says that it is done this way in an attempt to impress the people who visit the facility and therefore get the visitors to give you business. Also, they are trying to garner respect by having the best looking office. This applies to most things that they do. I can’t tell you how many Mercedes’, BMW’s and Audi’s I’ve seen. They are all over the place (Yuhuan is a fairly rich area). However, here is the kicker. Most of them are driving out of these dive apartments. They spend next to no money on their apartment, but will spend 300,000 RMB ($60,000) on a car. It’s the same principle. If people see you in an expensive car, you must be doing well, and in that case, you deserve to do business with them. It’s all about the honor here.

It is the evening of the 25th as I write this and I just got back from supper. We went out with a bunch of guys from YMV and they started passing around the Bijou, or rice liquor. Yikes. I’ll tell you what, after 4 of those and 6 beers, I am good to go. They will call out cheers, and make you drink either half, or all of the glass you are drinking out of. And when you think you are done, they say, one more, one more. But it was a good time and it helps to form a bond between everyone. It was good to get back to the hotel room. I shouldn’t have any problems sleeping tonight even if the bed is hard as a rock.

Tomorrow, the food.

China: May 23-24

Ok, so where was I? Have I mentioned that Shanghai is huge? Holy crap. We drove from the airport to the hotel and it took an hour. We never left the city. I was expecting to see a lot of different architecture while here. So far, not so much. However, I have noticed that everything is always in a general state of dis-repair. The concrete is cracked, the buildings are dingy, they leave trash and building materials everywhere. They are constantly building stuff here. I have never seen so many apartment buildings in my life. They are everywhere. And not just a couple duplexes like back home. I am talking about 15 story concrete structures. They are big and everywhere you look. Not very good looking structures either, because they make them out of brick and plaster the fa├žade with concrete. It would appear that everyone only lives in apartments. I have only seen maybe 2 or 3 houses, the whole time I’ve been here. Over top of that, there is the constant haze of smog.

So this is what I see on my drive to the hotel in Shanghai. We get to the hotel, and it is really nice. It is meant for foreign businessmen. No doubt about that. How can you tell? Well, it isn’t a run down craphole for one, also the beds are nice and soft and some of the people there speak English (more about the beds later.)

We get there and check in and go up to our room for an hour before supper. I decide a shower is a must. After a 14 hour flight I felt like the junk you scrape off the bottom of your shoe (and I probably smelled like it too.) One tidbit about traveling to China that I picked up from the other guys at work. Never drink the water, not even a little. If you are brushing your teeth, use bottled water. In the shower, keep your mouth shut. The only time I drink water that doesn’t come from a bottle is when they make tea (which we drink all the time). If you don’t follow this simple rule there is only one consequence, jet-ass. I’m not going to describe it, think about it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

After a nice shower and a change of clothes we go out for my first Chinese meal. We went to a restaurant that was also hosting a wedding. Very loud, but everyone was having fun. I’ll blog about the food separately, but it was pretty good. What helps is that these guys have been coming here for quite a while and they have found a few places that have good food. Takes a little of the error out of the trial and error. Also, I can’t say enough for having a guy along who is from the area and knows what he’s doing. We have Daniel Zhu. He is in charge of the Milwaukee Valve inspectors here in China. He has been helping White Guys (WG) who come here for years and is a major help. He acts as a guide, interpreter, and is obviously involved in the business aspect as well.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and I was finally able to sleep. I had only been up for 29 hours or so, I was ready for bed.
We got up early the next day and were on a plane again. This time we were bound for Tiazhou, which is about 200 miles south of Shanghai, on the Chinese coast. From there, we drove to Yuhuan. We have a joint venture here called Yuhuan Milwaukee Valve or YMV. We are going to be in Yuhuan for 3 days. There are a number of vendors in the area that we will be visiting.
I’ll leave it there for now. Plenty more to tell.

Mouthpiece

Hey everyone! Hope you're enjoying Evan's fun little tidbits from China. As it turns out, he is unable to access the blog directly because it would appear it's being blocked by the Chinese Government. Yay Communism! Anyway, he is emailing me his posts and I am putting them up for him. He wanted me to let you know that you can feel free to email him at malachi_ko@hotmail.com while he is over there with any questions or whatever and he'll be happy to respond!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hello from China!

Had to leave the house a 5 in the morning so that I could be at Joe Bratta’s (Director of International Purchasing) house in northern Illinois by 8. Arrive at his house only to find out that our flight has been cancelled. He has been to China 22 times and has never had this happen to him. Yay. We go to O’hare anyways hoping to find another flight to China. We are supposed to fly from O’Hare in Chicago to Shanghai on United Airlines. We ended up getting our tickets transferred to American Airlines. Can they check our bags at the UA counter? No. We have to go to the AA counter, and since this is O’Hare, that means we need to take a tram to a different section. We get there to check our bags and she asks us why we transferred. We mentioned that the UA flight was cancelled and she mentioned a phrase that will chill any traveler to the bone … “Wow that’s weird, because we are overbooked? Shit. But it gets better. The plane is already boarding. But at least the terminal is close, right? Not so much. So we have to haul ass halfway across the airport to make the plane, which we are not even sure is going to have enough seats. Of course, by the time we get there, my fat ass is sweating, but we finally get a little bit of good news. We have seats and can board immediately. Just what you want to sit next to on a 14 hour flight, a fat sweaty guy.

So I settle in and get ready for a marathon flight. We are flying a 777, which is a little bit smaller than the 747, but newer, and includes an individual screen for each passenger. Nice touch. Hopefully I’ll watch a few good movies, sleep a few hours and be there before I know it. After a decent take-off, I take a look at the movie selections and see that they are headlined by Paul Blart – Mall Cop. Yikes. Other movies include The International, The Shopaholic, and Speed Racer. Truly, a group of movies that will be enjoyed for all time. I watched all of them, except Paul Blart, I couldn’t make it through 15 minutes of that one. Fortunately, I had brought along some Unisome. I figure one of those should help propel me to blissful sleep. Not so much. I felt nothing. The best I could do was rest my eyes a few times throughout the flight. Believe me when I say that 14 hours cooped up in a plane is far too long. It’s one of those instances where you take a look at the clock and think, we must be 8 hours into this thing. Only to realize that it has only been 3 hours and you aren’t even over Alaska yet. But overall, I can’t complain about the actual flight. We had clear skies, and I didn’t have anyone annoying sitting next to me.

Finally, we reached Shanghai. I am ready to leave. Then an announcement comes over the PA. The Chinese Board of Health (or whatever they call it) is inspecting all incoming passengers for illness. I guess this whole Swine Flu thing really has them worried. So they make us stay in our seat while they take our temperature with an infrared thermometer they put on our head. So on walk 6 people, all wearing full Ebola-type gear. They have the full body suit, the mask, and the goggles. Slowly they make their way through the cabin taking everyone’s temp. Then, one of the funnier things that has happened so far occurred. This was a rather odd circumstance. It is not often that you get your temperature taken by 6 people in haz-mat suits. So people were taking out their phones and cameras and taking pictures of the people. That’s when a flight attendant comes over the intercom and requests that we please not take pictures of the people in the suits. Are you kidding me? Don’t take pictures? I have to say, if I didn’t want attention, I sure as hell wouldn’t wear a big white suit and goggles. Just ridiculous. Also, another tiny thing I found funny. On the survey they had us fill out, there were a few questions about whether or not we felt any symptoms. One of the symptoms was fatigue. Did they just ask a bunch of people who were on a 14 hours flight if they were fatigued? It looks like everyone is sick. Just dumb.
Finallly, they were done and we were able to get out of the plane and stretch our legs. We didn’t have any problems with customs and were picked up by our contact here in China.

I will write more as the trip progresses. Thank you for your prayers. They are much appreciated.

Missing Daddy

Here we are on the morning of Day #3 with Daddy in China and the effects of him being gone are already starting to hit. My son has clearly noticed that Daddy is missing and is acting out because of it. The past two nights, he has been extremely difficult to put to bed, when usually this process goes pretty easily. He has fought me every step of the way and then when he finally does go to sleep, he wakes up in a fit of screaming hysterics, insisting on Mommy holding him. The only way I have been able to get him to go to sleep is to have Grandma Possin do it! What am I going to do if he continues this for the next week and a half? I'm going to be a very tired Mommy.

As for Evan, I am hoping he will get on here to post something soon. I spoke to him yesterday and they were safe in Shaghai and he had just woken up to start his day and fly (yes, FLY again) to their first stop on their auditing journey. Of course, this was at about 6:30 pm our time! The important thing is that he is safe and I look forward to hearing about what he is up to over there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flight cancelled!!

I am anxiously awaiting a reply email from Evan because I logged on to United.com to check the status of his flight and it said that Flight 0835 to Shanghai was CANCELLED!!! What the heck?? Evan was planning on leaving his cellphone in his car so I didn't bother calling or texting him, but I am hoping that he checks his email on his work laptop once he's settled at the airport and he can let me know what's going on. I don't even want to think about what it would mean if his flight was cancelled. Oh boy. I'll post an update as soon as I know something!

UPDATE: Evan's flight was indeed cancelled. They are trying to find another flight. Great way to start, huh?

UPDATE #2: Is there some kind of superstition that dictates that a trip needs to start off rocky and then the rest will go smoothly? I sure hope so! It is now 10:20 am and Evan was able to get on American Airlines flight 289 to Shanghai leaving at 10:40. Whew!!! He is now in the air for the next 14 hours.

Bon Voyage!

It is 5:23 a.m. I have been awake since Evan got up this morning at 4:00 a.m. I just layed there, listening to him finish up any last minute packing, getting dressed, and finally moving his suitcase to the door. I was just dreading that moment when he would come "wake me up" to say goodbye, but it finally came. I know it must sound like I'm overreacting or that I'm bordering somewhat on pathetic, but I cried again as we said our goodbyes this morning. I guess I just never really thought about how much time I spend with Evan and how much I build my home life around him until this trip came up. It's just going to be a very....weird two weeks.

Today will be mostly a travelling day for him. Right now, he is driving to northern Illinois where he will be leaving his car at the home of the other Milwaukee Valve guy that is going to China with him. Their flight (United 0835) out of Chicago is at 10:35 a.m. and they should land in Shanghai 14 hours later! So, it will already be Saturday by the time Evan steps off that plane. Poor guy! He has promised to try to blog about what's going on for him over there during the next two weeks, so stay tuned for his reports from China. As for me, I'll be posting about what I'm up to as well, just to keep my sanity!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Salem Falls

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult



A label can be a powerful thing. A small tag that says "PRADA" inside a handbag suddenly makes it very different from the bag you bought on the clearance rack at JCPenney. I remember how important labels were to me as an adolescent. As much as you wanted to wear the jeans wtih the correct label, you poured even more energy in to making sure that you were not labeled in the wrong way among your peers. Why? Because labels are what communicate your value to others.

Picoult explores the idea of labels in Salem Falls. In this novel, a small community is turned upside down when a man with a label decides to settle there. Suddenly, the "crazy" woman at the diner feels love for the first time in over a decade. The "popular" daughter of the man who basically owns the town discovers a new challenge for her and her friends, a self-proclaimed coven of teenage "witches." We, the reader, can only act as voyeurs as these characters try to shake themselves loose of the labels they have been given or, in some cases, to rebel against them so completely that there are bound to be casualties.

Although Idid not purposefully choose to read Salem Falls directly after finishing The Tenth Circle, in retrospect I am glad I did. Both novels deal directly with the alleged rape of a teenage girl and the ordeal that comes along as baggage, but presented them in very different ways. In the case of this novel, the accused is Jack St. Bride, a man who has been down this road before. A former school teacher and soccer coach who was wrongly accused of the sexaul assault of one of his students, Jack finds himself in Salem Falls trying to free himself of his past. He stumbles across Addie Peabody, a diner owner who is reluctant to let go of hers. Before long, Jack is noticed in Salem Falls and his label of "sexual predator" comes back to haunt him and a group of teenage girls (and their fathers!) put him in their crosshairs.

Just as The Tenth Circle wove in elements of The Inferno, Salem Falls presents a modern day witch hunt a la The Crucible. Once Jack's past is public knowledge, he becomes persecuted by the town and the prey of these girls. Just as Abigail Williams and her group of cronies fire accusations of poppet making, spell casting, and spectral projection on the men and women of their town in order to get revenge on them, Gillian Duncan and her clique use their involvement in Wicca as a weapon to get what they want, or whom they want. The drawback to using this literary model is that the reader knows exactly what direction Picoult is heading in, leaving little room for twists and turns along the way.

Some of the scenes of sexuality were a bit...ummm....detailed for my taste, but they were hardly as steamy as your typical dime romance novel. Balancing out these scenes are the chapters of courtroom drama where Jack must once again fight for his innocence and his reputation. This novel kept me turning the pages even faster than The Tenth Circle and I strangely enjoyed the unexpected reversal of finding yourself cheering for the alleged rapist. And the carrot dangling at the end of this string is a final page with a stunning twist that really, you probably knew all along. Picoult makes some bold choices in this one. It makes for a page turner to be sure, but it leaves you wondering how you would really feel if you didn't have all the inside information.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Culver's is Delicious

Isaiah and I went to Culver's today for lunch and I did something that I have NEVER, not once, done before. I got him some custard. And I didn't just let him share mine....oh no. I got him his own dish. Just felt like treating him, I suppose. (I know Sandy's probably going to want to kill me for this one.) At first, he didn't really get what he was supposed to do with it, but after watching me for a minute or so, he dug in and really enjoyed his little treat! He even was nice enough to share with Mommy and offered me a bit every once in a while. He barely made a dent in that single scoop, but it sure was fun!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fat Man's Easter


Yesterday the boys and I headed up to Tomah, WI to Fran and Trisha's place for our annual Fat Man's Easter gathering. We also do Fat Man's Thanksgiving and Fat Man's Christmas and it is really nice to have at least those three times where were are committed to getting together as a group of friends. This year, Thanksgiving will be at our house since we had to call the fire department to the Schneider's last year, but that's another story.

Our Fat Man's celebrations are nothing fancy. Just good friends, good food, and....now that there are kids in the picture....good times playing with them. Yesterday was a perfect day for this and Isaiah dove right in to playing croquet with the big "kids!" Click on the photo of Isaiah and his croquet mallet to visit the Snapfish gallery with all the photos from Fat Man's Easter!

Probably what struck me the most was how incredibly different my son is from Jess and Joe's daughter, Ali. Talk about two very opposite kids! She's only a couple months younger than Isaiah (born at the end of January), but their personalities are so different. Isaiah is very "go go go!" and never stops moving or talking. Ali is content to sit in her little camp chair with her purse of toys and her snack cup and watch what our crazy kid is doing. She started crying a couple times as a direct result of Isaiah, either from him playing with her toys, stealing her ball, or from whacking her over the head. Yeah, he got a time out for that one. She ate her dinner nicely, without a fuss. Isaiah hollered the whole time, begging to be given something different, and throwing his food all over the place when he didn't get his way. It wasn't until the last hour or so that the kids finally started playing together. They were ripping grass out of the ground and watching it flutter down to the earth. Adding sound effects made for a fun game and before you knew it, they both had croquet mallets in hand and were both playing together! Maybe I need to really make a serious effort to get together with Joe, Jess, and Ali more over the summer. I think it would really be good for Isaiah to be around her more so he can learn to play better with other kids. He's used to being the baby at daycare, so it would do him good to spend more time with a peer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jet Lag Recovery

One week and counting before Evan's trip to China. I honestly believe the thing he is most aprehensive about is the 14 hour flight that he will be enduring twice. I'm pretty sure he is planning on taking some kind of "knock you out" medication - NyQuil, Unisom - on the flight over there at least. I honestly do not envy him. The next thing that he's dreading is the jet lag he will experience after his return. He explained it to me this way while we were having lunch today:

Me: Will it really be that bad?

Evan: Let's put it this way. It's a 13 hour time difference and a 14 hour flight. So, an entire half day will have gone by as far as my body is concerned, but when I step off that plane....it will be as if no time as passed.

Me: Oh. Yeah, that would suck.

Evan: Um, yeah.

The people at work who have done this trip before say that the worst jet lag hits about a day or so after you return. Since he arrives back home on Friday the 5th, he is anticipating Sunday the 7th being a very rough day, which brings me to the help we need. I have to work that day, Sunday the 7th of June, from 8-2 and Evan would typically be more than happy to hang out with his son. However, if he finds himself in the midst of nasty jet lag, it is going to be very difficult for him to do so.

Anyone willing to come over and watch Isaiah while Evan recovers?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Recommendations?


I am always in search of a good book. Despite the facts that I have a stack of five library books on my shelf and I am on the waiting list for another bunch of books, I am appealing to you for suggestions. What should I read? Now that I've gotten myself completely hooked on reading and then writing about it, I am dying to sink my teeth into something good....something unexpected....something outside my "normal" zone.


Here are a couple I am thinking about reading in the near future:


  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson (this one will be a second attempt - I ran out of time to start it before it was due back to the library)

  • When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Help me add to this list. Leave me a comment and tell me.....

WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT??


The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I read this book as a read aloud to my 7th grade Reading class and they LOVED it, as did I. Certainly more of a young adult novel, it still appeals to the adult audiences that are wither watching or are familiar with the reality show phenomenon. Collins' novel follows the adventures of Katniss, a teenage girl who finds herself participating in The Hunger Games, a reality show where children are thrown together in a "Survivor" style manner....only instead of getting voted off the island, their job is to fight to the death and provide the best entertainment possible for the audience that watches every move.

At first glance, one might think that The Hunger Games is little more than a novel that appeals to the juvenile audience's need for action and a little blood and guts. While it does provide this, my favorite thing about this novel was how Collins manages to weave commentary about the government, the citizens, and the values of a society in between the lines of this book. She suggests that perhaps the country of Panem is what the United States is heading toward, a nation where the government has seized complete control and uses these "games" as a way of reminding the citizens of that fact. There are clear dividing lines between the have and the have-nots, but in this world those lines are called district boundaries. Are we so different from the citizens of Panem? Do we not revel in watching the misery, the triumphs, and the struggles of others? Do we not draw clear lines between those whom we consider valuable and those we consider to be a waste of oxygen? Perhaps the post-war state of Panem is not so different from our modern landscape after all.

The action of The Hunger Games keeps you on the edge of your seat, stoking your interest with everything from fire storms to bees whose stings induce hallucinations. The ending leaves the reader hanging, eager to read the sequel which is scheduled to be released this fall and will certainly also become a bestseller. If you're looking for a quick, fun read with a sci-fi flair, give The Hunger Games a try! But, you'll probably be on a wait list if you opt to go the library route. It is a very popular choice right now.....especially for the young male reader.

Isaiah - 18 months!

My friend Beth recently posted on her blog about what her daughter is up to at 18 months. It was so cute to read that I figured I would copy her and post an update on Isaiah now that he is a whole year and a half old!

The toddler years have officially arrived! Isaiah is very active and has started to engage in focused play: putting blocks together to build towers, rearranging his animals in the barn, riding his train, throwing balls around. He is quick to get frustrated, however, when something does not go his way. If the blocks don't go together as quickly or in the way he would like, he rapidly holds it out to you and makes a sound like "Neyah! Neyah!" Not sure what he's trying to say, but he makes it pretty obvious that he is turning to you for help. He does the same thing when he struggles to spear food with his fork while eating. He insists on having a utensil like Mommy and Daddy, but he does need a hand every now and again.

Mealtime is an adventure in itself. Isaiah is typically a very good eater as far as quantity goes, but he shows no interest in eating veggies! I know....shocking right? If I just fed Isaiah pasta and chicken tenders 24/7 he would be a happy camper! I continue to offer him veggies and a variety of foods, but more often than not he will choose not to eat it. I have discovered the wonder of the dip, however! I mix up applesauce with a spoonful of plain yogurt, sprinkle in some wheat germ and raisins, and Isaiah will gobble it up. I even got him to eat some baked chicken fingers by showing him how to dip them! Woohoo!! Still exploring this possibility further......

Walking? Check.
Running? Check.
Climbing? Check.
Talking? Kinda. See the right column for a list of Isaiah's words. He's very good at gesturing and making an attempt at a word, but so far he really doesn't have a huge vocabulary. He does make it pretty clear what he wants though!

Things we are working on: Teaching Isaiah how to be a "big boy." This involves giving up his Nuk willingly once we're ready to get out of the car or when he wakes up, nipping meltdowns in the bud before they go completely nuclear, playing with the dog nicely (he still likes to try to rip hair out of Brian's tail), and next month - the BIG BOY BED!!!

I am very anxious to see what kind of temprament the new baby will have once he joins our crazy family. I can only imagine what a shy, reserved child might think of being surrounded by our boisterous bunch!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
 
I picked up this novel after checking out the library's "Don't Miss" list and on the recommendation of one of my teacher pals.  Actually, she hadn't read it because she is a HUGE dog person and can't handle reading anything where a dog dies (sorry if I just spoiled it) anywhere in the novel, but she had heard wonderful things about this book.  I decided I needed to check it out and report back to her on whether or not she could handle reading the whole thing.  The verdict?  Lynn - READ THIS BOOK!!!
 
No small undertaking at nearly 600 pages, this book requires a bit more effort than your run-of-the-mill novel.  The payoff?  An extremely well-written, haunting story that sticks with you and leaves you feeling sad, yet enlightened.  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is the story of a young boy, Edgar, who is born mute.  He grows up on his family's farm in northern Wisconsin (Woot! Woot!) where they run a dog kennel.  Now, this dog kennel is not the puppy mill that we have come to imagine in our modern days.  This is a high-class operation, an epicenter of selective breeding, rigorous training, and other practices that result in the creation of the "Sawtelle dog," a unique breed all its own.  Although Edgar is the clear protagonist, the reader also comes to know and love his dog, Almondine.  Unlike the dogs the family breeds for a living, Almondine is the house dog that has been by Edgar's side since the moment he was brought home as a newborn.  Even though Edgar cannot talk, Almondine understands him perfectly and the relationship between these two characters is nothing short of mesmerizing.
 
It is hard not to pick up on the Hamlet-like trajectory of this tale.  Edgar, son of Gar, is shaken to the core when his beloved father suddenly dies and his uncle, Claude, gradually infiltrates his father's place at the kennel and in his mother's arms.  Complete with a Polonius character named Page (honestly....the author made this easy!) and the appearance of a ghost saying "Remember me!" anyone who knows a hawk from a handsaw can understand the direction this plot will take.  What makes Wroblewski's novel so interesting is that it isn't just a Hamlet knock-off.  The Sawtelle dogs (and Almondine) become as interesting of characters as the humans and ghosts being dealt with are both on the farm and in the hearts of the players.  The eloquent use of language - ironic considering the main character is a mute who is obsessed with language - combined with a unique approach to using narration creates a very enjoyable novel.  This is one to take your time with, savor, and enjoy as long as possible.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Tenth Circle

<>One of the perks of being done with my long term substitute job is that I have reclaimed my time for reading. Since Trina's return, I have had the pleasure of enjoying several new novels and I realized that a couple people that read this blog are also big readers of novels, so I figured I would post some reviews about the books I am reading. Of course, I am no expert like the writers for PEOPLE (right Sandy??) or the NY Times, but I can at least offer my two cents. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult This is the third book by Jodi Picoult that I have read and I will admit that she has me hooked. I will write a little something about the previous two books I have read by her at a later time, but I just finished The Tenth Circle over the weekend. A relatively short novel, I started it on Friday and had it finished on Sunday afternoon. It is a novel based on family and the relationship between parent and child. A seemingly "normal" family is shaken to the core when the teenage daughter, Trixie, accuses her ex-boyfriend of rape. This act of violence brings to the surface several secrets that have been deeply embedded in the family's past and, in the end, begs the question of how far we are willing to go to protect our children. My favorite thing about this novel was how Picoult based it on Dante's Inferno. The mother, Laura, is a Dante scholar and teaches a class on the Inferno at the local university and the father, Daniel, is a comic book artist who is writing his first solo graphic novel called "The Tenth Circle" about a father who decends through the nine circles of Hell in search of his kidnapped daughter. The obvious allegory that Picoult makes is how this family must drag themselves through their own circles of Hell as they deal with the reprecutions of their daughter's rape and their own pasts. As a special treat, the pages of Daniel's graphic novel are included in the book, a feature that grabbed my husband's attention and had him paging through the book to read. In the previous novels I have read by Picoult, there always seems to be some kind of underlying ethical, moral, or psychological question that enhances the plot or creates a subplot. In My Sister's Keeper, it involved the genetic screening of embryos and in Second Glace, it was eugenics. This novel did not have as obvious of a "question" or issue as these other two. Instead, there were several issues woven in. There was the disturbing secret life of teenage girls, the affect of adultery on a marriage, and the question of how our children suddenly grow up before our very eyes. All in all, I enjoyed this book very much, just as I thought it would. The allegory of the Inferno appealed to the English nerd in me and the graphic novel provided that little something extra to make the book unique. I thought the direction the book takes in it's final "act" was a little goofy and the end a bit predictable, but the character development (especially of Daniel) throughout made up for that. It may be a painful or difficult read for the parents of a teenage girl, but I would definitely recommend it for Picoult fans.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Day in the Life

This is a tough time of the school year for substitute teachers. Midterms are due and you're in the final push to try to get everything you want in before the end of the year. It comes as no surprise to me that I only got called for one day of work so far this week. But, I am keeping busy! Here is how a day at home for me breaks down:

6:40 am - Isaiah slept in! Woohoo!! Time to rise and shine.

7:00 am - After some cuddle time in the recliner and playtime in his room, Isaiah emerges and heads straight to the highchair. Uhoh....that's the last cereal bar!

7:30 am - During breakfast, I unloaded the dishwasher and started putting in the dirty dishes from the counter. Isaiah is done, so he gets hosed off and starts running around to cause trouble. I pull the ingredients I need to make a new batch of Yogurt Cereal bars.

7:50 am - Cereal bars are in the oven! Isaiah and I head to the master bedroom to pick up the mess in there that has been driving me crazy for a week. Clothes: to drawers or hamper. Dusting. Make the bed. Much better. Oh, crap......Isaiah just emptied the garbage can by Evan's nightstand while I brought the laundry basket to the washer. I'll vaccuum later.

8:25 am - Oven beeps. Cereal bars are done! Put them on the counter to cool. Notice that the counter is gross. Wipe off all the counters in the kitchen. Notice that the floor is gross. Mental note: Sweep & mop later! Go and finish up in the bedroom.

8:45 am - Isaiah plays in the shoe pile while I unload the dryer and load the washer.

9:00 am - First time in the living room today! There's a pair of Evan's dirty socks on the floor by the couch. Super. Washer is already going. Chuck those in the hamper and return to the living room. I turn on The Backyardigans for Isaiah and we snuggle on the couch. I ask him if he's ready for a nap. He says, "No!" No surprise there!

9:30 am - Wonder Pets is on. This show annoys me. I think it's time for a nap. I lay Isaiah down for a nap.

10:00 am - Isaiah has been fussing since I layed him down. I've spent the time messing around on my blog, on Facebook, checking the weather, reading the news, snapping photos of the gorgeous flowers my husband got me for Mother's Day, etc. He has finally quieted down! Time to change clothes and go weed my flower bed!!


10:30 am - Finish typing up this silly blog post and decide it is really time to go weed that flower bed. Oooo...I got a new email! I suppose I just check that quick, right?

On tap for the afternoon: Watching a movie with Isaiah, Figuring out what to get from the Schwans guy, getting Isaiah to nap again (please!!!), shower!!!

Isn't my life exciting??

Sunday, May 10, 2009

21 Weeks!

Whew! About 4 months to go....this pregnancy is half over already! Hard to believe I am this far along already. I was just talking to Evan today on our way to our Mother's Day dinner at HuHot (yum-o!) about how this pregnancy has gone so much faster than the last one. I realize it's because I am otherwise occupied with a certain toddler, but it still amazes me. I remember that the wait until the 20 week ultrasound in July of 2007 was just agonizing and seemed to take forever. This time, I couldn't believe it was already here! We still have a LOT to do in just 4 months, the biggest being getting the basement ready so we can move the office down there and the baby into the office. Evan and his dad did get some new walls and some recessed lighting put up this weekend though, so there is some actual progress taking place. Woohoo!

Here's to you, Mom!


Happy Mother's Day!

Now, I am just hoping that the massive amount of people we'll have in the restaurant this morning take it easy on me. "I'm a Mom too, you know!!"


Before I was a Mom,
I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom, I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom, I never held down a screaming child so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom, I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put him down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom, I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond between a mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom, I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonderment or the satisfaction of being a Mom.

I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much, before I was a Mom .

Friday, May 8, 2009

Precious in His Eyes

It's not even 9:00 am and my heart has already been sent into a state of turmoil. Perhaps it is because I am pregnant that I am letting my emotions get to me this way, but I don't think that is the case today. God has been talking to me today about how children are precious.....in two different ways.

The radio station I listen to, 96.3 Star Country, is doing a radio-thon for the American Family Children's Hospital. Although it has been going on for the past two days, I always responded in a somewhat complacent manner. You know, you think about how terrible it must be for those kids and their families to go through such horrible things, but that's about as far as it goes. This morning, I was listening again and a mother came on and told her son's story. For some reason, it really hit me hard that time and I found myself peeking at Isaiah back in his carseat. I had to force myself to stop imagining what it would be like if I lost my precious child, like this mother had. Just like that, God reminded me of what a precious and incredible gift my child is and how he is trusting me to take care of him, and his brother when he arrives. The first thing I did when I got to school was to log on to the website and I made a donation to the children's hospital at the same time saying a prayer for all the children who are being treated there right now and in the hopes that I will never have to bring my children through those doors. If you happen to read this blog before 6:00 pm today, I encourage you to go to www.963starcountry.com and enter keyword "kids" and make a donation. My heart was certainly moved to do so today and I can vouch for the fact that it feels pretty good!

My second reminder about how children are precious in the eyes of the LORD was not as....well, gentle. I am subbing at the high school today and sometimes you hear things come out of the students' mouths in the hallway that you wish you hadn't. Sometimes it is just foul language that makes you cringe. Other times it is hateful words about other students, teachers, parents. Today, I was walking down the hall and was privy to a conversation taking place between two girls behind me. Not by coincidence, I am sure, they were headed on the exact path I was, so I got to hear the whole thing. They were talking about the previous weekend and were discussing, in the most casual of tones, the "activities" they had taken part in. Without going into too much detail, I overheard these young ladies, probably no older than sophomores, revelling in their casual sexual experiences with high school boys. One mentioned how she had told her parents she was staying over at a girlfriend's house, only to hook up with the boy.

There was a part of me that wanted desperately to turn around and shout, "Don't you realize how precious you are and that you're wasting yourself on this???" Then I started to think again about my children. Although they are boys and I know the subject will need to be approached in a slightly different manner than it might be with girls, how can I teach them from very early on how precious they are to me, to their father, and most importantly.....to their Father in Heaven? How do I keep them from being the boys those girls in the hallway were giggling about? How do I instill in them a sense of worth, a self esteem that can only come from the knowledge that they were created on purpose, that they are loved, and that they are worth so much more than they can ever imagine?

Right now, I am worried about things like teaching "No hitting" and blowing kisses. I only need to blink my eyes and suddenly my child will be desperately needing his parents to show him how to be a man. I am overwhelmed by this responsibility and it is my prayer that God will continue to open my eyes to opportunities to teach my children about how precious they really are.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Needed: Truck & Handyman (or woman)


After doing quite a bit of shopping around online, on Craigslist, and in stores, I finally picked out the furniture for Isaiah's room. It's hardly the kind of stuff that will last him until he gets married, but I'm hoping it will at least get him to high school. I ordered a dresser, a nightstand, and a headboard, along with a bed rail to keep the little buggar from falling out of bed as he gets used to it. Where I need a hand is going to be with picking up these items and assembly. They are all being shipped Site to Store (free shipping!!) to the Walmart in Baraboo and are estimated to arrive while Evan is either in California or China. You see my problem.


So, would anyone with a large vehicle, power tools, and a knack for furniture assembly be interested in helping me pick up and put together Isaiah's furniture while he is away?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seeking Summer Employment

So.....bad news. I needed a bare minimum of 15 kids to sign up for my summer school class to be held. I got 5. This isn't official just yet since I haven't received my letter in the mail that says, "Too Bad! So Sad! No work for you!" but nothing short of a miracle would save my class at this point. Long story short - I need a job.

"Can't you just pick up more hours at the restaurant?"

Good question! The answer to that is a resounding, "No." Here's why. We have a small staff of waitresses and 4 of them work there full time, with the same exact hours every week, regardless of season. The three of us who are part timers (me, a high school kid, and another woman) also have a set schedule. The problem is that if I were to pick up more hours, they would need to be taken from someone else. I certainly can't take them from any of the full time workers and just trust me when I say that neither of the other part time ladies will be interested in losing hours. If anything, they'll be looking to pick up as many as possible this summer also. So, that option is out.

I thought about applying to be on the house staff at American Players Theatre, but then I came back from Crazyperson Fantasy Land and realized that I will be in my third trimester of pregnancy this summer. There is absolutely no way that I will be able to lift heavy trash bags and such by the time the end of August rolls around. And never mind the fact that there is the hill to contend with. Just like that, APT was also out.

So, what does that leave me? Work at Culvers? A gas station? A seasonal restaurant in Wisconsin Dells?
Two things to consider arise with any option: 1. Where can I work comfortably during my third trimester? 2. Where can I work that will make it worth it to send Isaiah to daycare?

With those things in mind, I would welcome any genius suggestions for employment because right now.....I'm stumped.



Albany, New York

Evan was kind enough to send me periodic text messages yesterday reassuring me that he was travelling safely out to New York. It's nice that he has caught on to my obsessive need to know he's ok! He had a layover in Detroit and then later landed safely in Albany, NY. We corresponded later in the evening via text again - since we don't have a nationwide cell phone plan, we didn't risk actually making a call - and he said they had a productive day, but couldn't find a good place to eat so they ended up eating nasty Chinese food. I found this kind of funny considering he will be eating nothing BUT Chinese food for 2 weeks straight later in the month!

Isaiah and I had a fun night at home together, but he definitely missed his Daddy. He woke up this morning saying, "Da? Da?" as if he were expecting to see Daddy come in to wake him up. Evan should be getting home late this evening, so he won't get to see Nugget before he goes to bed, but I know Isaiah will be excited to see him again on Wednesday. I know I am looking forward to Evan walking in that door, safe and sound, one business trip under his belt.

As far as the next trip, even Evan doesn't really know what's going on yet. He was supposed to be going out to California for four days next week, but apparantly the person who is in charge of scheduling the trip hasn't done so yet and is gone this whole week! Needless to say, Evan is somewhat annoyed. If they don't go next week, that means it would get pushed to the week after.....which is the same week he leaves for China on Friday. That would just plain suck.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Naming our little boy


Why are boy names so much more difficult than girl names? We really struggled to even agree on a short list of baby boy names last time around and Isaiah was the one name that Evan and I both truly loved. Perhaps that was the primary reason I was secretly hoping for a girl - so I wouldn't have to go through the naming drama!!! Oh, well. God has better plans for our testosterone filled family! I checked out a couple baby naming books from the library to try to expand our horizons a bit when it comes to names. Always good to branch out a little, right? After discussing the newly formed list with Evan (and crossing out more than a few between the two of us), I am happy to say that we have decided on a name for our baby boy! It's going to take some getting used to for me because it just hasn't quite "hit me" like Isaiah's name did, but I do really like it and I think it is a good, strong name.

And yes, we are still keeping the name a secret until the baby is born. We're evil that way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Boy oh Boy!


It's a boy!

Just like big brother before him, this baby left little doubt as to whether he was a boy or a girl. As you can clearly see in this ultrasound, the goods are right out there for all to see! So.....two boys. Wowza. I will admit that part of me was hoping for a girl, even though I was pretty sure all along it would be a boy. There's something about having a little girl to play dress up and do all the princess stuff with, but I look at it this way. I should NEVER have to take out the trash or mow the lawn and weddings down the road will be much cheaper. Seriously, I am pumped to have two boys. With them being so close in age, they will have a blast causing trouble and getting dirty together. And really, there's just something about brothers.




Above: 4D image of the baby's face, straight on.





Above: 4D profile shot of the baby's face. See how he has his hand tucked up under his chin?

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