04 August 2013 @ 05:51 pm
Our family went on a Heritage Tour to let Matthew and Elizabeth see China. This particular tour is arranged through what used to be called the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs - the department that processes both domestic and foreign adoption paperwork - and Bridge of Love Adoptive Services - a branch of the Chinese Civil Affairs Office that arranges those adoptions. I had originally planned on blogging or keeping a journal while in China, but internet was so spotty and unreliable that I couldn't really blog from there.

So, Day 1. July 13 2013 we leave for China. We decided to pack into one large suitcase and 3 carry-on size bags. We brought a fair number of snacks for the kids, as we had no idea whether or not Matthew would eat any local food in China - he doesn't like food with sauce or rice. I was seriously concerned that he'd starve, it's not like he carries any extra weight!

Lucky for us, there is a direct flight from our nearest airport to Beijing. The brutal part about traveling so far - you get stuck in an airplane for 13 (or more) hours. In a coach seat. Surrounded by other people stuck on the same plane. Ugh.

We have 12 hours of time change to China, plus the 13 or so hours of flight means that we leave Saturday at 1pm and arrive on Sunday at 2:30 pm. The flight was choppy. Really choppy. I got airsick for the second time in my life - the last time was in 1991 when returning from London. Alex, who loves roller coasters, couldn't even sleep through the chop. Chris and I barely slept, as he can't sleep sitting up, and I had an infant in the seat in front of me. After crying for a very long time, said infant went to sleep about 20 minutes after I gave up on sleep. On the plus side, there are a lot of movies available to watch while on a long-haul overseas flight. I considered watching "A Beautiful Mind" for old-times sake; I had watched that movie when we adopted Matthew. Instead, I picked "Silver Linings Playbook" and some TV shows.

We arrived into a gray, warm, and humid Beijing. We were met at the airport by one of the tour guides. We got to experience Beijing traffic on our drive back to the hotel. It is both astonishing and chaotic. There was an accident just two cars ahead of our bus. I had to take a picture of one of the freeway toll booths - their architecture is straight out of Imperial China. Once we got to the hotel, the tour guide set us up in our rooms, which were on completely different wings of the hotel. When I asked him if we could get any closer rooms, he indicated that we couldn't, since the hotel was booked solid. Fortunately, they had set up the third bed in one of the rooms - most room beds are smallish double beds, and there's no way two of our children could fit in one of those beds. Some of the families weren't so lucky, and we did hear of two families that had to have a child sleep on the floor (!).

We got a pleasant surprise when we found out that the hotel had US-type plugs available for device charging. Alex discovered that Google in China is all routed through Hong Kong. Our first experience with the "Great Firewall" of China. The same thing that disallowed me from logging into Facebook while we were there.

We all went to sleep and were looking forward to visiting the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) and seeing an acrobatics show the next day.

Day one pictures here.
03 March 2012 @ 10:55 am
Because it was there...

Alex took apart and rebuilt his Vcube 7x7 Dazzler. He can solve it normally, too, he just wanted to see how it worked...
03 March 2012 @ 10:19 am
Two of my favorite recent Alex quotes:

(To Woody) "Mom says we can listen to the radio while we are waiting for her in the car. Her rule is that if a Nine Inch Nails song that we've never heard before comes on, we have to skip it."

(To both of us) "I like baking my own bread. It's the only way I get to eat white bread. All you guys buy is that gross 100% wheat bread."
18 February 2012 @ 11:26 am
Please pray for our friend Diane. She has a cancerous brain tumor and the family has exhausted all their treatment options - they went to an out-of-state hospital that specializes in her type of cancer, so I know they did everything they could. This is heartbreaking news, and Diane is already starting to suffer the effects of her growing tumor.

Diane and her husband are dear friends of ours from college. They have a daughter who is a sophomore at MSU and a daughter that is a junior in high school.

They recently celebrated their 20 year anniversary.
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16 February 2012 @ 09:40 am
I make a fair amount of the chemicals I use for cleaning around the house (gotta put that degree to work!). Here are my favorite cleaner "recipes:"

Window/stove/anything cleaner

1 c Clear Ammonia (not scented, makes streaks. Besides, it still smells like AMMONIA. Honestly.)
1 c Isopropyl alcohol ("rubbing alcohol")
1 c Water

Mix and use to clean anything shiny or clear or white or...

Daily shower cleaner

1 c white vinegar
1 c water
2 Tbsp Jet Dry

Spray after showering. Cuts down on soap scum, mold and mildew between real cleanings.
24 August 2010 @ 07:31 am
Amazing stuff. They look so much more like our contemporaries when the pictures
are in color. America:

And Russia circa 1910:

My kids were fascinated by this glimpse into our country a whopping 70 years
ago. I explained the them that the children in the pictures were now older than
their grandparents and the adults older than their great-grandparents (they
still have 4 of those!).

Enjoy :)
12 May 2010 @ 08:06 pm
I'm going through my blog to find out when we lost power - making a case to bring to anyone who will listen, and likely some who will not, I've run into the following posts that I thought were humorous.

Dog in Elk

I has a Sweet Potato

Enjoy, but don't drink beverages while reading. You have been warned.
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07 March 2010 @ 08:33 am
We added a dog to the family line-up yesterday. Here's her listing on Petfinder.

She was brought in as a stray in Central Indiana. After a mandatory one-week hold at the Police/ Animal control, she was referred to the local Humane Society. No one claimed her at either location. The HS worker adored her and referred her to Guardian GSD rescue. So, with all the transfers, she's about 4 hours drive from where she was originally found.

She adores the children and is very, very affectionate. No hint of aggression at all, and the only time we've heard her bark is when Chris was on the treadmill. She didn't think it was safe, it seems.

House trained and has house manners, so I wish she could tell us who she is and where she came from. The rescuer said she has had puppies before.

I guess in a way it all works out; I always felt bad that we knew more about Vella's biography than our two adopted children. Now we have 3 house members with no history. We have to assign a birthday to her, she's approximately 3.
13 February 2010 @ 08:59 am
American readership, skip this first paragraph. I'm going to explain Medical Reimbursement accounts. If your an American and don't know how the Medical Reimbursement account works, I suppose you can keep reading. So, Medical Reimbursement accounts are a tax-free way to pay any medical expenses up to $5000 - the amount limited by law. It saves you about 28% on your medical bills, but comes with some strings (of course). The plan is administered by a third party - in our case, WageWorks - that gets automatic payments from Chris' payroll. They give us essentially a debit card that we use for medical expenses. The burden on them is to prove to the government that we are using our money only for medical expenses. For their trouble, WageWorks gets any money left in our account at the end of our coverage period. We generally put $1000 in per year - that's about what we rack up in dental bills and copays on our family of 5 for a year. We never leave money in our account at the end of the cycle, we're cheap engineers after all.

WageWorks has been requesting verification for any bills that aren't specifically from a physician. Our normal copay for sick child visits is $20, for regular routine visits $0. Bills rack up slooowly at the pediatrician's. The real money comes in on our dental coverage "80% of customary and traditional." Those pay scales apparently date back to when I was in school. We generally pay $35 for a teeth cleaning, $15 for a fluoride treatment, and a whopping 100% for teeth sealant (apparently not available in the '70s) - I think that's on the order of $40/tooth for the sealant, which prevents cavities. So, the biggest expenses always require validation.

It seems that WageWorks has redefined their charter to keep our money from us. They denied two of my claims yesterday stating:

"We cannot process this request because the receipt or other documentation you submitted does not provide the information we need to substantiate this type of expense. Please resubmit your claim with an appropriate proof of service that describes the exact product or service, the date it was received, the name of the provider or merchant and your actual cost."

What fly-by night bills was I trying to get reimbursed for? A "Vision Exam" from a place called "The Vision Center," and a bill from "Janis (Last Name), DDS" for "Dental Prophylaxis." Since we have three children whose teeth we get cleaned, I totaled the amount of the three bills at the bottom of the receipt, circled it and drew an arrow. The receipts were on letterhead and I'm pretty sure that a company that does medical reimbursement would understand terms like "exam" and "prophylaxis."

So, yeah. Proof of service. Perhaps next time, I should include color photographs of the dentist's office and pictures of the dental hygenist with her hands in my children's mouths. What more do they want!?

Oh, yeah, my money. Which they want to keep for their trouble denying me. On Monday, I'm FAXing them all my receipts and draining my account.

I'd rather deal with snakes.
11 December 2009 @ 01:46 pm
And drive-by posting this video. Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain. Why is he climbing a mountain?

eumelkeks can probably write some serious slash with these lyrics. For my part, I just laugh.