Sunday, December 13, 2009

Joyful Noise

A year ago, Abigail could not speak the language. Life for her at that time was a blur, in fact she remembers very little of the month after we returned from China. A year later (yesterday evening), she was singing a solo in front of a large church. She loved it. She wants to do it again.

God is good.

Pictures and a video clip below...

Abigail is the one with the pink shirt and big smile (circled):

In the following video clip, Abigail is the first to sing...

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Strong-Willed Child

It is said that some children are strong-willed. We have one of those. If there were a way to measure the strength of a child's will, Abigail would be way at the top of the scale. Some children have strong wills, her will is made of high strength steel. While this can result in some tensions within the family, particularly with other strong-willed family members, it can also result in some rather humorous situations.

She has been learning the concept of obedience, and of one's role in the family--particularly, children being obedient to their parents. Some of this she has been learning the hard way, through the consequences that occur from disobedience. Those are some hard lessons, but she is making progress. To put it in simpler language for her, Dad and Mom are the "boss", and the boss is to be obeyed.

Knowing now what she is like, it really came as no surprise to us when she announced at dinnertime yesterday, "I wanna be the BOSS." She just blurted it out to the whole family. She has never been accused of being subtle, so this was right in line with her character. She wants to be in charge, and will let everyone know about it. I think she knew that she wasn't going to get far with this little request, since we all burst out laughing, but I think that she was only half joking.

This resulted in an animated discussion of what being the "boss" was like. This was backed up a little later when the topic on our Advent calendar was Jesus the Servant King. The "boss" serves his family. The "boss" is the one who gets up earlier than everyone else to clear the snow off the driveway. The "boss" takes responsibility to provide for those that he is responsible for, putting his own desires aside.

I told her that she could be the boss. I would go to Chinese class once a week, and practice the piano for a half hour a day, and sleep in until 9:30, and wash the dishes, and work on math problems. She could then pay the bills and go to work and make sure there's food on the table every day and keep the cars on the road and heat in the house.

She was not dissuaded.

She still wants to be the "boss".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It Is Finished

At long last, the bathroom is finished. Below is a progression of pictures which shows the destruction phase, then the construction phase, a process which took several months.

The original bathroom. If you stood far enough away, it didn't look too bad.

The beginning of demolition. Tile shards, drywall dust, sawdust, and just plain dust made for a very dirty job. That's why I had my kids do it.

The claw-foot bathtub exposed. Because of the slant of the floor, it would not drain properly.

Destruction nearly complete. All the fixtures gone, and the plaster about to be removed. Josh and David had the job of hauling the tub down the narrow stairway. I told them that they built a lot of character that day. David told me that they learned a lot of new language that day also.

New plumbing stack installed. Since the house settled several inches and the old stack didn't, the difference pushed the toilet out of the floor. So I either had to raise the house or lower the plumbing. I chose to lower the plumbing by simply replacing all of it.

Additional plumbing for the tub installed.

Time to level the floor. Sleepers cut at an angle and new plywood made for good bathtub drainage again.

New level floor installed. Because of the severity of the slant across the bathroom, the floor had to be rebuilt in two levels, so the tub is actually two inches higher than the rest of the bathroom.

Tub set in place. Too bad the room is seven inches wider than the tub.

New drywall and new window in place. Also, the seven inches behind the tub was filled with a linen cabinet.

Some of the painting is done. Heating vent installed, medicine cabinet installed, and the final flooring is installed.

The finished product. The only thing missing from this picture is the showerhead.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The End of an Era

It's tough to see happen, but the boys have moved on from things that were interesting a few years ago. Particularly since they had so much fun building and then using these "go-machines". But, in the end, practicality won out. I needed the space in my barn, so the go-machines had to go. I took some last pictures, just for old time's sake...

The low-racer, made from a Craftsman lawn tractor

The infamous propeller-kart. This one was a blast.

The propeller-kart, rear view

On the trailer, before hauling to the recycling center. This was 1200 pounds of metal. Our place seems to accumulate this stuff.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Missing Day

Last year, we didn't have a November 5. We went right from November 4 to November 6. So this year I'll sit and bask in the November five-iness for a while to make up for last year.

We left last year on November 4 and arrived in Beijing on November 6, heading into an adventure that we had no idea how it would turn out. It was, and continues to be, quite an adventure. A few days from our missing November 5, on November 10, we stepped off the train after an 11-hour overnight train trip in Xi'an in central China. Later that day, we met our daughter for the first time. She has been with us ever since, and we have not been the same since. Abigail certainly added a whole new dynamic to our family. We thank God for our newest family member and the progress she has made. In just one short year, she has learned to speak English, she has learned how to live in a family, she is making strides academically, and she is growing physically.

What a difference a year makes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Little Foxes

Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Solomon 2:15
This verse really didn't seem to mean much to me until today when, for the first time since we have lived in this house (18 years), we spotted a fox in the back yard. We watched him for perhaps five minutes and shot several pictures from the kitchen window until something spooked the fox and he dashed off into the trees behind our place.

Its reason for being there was specifically the row of grapes along the garden, our vineyard, and he was eagerly eating the grapes that Abigail had thrown down a couple days ago, when she was trimming the plants. After a bumper crop, we had a lot of grapes left over, so the fox was grabbing the easy stuff, the grapes lying on the ground.

I would imagine they could do considerable damage to a good crop, given half the chance...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Facebook Panic

Tim Friend is unemployed.

There's a whole story behind this. Most of the story was caused by the appearance of these four words on Facebook this past Friday.

I check Facebook occasionally. Sometimes, it is the only way to find out what my college kid is up to. I rarely post anything. The signal to noise ratio on Facebook is quite low and adding to the inane posts will only increase the noise level.

Such things as:

So-and-so is bored.


So-and-so is tired.

appear frequently, so I thought that:

Tim Friend is unemployed.

would be just another four words in the endless digital chatter.

I was wrong.

On a whim, just before I shut down my computer for the last time at work, just before I turned in my ID badge, I logged into Facebook and typed two words (my name was already filled out). I then handed my computer to my boss and walked out the door for the last time.

I had David with me. The secretary from the Tech Center where he is taking his auto mechanics class called me to tell me he missed the bus, so I picked him up and had him help me clean out my office. I learned that his bus had left an hour early because of homecoming at the high school and had left him behind.

When I walked in the door at home, my dear wife went for the jugular. It took a little effort to pry her hands from around my neck and when I finally could breathe again, she went for the verbal jugular.

"What do you mean, you lost your job?!" she screeched.

"You know what's going on," I told her, "I start my other job on Monday. Unemployment is only for the weekend. You've known about this for two weeks."

As she started to calm down, the story came out.

When she arrived home from picking up Abigail from her class, David's car was not in its usual spot in the driveway. Deb's immediate thought was, "road kill" and Panic 1 started. David has had his driver's license for about a month and his car (which we affectionately call 'the bomb'--see The Car Crisis) for a week. So Deb thought he was splattered on the road somewhere.

She checked the answering machine, which was flashing 9 messages. When she finally got to the last one, it was me, telling her that I had David. The panic started to abate as turned on the computer to check email. She doesn't have a Facebook account, so she could only see the emailed responses to the above four words. "We're so sorry." "We'll be praying for you." "We're sorry you lost your job." These sorts of messages greeted her and started Panic 2.

We have great friends and family, by the way. They've showed lots of concern for what turns out to have been a false alarm.

While Deb was still reading the email, the phone rang. "Did Tim lose his job?" asked my mom. They are currently travelling and had received a phone call saying I had lost my job.

"I don't know," said Deb, "but I'm going to wring his neck."

So, just to set the record straight, I no longer work at Gentex as of this past Friday, but I start at a former employer, X-Rite, on Monday. So the statement "Tim Friend is unemployed" is true, but only temporarily.

And if you want to be in on the fun, just be my friend on Facebook. You may not hear from me that often, but when you do, it may make waves.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Car Crisis

It's been a while since I've posted anything. There's a good reason for this. We've been a little busy. For one thing, we're still working on getting used to an extra female in this family. Abigail comes into a family where boy stuff ruled the day for nearly two decades. Since Abigail joined our family nearly a year ago, we're seeing some of the pink side of things. Treehouses, zip lines, potato cannons, go karts and the like are giving way to tea parties, talking, and pony tails.

Abigail has a box of miscellaneous doll-house stuff at Grandma's house. Complete with the small doll in the flowing dress. Yesterday, she was playing wedding. The doll, whom she called Katie, was getting married. She spent quite a bit of time arranging the wedding. The only problem was, she didn't have a groom. In her ten-year-old creativity, she chose the nearest available thing--a cow whose legs could be manipulated, Gumby-style. The wedding proceeded despite this little glitch, the beautiful doll and the gumby-cow. When she described this to us the next day and repeated some of the festivities, it was really hard to keep from laughing.

This year finally tied us down to the school year. With Josh in college now and David going to the Intermediate School District Auto Mechanics program, we have specific start dates, days off, and schedules. Abigail, also, is going to a set of classes every Friday. So now we have a new problem on our hands. The Car Crisis.

We could see it coming and we have tried to head it off in various manners. The problem involves having more drivers needing to go different places at the same time than available vehicles. I'm sure many other families with older teenagers have run into this also for each kid, but, for us, it happened all at once. Josh needs to go one direction, David needs to go another, I go to work every day, and Deb needs transport Abigail to her classes and do all the normal household management stuff. With two cars, this doesn't seem to work.

Josh has biked to his classes at Grand Valley quite a few times. David also bikes to the high school where he picks up the bus for the Tech Center. But that only really works when the weather is nice. This is Michigan, after all. Bicycles and Blizzards, although they begin with the same letter, do not go well together. So we found an inexpensive car: a tired Honda that somehow escaped the Cash for Clunkers program. Josh uses it when it rains, when his backpack gets too heavy, and when he oversleeps. Problem solved. For one driver.

The second driver, David, has been a little harder. Since he has an interest in fixing cars, we bought a non-functional car several months ago for him to fix up. The idea was to have it fixed before school started. This one had a blown head gasket. He spent quite a bit of time tearing down the engine to replace the gasket, and then putting it all back together. It even occupied the coveted spot in our garage where the van normally sits, much to the consternation of Deb, who drives the van and covets the garage.

We got it running a few weeks ago. For a short time. Then with a clunk, it died. Due to a few mistakes in reassembling the engine, we now have a head gasket that needs replacing. If experience is the best teacher, we have been learning a lot lately.

So the car is still non-functional, and still in the garage. Deb's lament is: why can't we buy cars that work? I think she wants her garage back.

Meanwhile, the weather has turned decidedly colder. And wetter. September was awesome, good for biking, but the rain-rescues Deb has been having to make lately are getting numerous, and Winter is coming.

Friday we went to look at another car. David's project has gotten too lengthy and Deb can't take him to catch the bus all the time so we found a car on Craigslist that seemed to fit the bill. A means for getting from point A to point B was all we were asking. When David's car is working, then we can get rid of it.

The car was located in Hastings, about an hour away. By the time we got there, it was dark. We missed the driveway. Twice. The house had no lights on outside and the mailbox number was almost impossible to read. The car sat in the driveway in front of one of the large garage doors. The house had four of these, each garage having a large lift. It reminded me of a muffler shop, with a small living area sandwiched between bays 3 and 4.

We took the car for a test drive. It was a means for getting from point A to point B, but that was about it. In its glory days, it was a nice car. A Honda Accord LX with all the trappings, I'm sure it was nice at one time. It's not so nice now. With several large dents and a fair amount of rust, it would take a lot of imagination to call it "pretty". It makes a lot of Michigan winter beaters look good.

But it ran well and drove well. The wipers made a horrible screeching across the windshield, but those are easy to replace. I wish they had been newer because it poured rain all the way home. I couldn't see a thing.

I gave a lower offer and the guy accepted it so we took it home. The first thing we discovered when we stopped to get gas was that the fuel door wouldn't open. So we continued home, hoping the the fuel gauge was not lying to us.

The next day, when it was light, we could finally see what we had purchased. David was dismayed and said he would probably be laughed off the parking lot after seeing the nice mauve/purple interior of the car. Perhaps this will be additional incentive to get his other car working. The other car is a rear-engine, two seater sports car. We managed to punch out one dent using a large block of wood and a hammer, but the others may be permanent fixtures in the car.

So the Friend Transportation Department has been very active lately, but the Friend Housing Department has not been far behind. Our house rehab project has taken a little longer than planned, and with all my workers now in school, it is mostly Deb and I and Abigail, with a little of David's time, that continue the project. Yesterday, we replaced a window, putting a large hole in the side of the building, then getting it all put back together, with new wood siding, per historic district requirements. I was hoping to get it painted the same day, but a brief rain shower soaked everything, sending us inside for the remainder of the day. Deb discovered water dribbling from the bathroom ceiling, so now we have additional plumbing and drywall work to do. After replacing nearly all the plumbing in the building, we discovered that one of the few areas that was not replaced leaks. So it goes for old buildings.

There are other things going on as well, but I think I am running out of disk space. Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

Before: (the hack job)


The whole building, before and after paint:


After: (David putting on finishing touches)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Road Trip, The Rest of the Story

We just got back from a family road trip to Ohio. We spent a week touring some of the natural features and state parks, putting on about 1000 miles in a big loop through the state. Some of the more memorable times of the trip were:

1. Spending the first night in a private campground just southwest of Cleveland. This wasn't one of our destinations but was located near Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This campground had a distinctly redneck feel to it. Half of the campers were installed rather permanently, as evidenced by the tall grass, foundation plantings (if I can call the wheels the 'foundation'), and even large decks built off the side of the camper. Our campsite was located just a few feet from what appeared to be a beer tent, complete with large Budweiser and Dale Ernhardt banners, skull and crossbones flags, and guys with no shirts on swizzling from tall aluminum cans. During temporary lulls in the noise, we could hear other parties raging in the distance. The only redeeming factor, according to Josh, was the open wireless network.

2. The heat. It was HOT. The farther south we traveled, the hotter it got. And it wasn't a dry heat, either. We told Abigail when we first got her that it was hot in July, when her birthday was. It was cool most of July and didn't get hot until we were away from home in Mid August. She probably thinks we're a bunch of liars.

3. Stow, Ohio. We stayed two nights in a city campground in Stow, Ohio. Although the campground itself was "rustic" (i.e. no flush toilets), the rest of the park was pretty upscale, including a large lake that was for dogs only--no humans allowed. The entire city seemed to be more on the upscale side with beautiful large homes and immaculately manicured lawns. Even the McDonalds restaurant we stopped at for ice cream was done upscale, with walnut crown moulding and lots of wood trim.

4. Hills. I've always thought of Ohio as flat, kind of like Indiana flat. But we were on some hilly roads that would challenge any mountain road for hills and curves. David, our performace car buff, was lamenting that we were doing these roads in an overloaded minivan towing a heavy trailer instead of a sports car. His idea of a great road trip is doing these kinds of roads in a mid-engine two-seater, at the highest speeds possible.

5. Ice Cave. A natural cave in some small rocky cliffs in Cuyahoga National Park. Aptly named because of its chilly interior. It was a welcome relief from the heat. We could have stayed in there all day.

6. Kidron, Ohio. The location of Lehmans, a company that sells a lot of stuff that could be considered "back to the land", and supplies to the Amish community. Massive store, lots of cool stuff, way overpriced. We left, having only sampled the fudge.

7. P. Graham Dunn. Located not far from Lehmans, but over more of those surprisingly steep and twisting roads, this business makes inspirational plaques from wood and other materials. Deb browsed their store while the kids and I took their factory tour. Laser engraving and cutting. Computer controlled wood engraving. Pretty cool stuff.

8. Hocking Hills State Park. A small canyon in the middle of this hilly country (yes, there is a canyon in Ohio!). Some cool hiking trails along the rim and along the creek at the bottom.

9. Tar Hollow State Park. We called this the Tar Pitts. It took us over 2 hours to drive the 21 miles to get there, and we were led astray by the locals twice ("It's jest up that thar road, ya can't miss it"). Turns out the GPS led us to a remote section of the park, and the 'fastest route' was over many miles of one-lane dirt road. We finally ended up at a fire lookout tower in the middle of the forest where we managed a weak cell phone signal and called the park office. The park was rather unspectacular. Perhaps one of the nicest features was the elusive entrance sign that we were told we couldn't miss. It was big and it was nice and we couldn't miss it--if we were on the right road.

10. Tecumseh. This was the biggest reason we stayed at the Tar Pitts, because it was located near the Tecumseh outdoor dramatic play. Tecumseh was about the life of Chief Tecumseh and the battles at Tippecanoe. The stage included some of the forest and a small lake and the play included gunfire and cannonfire, so it was very noisy at times but very well done. We had to keep reminding Abigail that the people weren't really dead.

11. Ceasar Creek State Park. 10,000 acres of park and recreation area circled around a lake which formed when Ceasar Creek was dammed up. Lots of trails, including mountain biking trails. I discovered that it's really tough to do a mountain biking trail with a tag-a-long attached to my bicycle. Abigail thought it was a hoot, but it wore me out.

12. Campground firewood. There's a reason I try to bring my own firewood. A small bundle of wood bought at the camp office was so wet that it took an hour to get it to a point where we could roast a marshmallow. We used gobs of paper, whatever burnables we could find in the trash bag, and the fan to keep the fire going. Other people seemed to have an easier time, but the distinct odor of charcoal lighter fluid gave them away.

13. Flying bicycle wheels. When driving to a biking trail, I glanced in the rear view mirror just in time to see a single bicycle wheel bouncing behind the car. We searched for an hour but could not find where David's front wheel ended up. Perhaps in the corn on one side of the road or in the soybeans on the other side of the road, but David now has a one-wheeled bike.

Abigail loves camping. She has told people that she went camping twice this summer, and gets to go again in September.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Road Trip, Day 1

Willow Lake Park, a private campground and "resort" near Brunswick, Ohio. This is one of those resorts that is half filled with full time campers and then other more transient campers like ourselves. It also seems to be the local party spot. We rolled in here last night about 10:30, and the campsite we were assigned was about 3 feet away from an informal beer tent, and a party was in full swing. When I asked to be reassigned, they gave us the next site, which was 10 feet away.

I think we'll move on...

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Fort

There is a large number of wooden trays stored here in the barn. These trays were used extensively until the flower operation was shut down over a decade ago. Since then they have been stored in a back section of the barn.

One year, the kids moved several stacks of these trays around to create a secret room, a fort which made for endless hours of play. Each time some of the cousins would come from out of town, the fort would get re-arranged, or added on to. Accessories were added. A ceiling was added. Old desk lamps were used for lighting. The final rendition consisted of a large main room and two side rooms, the main room having a door, a bed, an old radio, an numerous other items. They even have carpet. Some of the kids have slept there overnight.

Looking toward the entrance

The main room

Looking into a side room

The most recent addition was a wall of fame, the names of each of the cousins burned into the wood of the trays in a section of the main room. This year, one more name was added. Abigail got to burn her name into the fort, thus becoming one of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Friend Fort.

Previous names

Abigail adding her own name

The newest name.

Nine Months

Nine months ago today, we picked up a scared little girl on a street corner in Xi'An, China. I've written about this a couple times before, but what I have not written about so far was what happened immediately after we received Abigail at the Civil Affairs Office in Xi'An. It was nothing big or momentous, but it was an indication of how this whole adoption process goes.

In a nutshell, the way ahead is dark, and you never know what is going to happen next.

After we left the Civil Affairs Office, we needed to have a picture taken for the adoption certificate. Our guide, Jane, finally coaxed a very reluctant Abigail to hold my hand, so with Abigail walking very stiffly and sullenly beside me, we set off towards our hotel.

It was past dusk by this time, and the place where the picture was to be taken was on the way back to the hotel, according to Jane. I have no idea if this was actually true, because of all the twists and turns we took during the journey.

Jane led us down a few very dark and very narrow streets. Many times we had to walk on the street itself because the sidewalk was still crowded with vendors packing up their wares, parked cars, and other things we couldn't identify. When the occasional car went by, we almost had to flatten ourselves against a building to make room.

The gloom, the dark buildings towering over the narrow streets, the occasional brackish water standing in the low spots, and our unknown destination all combined to give me the feeling that I was playing a part in some B-rate gumshoe detective movie, only I had no idea of the plot or the outcome.

That feeling was reinforced by our destination, a nondescript door in a building that opened to a dimly lit stairway. The stairs were only wide enough for two abreast, and Abigail balked that Jane was not able to walk beside her up the stairs. We finally convinced her to hold my hand up the stairs, and we arrived in a tiny room that really didn't look like a photography studio.

The only thing missing from my detective picture was the skinny guy with his feet up on the big wooden desk smoking a cigar, and the ceiling fan spinning slowly overhead. Instead, there was an older Chinese man, who ushered us through the cluttered room into the next room, equally tiny and cluttered. This room had a camera, a few chairs, and a big white box, and we were arranged on the box and our picture was taken.

It was a bit of a test of wills to get everyone arranged to actually take the picture. Abigail, who was quite scared and very tired, just wanted to cling to Jane, but Jane was not supposed to be in the picture. Abigail did manage some semblance of a smile and we even managed some semblance of a smile despite the stress of the day, and we were heading back down the stairs in about ten minutes. Back in our hotel, the next test of wills was getting Abigail to brush her teeth.

The whole thing seems a bit surreal now, like some half-remembered dream.

In the nine months since then we've been asked many times how it's going. The easy answer is "fine". Abigail is a generally happy ten-year-old, usually eager to help out. She loves her friends, loves her family, and is particularly interested in how the family all fits together. We've had several family get-togethers since she has been home and she wants to know just how each person is related. She will ask about each person multiple times, which can get a little tiring when the get-together consists of over 60 people. Family is important to her, so it was fitting that she was able to be in the extended family picture from our family reunion in May.

She sleeps well, eats well; her English is coming amazingly well, and she likes to learn. Most of the time, she will have a smile on her face, and she loves to tease.

The undercurrents are a little harder to describe. I don't wish to publish lots of detail on the Internet, but suffice it to say that family relationships have been and continue to be buffeted strongly by these undercurrents. In engineering terms, if a disturbance is introduced into a stable system, the system will oscillate for a while before becoming stable again. We're very much in the oscillation stage. We're working towards stability again, but we're not there yet. We can only take things one day at a time, and plant our feet firmly on the Solid Rock, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

By casting our cares on his mercy each day, we will soldier on, knowing that He will carry us through. We look forward to what He will do in the next three months and beyond...

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Silver Lining

Purchasing airline tickets is a task that gets more onerous all the time. This latest batch was definitely no exception. We seem to be paying more and more for increasingly lousy service, bad connections, and long layovers. Our tickets for our trip to Washington had connections in Chicago, Las Vegas, and finally Seattle. The return flight was a red-eye, arriving in Chicago at 5:30 a.m. All this for $378, not including all the taxes and fees. Any better connections or times put the cost somewhere north of five hundred bucks. With four of us flying, that added up in a real hurry.

When we arrived at the airport on Monday, we could tell immediately that something was wrong. The lines at the ticket counter weren't particularly long, but the ticket agents looked harried and there were lines outside the usual cattle stalls. The 6:00 flight to Chicago had been cancelled and they were trying to re-route a planeload of passengers on other flights. I overheard an agent telling a passenger that she could not get her on a flight until two days from now. We managed to check in for our 6:45 flight and then waited in the gate area.

The plane eventually filled up and left, right on time. Only we were not on it. The flight was way overbooked and we were the unlucky ones to not have seats. We waited by the desk while the agent tapped madly on the computer. There were perhaps a dozen other passengers in the same predicament. The next available flight, she finally told us, was at 2:15 and consisted of three flight segments on three different airlines. On the last segment, she could not get seating assignments, we had to check in again.

As if to head off any questions about being bumped from a confirmed flight, she handed me a brochure on passenger rights and said we had a choice of free tickets to anywhere in the USA or cash compensation. I told her we would take the cash.

So, back to the United ticket counter to submit our claim, then to another line at the American counter to check in for the first leg of our new flight.

Rather than waiting five hours at the airport, we went home for a while.

Abigail was becoming quite confused by the whole thing. In China, we went to the airport, got on an airplane, and flew to our destination. Here we went to the airport, waited in several lines for a few hours, then went back home. A few hours later, we went back to the airport and finally got on a plane.

So we flew to Chicago on American, to Minneapolis on United (Abigail calls it Many Apples), and to Seattle on Alaska Airlines. Our luggage took the earlier flights to Chicago and Las Vegas.

When we arrived in Seattle, we went to the United baggage claim desk as we were told way back in Grand Rapids. The lady there gave us the run-around for a while and then sent us to Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines clicked and tapped on her computer for an interminable amount of time, never locating the town of Zillah to send the bags to. She finally got her manager who took one look at the computer and told us, "This code means that the bags are sitting at this airport." She printed out proof of this and sent us back to United. United took a look at the printout, then our baggage claim ticket and told us we had to go to US Airways. US Airways was located by Carousel 9 (we were near 18) which was a fair distance to walk, particularly in a crowded airport.

When I arrived at US Airways, the line was long and they only had one agent working. I spotted the bags in a corner of the room. I then estimated the amount of time required to properly check with the agent to clear the bags. It was distressingly long. I waited until the agent was concentrating on her computer, grabbed the bags, and ran from the room. It felt a little funny, stealing my own luggage, but the luggage ordeal was already at an hour and a half and Dad was waiting outside in the van, with the back door open and all the carry-on bags half loaded to make it look to the parking police that he was actually loading bags in the loading zone. An hour in a five-minute loading zone was pushing it a little bit.

We made it home a little after 1:00 am (4:00 am Michigan time). 24 hours to travel across the country. It took us only 26 hours to travel to Beijing, China.

But the silver lining of the whole thing was: United refunded us $300 per ticket.

Mount Rainier

A couple pictures of us at Mount Rainier National Park...

Silver Falls

Mount Rainier before it clouded over

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Abigail's First Wedding

Abigail got to participate in her first wedding, passing out directions to the reception after the ceremony. She loved it and even had two friends to share the job with...

Cook's Privilege

The cook gets to lick out the bowl...