Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What can happen in 2 years?

I can't believe it's been 2 years since I last posted something on this blog. I've spoken and thought up many posts in that time, and I'm not real into regrets, so we'll pick it up from here.

I'll give myself 60 seconds to type all the things that have happened since the last time I posted:

Sold our house
Abby in first grade
Avery in preschool
lived with Jen and Brian for 9 months

Bought a new house
Now live in Savage, MN
New job for me at FedEx
Anna's remaining two siblings both married
found a church home - Hosanna in Lakeville

More of a comedic list:
i've gotten my hair cut a total of 4 times...maybe
we've cooked dinner almost once a week
girls have gone to bed before 8:00 (their established bedtime) six times
I now play softball instead of baseball...that's sad

Bloomington to Savage

So, we sold our house in Bloomington on April 4, 2012. We had roughly 30 days to pack it up and move it out. I'm not going to tell you that it was difficult or that it took many many late nights, 453 boxes and slightly fewer rolls of packing tape, even though it did. What I will say is thank God for a mild winter in 2010-2011. This past weekend was St. Patrick's Day and it snowed. Last year it was 80 degrees on March 17...yeah we were lucky.

We barely had time to pack all of our belongings up, let alone find a house...so what's the logical move? Of course, move in with a family of three...one of whom is 2 years old, another is 30 and has a home based business in addition to his primary job as a pilot, and the other one was 8 months pregnant (nevermind the other descriptors...4-5 weeks from having baby is all that is needed.) Why on earth did these people agree to let us move in? Why in the world would we want to live here? Good blog material...why else? 

Up to this point the only child who had ever lived in this house was Carson. Well, Carson had a lot to get used to, and fast. In the span of 24 hours his two girl cousins set up shop in one of the 4 upstairs bedrooms, his bathroom was invaded by pink and light blue, and maybe more confusing yet...this perpetual sleepover didn't come with any popcorn, staying up late or movies. Not only did he not get to participate in the slumber parties, he was confined, by himself, to his normal room, which was under constant audio and video surveillance...not kidding...nowadays baby monitors could be used in espionage. 

Part of the deal for Jen and Brian allowing us to live with them was that I would finish their basement. Yeah, that means that for the first month and a half of this experiment, four adults and three kids were all sleeping on the top floor. We crammed our king size bed into a soon-to-be baby room which already contained a crib, dresser and diaper dumper. Twas more than a cozy arrangement, but man did it beat the hell out of an apartment...and I did get my remodeling fix quenched by finishing that basement

One of the other giant sized benefits of living with J and B was their proximity to Abby's school, and Avery's as it turned out. For those who know us it's not news that we aren't the most punctual family in the league. I've got a hunch that one particular couple, with whom we spend a pretty good deal of time, actually will tell us events and meeting times begin 15 minutes before they actually do. Well, it took exactly 4 minutes to drive from our temporary home to Abby's school, and another 3-5 minutes to make it from Abby's school to Avery's. The interesting, and funny, thing to note about this reduction in travel time is that Abby had even less time to scarf down her peanut butter toast on those rarer, but inevitable days when we were running really late. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

This is an incomplete post from far too long ago...simply publishing for future reminiscing's sake...

Power Shine

My how our little Avery has turned a corner. In a few short months she has gone from simply saying words (mostly when prompted) to talking almost all the time and stringing sentences together as often as she can. She definitely makes some other noises which definitely can't be considered words, even tho they have plenty of meaning in their own right. We'll categorize those noises under terrible twos and do our best to ignore them for now. But I've realized that one of my favorite things that comes with little kids learning to speak is how their words and sentences fit together. They sound like immigrants coming to a new country and learning the language, or better yet, they sound like me while traveling in Mexico and trying to recall my 3 years of Spanish from so many years ago it saddens me to count them. You essentially grab onto the few words you know and drop everything else that should surround those words in a properly constructed thought or sentence. I'm no English major but I'm reasonably sure, "ah cookie?" "ah bailey?" and "ah cup milk?" aren't complete sentences...but that's what I love about it. It's exactly the same as when I'm walking through a restaurant in Mexico and I get a waiter's attention just to raise my shoulders, point my palms towards the ceiling, lift my eyebrows and say, "baño?" Ok, maybe not exactly the same...if it were truly apples to apples I would grab my crotch, jump up and down and announce which number I planned to go once getting to the baño. 

So, it stands to reason that since Avery doesn't speak the language exactly as we adults do, she probably doesn't hear it the same either. This couldn't be more evident than with her most recent obsession..."power shine!" It took us at least a a few hours to even figure out what words she was saying and then another day or maybe two to understand what she meant. You see, the Disney phenomena has a strong hold on this family, especially the lone male and the middle sized female. So, when Tangled finally came out on DVD and Blu-Ray Combo Pack (see what I mean?) Abby, Anna and I had already seen it...and become huge fans of it. Little did we know or expect that our not-even-two-year-old would surpass us all in her love for this splendid movie. Avery's TV and movie watching skills probably should alarm us, but being able to plop both our girls down in front of the TV for a bit, and knowing that they'll both do nothing but watch, is a nice ace in the hole. Avery's obsession with Tangled has got to simply be a product of sheer volume and mass. Somehow that movie just doesn't get old, and I agree wholeheartedly. And consequently, it's been watched by our girls no less than three or four hundred...thousand times. Anyway, there's a song which is sung many times throughout the movie called the Healing Incantation. The lyrics go like this: 

Flower gleam and glow
let your power shine
make the clock reverse
bring back what once was mine
heal what has been hurt
change the fate's design
save what has been lost
bring back what once was mine
what once was mine

Sitting there in the second line of this short song are the words no one in this family will ever forget. At some point Avery starting referring to Rapunzel (the character) and the movie in general as "Power Shine." And since she coined that term, it's filled many of her waking thoughts, and hopefully some of her dreams as well. I personally find it amazing that she would see and hear Tangled as many times as she did, and those two words were what she grasped and remembered. Those who have heard her say it can vouch for it, it's so damn cute you just want to hear it again. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Best Cousins

"Bring a Friend Night"

I can speak from firsthand experience when it comes to having relatives double as friends. My cousins Joel and Nick are only 1 and 2 years younger than I am respectively. They're only 10 months apart themselves but that's a topic for one of their blogs or memoirs.) So, our proximity in age and in geography, and the fact that they've always been a blast to be around, has created great friendships. So, looking at the whole cousin-as-friend relationship from my perspective as a dad and uncle makes it all the more special. You see, my Abber Dabbers and her cousin Kaylin are separated in age by 1 year, a year that means almost nothing. Since the time Abby's been able to speak in sentences, she and Kaylin have referred to themselves as "best cousins." I know that's because Abby's best friend is Ella and I don't think she could conceive of a way to have two best friends, even though that's exactly what Kaylin is. Thus, they created "best cousins"...eah...works for me. I know the other adults in my family agree...it is so damnin' cute to see the two of them play together. As soon as either one arrives at the other's house or they collide at Grandma and Grandpa's, the energy level spikes. Kaylin provides the spark and Abby: the lighter fluid. It is truly electric when these two are together. They have so much in common in their little girl world and are also different enough that their mojo flows perfectly. It's wicked cute to see them dissappear into "Cinderella's Castle", or down into "The Bayou" with Tiana and company. Some days it's playing house or riding the bus, wherever their imaginations take them...it's a joy to watch them go wholeheartedly. Don't get me totally wrong here either, the fact that they play this well together means would be in-charge grown-ups get a bit of a break. They are really each other's best babysitter. So let me say this to you Dabbers and Peanut, indeed, you two have something very unique...a real treasure. Incidentally, should one throw little miss Konrad into the cocktail, it will soon become a Molotov. That or a flaming sofa outside a college party house...chaotic...fun, but chaotic. I know, that's a strange yet familiar analogy.

This brings us to the following tale. Being the natural performer and spotlight lover she is, it was not a surprise to us when we learned Kaylin was going to be taking dance lessons. Whether she knew it or not, dance lessons would just be more ammo for her arsenal of performance material. Make no mistake, our Peanut loves the proverbial stage, a Rachel Berry in the making (yeah, that's a Glee reference, what can I say? I like me some Glee). She had been doing the dance lesson ditty for a few weeks when we got the call. Little did we know that her dance studio had come up with the single greatest marketing campaign of all time...

In one of the cutest voice messages I've ever heard, we listened to Kaylin extend an inviation to Abby to join her for one of her dance classes. It was "bring a friend night" and even though they're cousins, I guess they finally agreed that cousin and amigo es posible. So Abbers donned her gymnastics leotard, along with some other accessories Anna insisted upon, and we took her to dance class for a night. Well, that night has turned into many. No..."bring a friend night" wasn't simply an excersize in friendliness...it was more like a sting operation. "And I didn't even see it comin'!" (- Lloyd Christmas). Aha...I finally understood...all of the tiny ballerinas for a night could choose to keep the fairy godmother's spell unbroken, to keep it 11:59 indefinitely, so to speak. Yes, they could join the class and stay miniature ballerinas...well...forever. So simple, so diabolical...it was brilliant! Needless to say, dance class on Tuesdays has now been added to the laundry list of things the Dabbers and the Peanut have in common...and we truly couldn't be happier about it...of course, neither could they.

Hidden junk inside this hidden gem

Last Fall we made the decision to put our house on the market. A decision reached not without some heartache, but no time for that now. This is the second time we've had a house listed and all the joys of being "on the market" came rushing right back to us. I could fill a book with funny and annoying stories from our past few months of showings. However, one day and showing in particular stands out. It was just last weekend and we had been in Mankato celebrating Anna's Grandma LaJune's 90th birthday. From Mankato we headed out to the lake for a day of fun and relaxation with Anna's side. Well, the dreaded showing call came as we pulled in to the driveway at the lake. A showing from 5-6pm? Sure, why the hell not? We're only an hour away from home and having left in a hurry that morning, the house looked more like a frat house than a single family. The only reason we agreed to the showing is because I had to head back to the metro area early for Pitch 2 Pitch (P2P). (I've been teaching baseball clinics/practices with P2P for the past few years in my rare spare time). So, I would simply have to head home early, tidy up our abode and get out of there before 5:00...sounded simple.

I arrived home at 4:18 exactly, so I had just over 40 minutes to straighten up our entire house from top to bottom. I suppose if I was female I would have spent the hour drive home thinking of my strategy for attacking each section of the house. Well, I'm a guy...and the "wing it" concept is simply woven into our DNA. I figured my plan was effective enough, I worked from bottom up, starting on the basement, moving to the middle level and finishing on the main floor...which contains the kitchen, our bedroom, and is basically the catch-all for random things throughout the week. In other words, my chosen plan of attack wasn't exactly spot on. For the first 10 minutes I was delusional enough to think I had a chance to get it done. Then, minute by minute thereafter I realized I had about as much chance to get that mess picked up before 5:00 as the Timberwolves do to get me to come see a game this decade.

I got to the main floor with about 6 minutes to deadline. So what did that mean? No more putting stuff away where it belongs, time to hide it. The dishes from breakfast sitting next to the sink...can't put you guys in the dishwasher because, just my luck, the dishwasher is clean? I guess you get shoved under the sink and covered with a dish rag. Anna's clothes left on the floor/bed: crumpled into a ball and kicked under the bed, literally kicked...I was laying on my side and essentially horizontally stomping on her clothes. (Sidebar: what else is under there that I should have to exert that much force to get a few ensembles to fit under the box spring?) The bottom line at this point...if it had a door, something was getting hidden inside it. Avery's lucky her puppy didn't end up in the freezer. I definitely realized a couple things during this debacle.
1. Anna does a bang up job keeping our house clean and tidy all week
2. you can't replicate vacuum lines in the carpet using only a spatula

I ended up leaving the house at 5:07 thinking, "thank you, potential buyers, for being late...now you had better show up!" As soon as I got in the car and pulled away I sent two texts. One to the Easter Bunny saying, "you've got competition" and another to Anna, knowing she'd beat me home that night, saying, "enjoy your scavenger hunt, nothing is where it's supposed to be, ha."

Can I get some of what you're smokin'?

If you've sold your home in the last few years you probably know about the showing feedback one receives after someone has viewed your home. For those who aren't familiar with this procedure...it is now a common practice for the buyer's agent to fill out a short survey with the buyer's general impressions on the home they walked through. It asks the buyer to rate the floorplan, interior, exterior and price, then allows for further comments. Anywho, the survey is then sent to the listing agent and passed on to the homeowners. It's very nice info to have and certainly is appreciated. Of course, just like the real world where people move at different paces, the real estate industry is no different. One can expect to receive this showing feedback somewhere between say...an hour after the showing and...never.

Well, for those who know my wife, it probably comes as no surprise that, to her, the e-mails containing showing feedback are like crack. I swear her sense of sound is heightened in the hours following a showing. Her ipad will make the new message ding and she's there, like white on rice...it might be feedback! Avery staggers out of her room, her diaper half buckled, and having just used Slinky Dog to repel down the side of her changing table (still not sure how she does that). Meanwhile Anna's caught up in another groupon e-mail wishing it had just been the feedback she so longingly yearns for.

Just last week I overheard her on the phone with Re/Max trying to get them to implement a new policy stating that everyone who views a home at an open house must fill out a feedback survey. I'm guessing it didn't work since I later saw the first draft of a survey she created on her own. Next thing I know I'll be forging and mounting a cookie dispenser on one of those ballot machines from our local precinct. I can see the poster now, "Fill out the survey and get a thin mint!" It wouldn't be the first time girl scout cookies are used for pure evil. Wait...umm...Abby, Avery and I have been watching too much Phineas and Ferb.

But seriously, Anna loves those feedback e-mails.

The Cakes 'n Coke

There's no way I could wait a whole lot longer without telling the tale of the one and only Davy Cakes and his friend Jack Daniels. If you've ever spent a night playing poker with the youngest Konrad, or thrown dice with him on a craps table, you know he's a Jack and Coke guy. But, on the last night of our recent Tahoe ski/gambling vacation, he took it to a whole new level. After spending about 3 hours soaking and drinking in the resort's hot tub, Joel, Willy, Brian, Tyler, Cakes and I did exactly what we shouldn't have done...head to the casino.

We wound up at the Crystal Bay Club Casino. We found our spots at the craps table and placed our drink orders with the waitress. Well, I was a few spots away from Cakes so I didn't quite catch the details of why his drink order was so confusing, but I know Cakes was forced to say a whole lot more than, "Jack and Coke please." I didn't think much of it because my Captain Coke order was simple and straightforward...and was delivered in that same manner. We went on playing and drinking for a while and of course, there were no further issues with David's drink order...because it's impossible to confuse the universal "I'll have another" hand gesture. (If you're doing it right now don't feel weird) Anyway, the craps table goes cold and we all split up. Later Willy and I find Cakes playing Blackjack and decide to hover for a bit.

It was somewhere after this point that I learned, much to my amazement, that Jack Daniels is not on the "free booze" list at Crystal Bay. At last, I knew what the confusion was earlier. Cakes was being told his favorite whiskey aint free here. What ensued is one of the reasons Cakes will go down as a legend in my book, already at the ripe young age of 29. So he says to the waitress, and I'm paraphrasing, "I don't care, I want a Jack and Coke." She retorts that she'll have to charge him for his drink and he gives her the A-OK. Of course he's thinking, "What a hole this place is!"Another anecdote that helps to illustrate this casino as the Hardees of the North Shore is fact that this same waitress continued, the entire night mind you, to call Cakes' drink a "Daniels-Coke."

In honor of March Madness let's do a game reset, sponsored by Allstate..."are you in good hands?" asks Pedro Cerrano/President David Palmer

...in a casino chock full of middle aged men, wannabe cougar women, pinheads, meatballs, no-talent-ass-clowns, and regular joes, I guarantee Cakes was the only one paying for his drinks. So I don't know which is more amazing...that Cakes paid for beverages the entire night whilst the rest of us drank for free, that this rediculous excuse for a casino didn't host Jack Daniels-Old No. 7 whiskey, or that the Jersey-Girl waitress called them "Daniels-Cokes" all night? One thing I know for sure, the official name of a drink you pay for when 99% of the general public would not...is now called the 'Cakes and Coke.'

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Only True Constant...

It has been nearly a year since my last entry and rather than say I'm turning over a new leaf with intentions to blog all the time (even tho it's true), I'll simply hope for the time and, more importantly, the will to stick to it. Quite a bit has come our way in the time since Avery has gone from 9 to 18 months and Abby finally got to see the Magic Kingdom of Disney World. Yes indeed, I feel as if the last year of our lives was much like Avery's mouth at Abby's skating lessons last night...crammed full of popcorn, and so stinkin' stuffed in there that I know there's no way she noticed the box of corn was half as big as she is. My mind was saying, "yeah there's plenty here...let's slow it down ." Anecdotally, it's somewhat comical to note that if my life depended on knowing the length of my 1 1/2 year old's arms, all I would need to produce is a standard-hockey-rink-concession-stand-size-rectangular-box of popcorn. I know the box is empty when Avery's shoulder dissappears inside it. I'm just glad she doesn't know that old maids are almost as good as the puffs of corn. Avery just thinks old maids are who shows up at the neighbors' house every Wednesday with bottles of something sporting Mr. Yuk labels. I just came up with a great idea...(yeah Mr. Yuk t-shirts) and...take home a couple of those popcorn boxes and tape them to Avery's torso once her arms are inside. Of course it sounds mean, so I'll just keep that idea in my back pocket until I really need to cut down on the hurricane effect she seems to have on the toys
in our house.

But back to my analogy...our lives have been as jam packed as her face was. Anna is still at home with the girls and has started a photography business with my sister, bravo! No, "bravo!" is not the name of the business, they named it Buckett Photography. 1 point for figuring out how the significance of the name, 2 points for figuring out the creative mastermind who came up with it. Abby is busy with school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Park night has taken a back seat to skating on Monday nights with Ella and of course there is dance on Tuesday nights with Kaylin. Avery simply obsesses over her battery powered toy puppy and marches to her own beat in regard to sleeping, eating and...well, everything. I am as busy as I've ever been, working retail hours at the TV store my dad and I opened. And that's why they say that the only true constant is change. (ok, so there's the baseline facts to catch me up when I look back on this in the future).

As I mentioned, our youngest is now a year and a half. And, as many of you know, along with those length-of-time-being-alive milestones often come doctor's visits. At these visits the first thing they do is weigh the kids and measure their height. Well, Anna and I always try to guess how much our kids weigh. Of course, we have to look at their previous weight and then guess how much we think they've put on. At Avery's 15 month checkup she tipped the scale at 21lbs 4oz. So how much does one guess when trying to figure how many pounds a 15 month old might add in a 3 month period? Well, I can tell you I didn't guess 4oz. Yep, Avery gained 1/4 pound in 3+ months. What? I think my iphone gained 5 or 6 oz in the same period. The other funny part is that if the nurse had come into the room to take us to the scale even 3 minutes later, Avery would have officially gained no weight between her 15 month and 18 month checkups. The diaper she filled moments after returning to the room had a payload of at least 4oz. Indeed, "everything comes down to poo". (Scrubs musical, look it up)

Forts Rule

I have no idea how or why it took us so long...but Abby and I made our first real good fort the other day. It all started when we took the cushions from the deck furniture inside before the huge snow storm hit. Normally the furniture would be covered for the Winter, but since our house is on the market we didn't put the covers on as to make the deck look more appealing. Hey, bonus for the girls and me since now we had big cushions to use in some fort building. Well, I distinctly remember building kickarse forts out of couch cushions when I was a kid. So, either I'm a worse fort builder now that I'm 31 than I was when I was 7, or perhaps my definition of kickarse has changed? I'm afraid the previous sentence isn't as rhetorical as I'd like. I thought about it for a bit, tried to arrange the cushions in a fort-like manner...fail. Tried again...fail, re-arranged them again resulting in some sort of maze looking design and then looked on the face of my four year old...fail. I was at a loss, how could cushions have made such great forts when I was young and now be so lame...even to Abby? Whatever, I said forget that and moved on to plan B. By this point I had lost the interest of my Abber Dabbers, so I was determined to make it up to her. I went and found a king size sheet and spread it out. By itself it wasn't big enough to do much with. Luckily Anna said she had a black backdrop that was pretty large in size...bingo.

I had this theory that to make the best roof, a piece of cloth would ideally need to be tethered from above and not supported from inside the fort. So, I did what any dad equipped with two garages full of tools, clamps, gadgets and junk would do...I rigged it up. My favorite part about creating this fort was that as soon as Abby saw what was going to happen, I had her attention again. It took about a half hour to get everything just right. I positioned a couple cushions in one spot to keep the daylight out; the roof and sofa did the rest. (I've included a picture for reference).

Abby was pretty excited...and we got everything completed just in time for Avery to wake up from her nap. What else was there to do but get some flashlights, toys and treats in there? My girls and I spent at least a couple hours playing, eating, singing and tickling each other in that fort. In all I think 16 inches of snow fell outside that day, and we hardly saw any of it. But it was a very pretty site when we finally emerged from our princess and puppy filled lair. That was a special day and I can't wait to try it again, of course we'll need to add on next time.

That's Barely Bread

I was lucky enough to have a guys vacation in January. A ski trip to Lake Tahoe was on the schedule for the better part of a year and the anticipation was almost as fun as the trip, well not really. But with all the planning, e-mailing, BS'ing about the upcoming trip, it really carried a lot of momentum through the preceding months. You know, that brings up a curious question about us as homosapiens in this day and age. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it, there’s something out there on the calendar...maybe it's a tee time, maybe it's a massage, or maybe it's a rendezvous with Julianne Hough. Whatever it is, by God we can trudge our way through the days/weeks/months leading up to that event no matter what crapstorm life may fling our way. It’s an innate ability in all of us, almost a sixth sense. If the event is something like a 4+ day vacation then that notion can keep you afloat for months. If I’m being honest, I can easily say I go about my days and weeks with a pretty darn optimistic outlook. I honestly can’t remember ever being down in the dumps or even playing in the bitter barn for more than a moment (maybe that sounds far fetched, but believe you me, it's da truth.) But somehow a vacation on the horizon makes even my days better. So my advice: get a trip on your calendar…Puerto Vallarta 2012, who’s with me?

So, back to Tahoe. My father-in-law (Fred) decided to do the ultimate good man-deed...book a condo in Incline Village and send out the bat signal saying, “I have a place to crash, so boys, buy your plane tickets and let’s go skiing and gambling.” Of course, for those who know Fred, I paraphrased and left out more than a few throat clearings, but the message was sent...and I heard it loud and clear. Staying true to form, there's a chance I may have taken a few liberties with Fred’s generosity.

I really only mentioned it once or twice while we were there, so it bears repeating. If I hadn’t made the trip and overstepped my bounds on inviting more than my share of guys, it would have been a pretty lonely week for Fred, Brian and Tyler. It certainly could be one of my faults, but I guess I'm just the type of dude who tries to make everything bigger and better...and this vacation was no different. I wanted this trip to be EPIC. So, I figured why not bring the total testosterone count from 4 guys to 8 guys? I mean the NCAA Tournament is now a field of 68. Come to think of it, maybe we'll do a play in game or contest to see who makes the cut for our 2012 ski trip to...TBD. In fact, I think one of the events will be sandwich making. And I can tell you who will not be a judge for said sammy making contest...one Brian Cristallo.

You see, my bro-in-law Brian and Fred arrived in Tahoe 3 days before the rest of us did. They got in some skiing, gambling and general merry-making before the amplitude was to be increased, and increased mightily. They were nice enough to do some grocery shopping before we arrived and picked up a gross of bread, a mass of meat and let's not forget, a heap of banana chips. The plan was to make some sandwiches to bring and eat at the mountain and avoid the $15 hamburger. Our first day brought us to Northstar. I made my own sandwiches the night before, prior to B's announcement that he would take charge and make sandwiches for everyone for the following day. He was walking around the condo taking orders, yes to this, no to that, "you want lettuce guy?" was said 7 different times. I'm here to tell you, it was a wonderful gesture.

Anyway, it was about lunch time the next day, and the 6 of us who arrived on Tuesday had just enjoyed our first morning of skiing. Thus, we had no idea what type of effort had been put into the lunches of the previous few days when just Fred and Brian dined together. So, we moseyed over to a table outside the chalet and whipped out the sandwiches from my pack. It was pure bliss...8 guys sitting around the chalet on a sunny day eating lunch, BS'ing about that morning and looking forward to the bulk of the trip still ahead. Only because I had made my own sandwiches and am clearly not the team player Brian is, I had to say it, and had no problem pointing out his one fatal flaw in sandwich creation. I do believe it was Johnny K who was first forced to endure the butt end piece from the bread loaf on his PB&J. Then another appeared, perhaps even on Brian's own sandwich. Between the bickering and insults it was at this point that I lost count, it may have been 2 or 3, but no matter the number it was too many. I mean c'mon man, the end piece is all crust. Not to mention they're about 3/4 the size of the rest of the loaf. You'd need to go Kobayashi and dunk it in a glass of water to soften those pieces up. AND, AND there was an entire loaf of bread still back at the condo...so it wasn't as if these were the last two pieces of "bread" on the block. Looking at the bright side, at least B didn't double butt somebody. So, much props and thanks to B for making 14 or 15 sandwiches...but leave the butt in the bag...and be ready to go at 8:15 next time...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Long Overdue

I'm not going to pretend I've dissapointed any loyal readers, altho I've heard that this blog has been perused before. But, it's a sad state of affairs when I haven't posted a single entry in almost 1 calendar year. Sorry to my wife and girls.

I was working on the post below about 10 months ago and never really finished it...so I'm just publishing it as is. So, now I'm caught up on general blog housekeeping. I forgot how much fun it is to write this damn thing...so I better get to it.

You say Priv-acy I say Prive-acy (written in April 2010)

It's a pretty well known and agreed upon fact that parenthood brings spoils of rewards. They come in all shapes, sizes, flavors and colors. How about the seemingly mundane sentence our Abber Dabbers throws at us all the time, "Mommy/Daddy, guess what?" More times than not this question is followed by a fun little fact about Avery or something she is showing off about herself...hell sometimes we're entertained with a story about a twosie (yeah I know it's a theme). Then, every once in a while, all she says is, Mommy/Daddy, guess what...I love you." This is but one of the countless treasures we are blessed with because I'm a daddy and Anna's a mommy.

Fewer in number, but often times just as enjoyable to ponder are the things taken from us because we've chosen to reproduce. The one that struck me most recently is privacy. I have really always considered myself an open book, and what's more I genuinely prefer being in the company of others almost all the time. But who doesn't love some privacy every now and again? Certainly there are some places you never expect to get any privacy...the kitchen, the family room, the back seat of an '86 Buick Regal. However, once you're the parent to a 2-3 year old every square foot of your house is fair game. About a year ago Abby started to play the game where she would come in and turn the lights off on me while I was in the shower. Of course I would act all surprised and hoot and holler...it was a fun game. And you know, it never really dawned on me that this barrier of privacy was broken forever until last Monday morning when I was showering. I was in mid-snot rocket when the unmistakable sounds of two frolicking little girls came bursting into the bathroom. I pulled the shower curtain back and poked my head around the side just in time to see Abby and Ella chasing some balloons and each other into the bathroom. Yeah, balloons, little girls screaming and laughing...the only thing missing was some cotton candy and a skee ball machine. The funny thing to me was the look of surprise on their faces when they heard my voice and saw my face peeking out from inside the shower. As far as they were concerned I was interrupting their play time. I think I even heard Ella mutter, under her breath, "Next time you should knock AB guy."

How can they call Rice Cereal...cereal?

Avery is now at the stage in her life when she ingests a very steady diet of formula in a bottle, baby food, and rice cereal. I can think back to a time, before Abbers was 6 months old, when rice cereal was completely foreign to me. I'd be totally fine going back to that state of mind. You know, I really think Gerber ought to replace the word "cereal" with "mush" or "meal". Once you've had Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Lucky Charms, Boo Berry ( I could go on forever) it doesn't seem ok to call the stuff Avery eats every day "cereal" as well. Rice Mush or Rice-Meal sounds much more accurate and doesn't risk getting one's hopes up when hearing the name. Either that or the powers that be need to change the word we use for Trix, Golden Grahams and Apple Jacks to something else. If the white mushy stuff stays cereal then Wheaties can be called Ceunreal, or just plain Awesome. "Hey wanna have toast or a bowl of awesome for breakfast?" When compared to Rice Cereal, a bowl of awesome is perfectly apropo.

Little Aves had her 9 month doctor appointment yesterday and Dr. Segedy, who is sensational, officially extinguished the consumption of rice mush in this house. Anna mentioned that Avery was showing less and less interest in it and he said drop it like a bad habit. Out of the corner of my eye I swear I saw Avery do a little fist pump a la Tiger or Derek Jeter...hers was somewhere between the two of them.

I'm sitting here asking myself how my babiest girl is already 9 months old? Her personality is starting to really show itself...along with her teeth. She is currently cutting at least five new teeth, napping for an average of 90 minutes per day, and somehow staying happy. Perhaps it's her new found sense of mobilization. She is finally crawling at a significant rate after threatening to do so for about a month and a half. As with so many milestones for children, this one will be a double edged sword as well. I suppose if Avery lived in the 1400s she would have given Columbus some real sound advice. Considering she doesn't see the edge of the couch, the bed or anything else, I highly doubt she would worry about reaching the edge of the earth. I imagine her advice would go something like, "Flat Earth, round Earth who gives sh...green-turd-filled-diaper? Even if you do reach the edge of the planet just be a man and keep going, there's always some kind of cosmic force there to catch you anyway. But beware, said cosmic force really enjoys kissing what he or she saves."

Anna turns 31

It's about time my lovely wife gets a little ink. What a tremendous wife, mother and person I married and created. Well, she was always a great person, but without me she wouldn't be a wife or mama, so any happily married guys with kids let's tip one back for...well...ourselves. But seriously, I could think of no better way to tell Anna how wonderful she is than by throwing her a huge surprise party. Glad it was my idea...(yeah, it wasn't). At least I can say I organized the whole thing (I'd be lying) and prepared a majority of the food (ha). The only thing I can take credit for is lying my knickers off to keep this thing a secret...the glory really belongs to our dear mate Melissa K. Rock solid planning, scheming and brainwashing are all in a days work for this lass.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Only Natural

From where I'm sitting a pond in winter looks best only one way...with a little off the top. Yes sir, every backyard Minnesota pond ought to see some shoveling and skating during the course of a winter. Of course one can take anything too far, so from where you're sitting Johnny, Benny and I may have looked like absolute lunatics...on ice. In the weeks leading up to the prestigious Quad City Boot Hockey Championships we certainly did pull out all the stops to have JK's backyard rink ready. Flooding? Yes, flooding (after a couple mishaps a season before) is now a piece of pie. But what if the rink's superintendent decides to drill a few 3 inch holes in the ice before the snow has been cleared off for the first time? Well, the pond water comes out of those holes and combines with the surface snow to create, well, pretty much the biggest pains in the pooper one could imagine for an ice surface. So, we did what any creative, resourceful, ambitious 30 year olds would do when faced with a deadline. When I said we pulled out all the stops, in this case "stops" meant, backpack leaf blower, propane powered flame thrower, chain saw, hell we would have even dropped trou and made like the smallest little piggy if we thought it would have helped. Well, after many hours of effort we did get the ice in a playable condition. It happened just in time too...just in time for the gigantic Christmas snow storm and the great thaw which ensued. By the time our big tourney came around, all our work was buried beneath 4 new inches of perfectly smooth ice. I guess that's what you get for not procrastinating.

Unfortunately, as I write this, the rink sits in a state of ruin. If it were a pinball game there would be a sign taped over the quarter slot reading "out of order." So, another year of boot hockey and backyard pond skating for the kiddies is over. A monumentous sized thank you is owed to the Konrads for hosting, readying and giving...all things, all the time. If it weren't for his backyard rink and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, JK may have actually slept this winter. Bravo Guy, bravo.

As I illuded, the good ol' Metro Area, as we natives like to call it, or what the country folk refer to as "The Cities" was recently the beneficiary of a bit of a warm spell and the snow banks have receded more than Josh Lucas' hairline. Spring is really a wonderful and beautiful time of year...but the weeks at the end of winter and beginning of spring are quite ugly really. I suppose I could coin a new word and call this time of year "Winting" or "Sprinter." A dumb name for an equally wretched looking portion of the year. I mean...look outside, the only snow that's left is covered in sand, dirt and chopped up asphalt from the road...gorgeous. We can now see what is supposed to be grass, but, in many areas, more closely resembles the hair on the head of that certain science or math teacher we all remember. You know, the one who put an overabundant amount of "product" and/or grease in his hair and chose to style it with a spatula...beauty. So, forgive me if the picturesque photo which usually sits atop these blog entries is absent this time. It was either nothing or 2-3 month old doggy dung sitting upon the aforementioned greasy grass (I'd say I got this one right on).

Anna and I did just recently get back from a week long vacation in Nuevo Vallarta. John and Melissa Konrad were nice enough to let us tag along to a not so little resort called Paradise Village. I use the term "tag along" not so much because our compadres saw us as inferior travel companions, but because the hotel did. At this place you were either a member or a guest. And, it wasn't hard to tell the difference. It was as if the slender Mexican man behind the check in counter was saying, "I would lov to poot a stomp on your foarhead wheech says 'Tina Tightwad' and 'Peter Penny Pincher' but all I hov are thees one eench thick, indestructeeble teal wreestbands wheech I will poot on you and you can not get off". I have worn the same sort of wristbands many times at various all inclusive resorts...when the wristbands get you everything you want for free. Well the only thing these wristbands got us was a few eye rolls from the bartenders. John and I played a lot of sand volleyball during the week, a lot of sand volleyball. Being that the average daytime temp was 85 degrees, we drank our fair share of H2O. I made the mistake of forgetting I was wearing the teal badge of shame, and I also made the mistake of making every single water run to the bar. Yeah I forgot about the wristband...until I got to the bar. The waiter and bartenders' looks were the same every time, "Oh, Senor Cheapskate Teal Wreestband, you would like more FREE ice waters...what a surprise?" It's a damn good thing they obliged because it was seriously hot and should I have gotten snubbed by the bartenders and really gotten dehydrated and, say, collapsed on the court? I'm pretty certain the hotel employees and members would have taken one glance at my left wrist and said, "Forget it, he's just a guest."

So after day 2 of sand volleyball JK and I are back at our beach palapa with the ladies and somehow the conversation turns to yours truly bossing people around on the volleyball court...of course those are John's words, not mine. Well, I didn't notice it driving past on the beach, but apparently the tear into AB bandwagon pulled into the station and found three gringos ready to saddle up. I just stood tall, grinned and listened to each of them pour it on. A general conclusion was reached (not factoring my input) which stated I am too serious and too competitive to just play some nice and easy resort volleyball. What can one do when such a decision is rendered? Nothing...you can only go about your business and prove them false. Either that, or secretly wish for a group of four, 60+ year old volleyball banditos to come along and rescue you. Their names were Stan, Niko, Joe and Mac. Yes, they were all above the age of 60 and they all played volleyball together.

Tournament day was upon us and this resort's version of the Golden Girls wanted JK and I on their team. More amazing than the fact that they were all over 60 is that they were all pretty darn good, a couple quite good. We had a chance to meet Stan a day or two earlier and learn his story. He was laid up in his room for the previous few days after throwing out his back while working out. He spends a few months in Mexico every winter and he informed us that he expected the winter of 2007 to be his last. He has two forms of terminal cancer, according to doctors should have been dead three years ago, has a golf ball sized lump on his chest where the needle for his chemo goes, lives in Chicago and played competitive volleyball when he was younger. So, if you think when Stan's feet hit the court on Tourney day he was just happy to be upright, alive and knocking the volleyball around a bit...you'd be sorely mistaken. After telling a few people what they should have done better, he uttered to me, "Let's play hard, I don't like losing at anything..." Joe and Mac were further down the intensity scale, but still aggressive. Niko was a pompous Scandinavian control freak whose accent I couldn't quite place even as he was disparaging me mere inches from my right ear. He always knew everything, even the score of the game, which was actually nice because no one else ever did. (I just realized that I never made fun of him for serving underhand.) Team Geezer, with a combined age north of 300 years, did not win the free drink which was awarded to the tournament champions, but a consolation prize for John and I was getting to play volleyball with those guys for the rest of...all the live long day.


It may sound like I disliked the old guys, which really isn't true. They were very nice people, and a couple of them were just unbalanced enough to allow me to get a full retraction about my so called "antics" on the very same volleyball court. What's the score now Niko?

Our Return from Paradise...

Not much in the way of Abby and Avery postings this time, but I did notice one very interesting and noteworthy thing about our youngest after we got back to the states. She's gotten a lot faster. Her head turns faster, her arms move around a lot faster, she wiggles and bounces faster. You know on some old tape players how you could fast forward but still hear the voices? Or some tape recorders how you could slow down or speed up the voices to make them sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks...well, Avery is moving around like that. In fact, she sort of moves like a chipmunk. Very fast, very fast, look around nervously, very fast, very fast...and so on.

Funny Abby quote:

While describing (in Disney terms) how long she was sitting atop the porcelain throne while going twosies one day Abby said, "My poop was inside me for as long as Nemo was lost for."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jack Bauer's replacement...

I can't really believe it took 3 1/2 years, but it did. Abby finally got out of her bed without our direct permission. Our eldest daughter must have seen her bed and covers as a comfy prison. After a long night's sleep or an afternoon napper, where was Abby? You could always find her in her bed. No, not in her bedroom, in the actual bed. Since her induction into the world of big girl beds, she patiently waited for Mommy or Daddy to come take down the forcefield and release her from the shackles of pink and brown sheets and pillows. Then one day she'd had enough.

I can just imagine her creeping out of bed on her own for the first time. I picture her carrying a brown satchel slung across her chest, complete with the whip and brown fedora hat. If she was as clever and resourceful as Indiana Jones who knows...she may have been sneaking out of her room for months? But one early morning as Anna went down the stairs she was met by our little adventurer on her way up them. I don't know who was more surprised. I'm sure Abbers was ecstatic to see she wasn't in any trouble for her blatant disregard of, well no rules at all. We never told her she had to stay in bed...until 4 days later anyway. So, what does a 3 year old do with such a new found freedom? Use it, exploit it and lose it seems to be the natural progression. Well, for the next three or four days Anna and I woke up to our Abbers (at 5:00-6am mind you)...no not to her poking us, not to the sound of pots, pans, toys, talking, singing, doors slamming, none of the logical ideas. Yep, for the better part of a week, she woke up, opened her door, crept up the stairs, came in our room and...hung out. Yep, she simply sat on her arse, and waited (and probably put out the vibe) while never making a sound. I'm thinking she's gonna make either a great stalker or superb field agent, either way the FBI is probably in her future. Of course, it was sweet and adorable and only a little weird. The result: she now must stay in her room until the clock says 7:something. And I will tell you what, she is punctual...I saw 7:01 on my clock everyday thereafter. Then we had to teach her how to turn on the TV.

It's about time Avery gets a little pub...

We have grown accustomed to our youngest flashing smile after smile after adorable little smile (now complete with teeth...err, well tooth). She truly is a happy baby and oh my how she loves her big sister. She laughs and smiles at virtually everything Abby does for her, with her and to her. However, beneath that darling facade, there is a diabolical side. Yes, little Avery is ahead of her time. More often than not, when Abby is disciplined within earshot of her baby sister, Avery gleams from ear to ear. It's truly as if Avery's stickin' it to her big sister already. I knew I liked this kid. I suppose it could mean trouble for this guy because I honestsly figured any sibling rivalries wouldn't begin for a few years. Imagine that, something else I got wrong about girls.

Pondering the Perils of Parenthood

There are a myriad of things one can expect when starting down Parenthood Lane. The first few things that come to mind are diapers, bottles, sleepless nights, trips to the park, brainwashing, the list goes on and on. There are an equal number of things one could never foresee, even with Miss Cleo on retainer. This list includes being completely willing to use your hands and clothes as tissues and toilet paper, trying to wholeheartedly give voices and personalities to Disney Princesses and Barbies, seriously considering DVR'ing Keeping up with the Kardashians (wait, that has nothing to do with child rearing does it?). But perhaps the most bizarre phenomenon I've stumbled upon are the rogue children sprinkled across every park in the southwest suburbs.

Let me explain. You take your kid(s) to a busy park one evening. Everything seems normal enough, no full moon, el nino is several months away...it's regular. You are physically ready and mentally prepared to play and look after whose kid(s)? Yeah, your kid(s). Not five minutes after your feet hit the wood chips and you've grown an extra appendage. You got it, it's this park's rogue kid! "Watch what I can do." "My name is Biff." "C'mon let's go this way." "Do you like my Willie Nelson tattoo?" These are the things that come out of this kid's mouth. It's a bona fide ambush and you are a sitting duck. Smile, chuckle, try to be cordial, what else are you gonna do? But your new conjoined twin doesn't pick up on social cues...astonishin
g, he's 5. I don't mean to imply that this child is nasty, or ill-willed at all...he's just really terrific at invading your personal space. Whatever combination of parents junior has are obviously not cutting it in the attention department. And whether they know it or not, they've been spiking his sippy cups with shots of creepy.

So, you turn your focus back to your kid(s), but a thousand questions are running through your head. Where are Biff's mom and dad? How many other people has he beseiged in his career? How many cans of Red Bull has rogue boy shotgunned today? Does he think I'll want to play with him more because he is steamrolling my daughter on his way up the rope ladder? Why does he smell like a hamster cage? The funny part of the entire episode is that my kid (3 years) thinks it's as weird as I do. Most likely the really funny part is what I don't notice...Frodo's parents laughing their arses off on a not-so-nearby bench.

This brings me to a story of one special roguester we met at a park near our house. We refer to him as Spider-Man kid. Not because of his prowess on the monkey bars, not even close, more because he was wearing a Spidey t-shirt and calling himself...well...Spider-Man. He was as aggressive as any rogue kid I've seen. Maybe 5 or 6 years old...dude was all over the place, seriously bonkers, like Robin Williams on a talk show. It was also obvious he wasn't..entirely..there. Poor kid's mom did come over after awhile to run some interference for us, or at least give it her best shot. From the looks of it, he had already eaten her for breakfast that morning. I gotta give her credit though because he looked hungry and she must have looked like a corn dog smothered in chocolate chip cookies to him. In case that wasn't clear, she didn't stand a chance.

The highlight of this chance encounter came 15-20 painful minutes in to his interrogation of us. At one point, after answering 30-40 of his questions (Anna is so nice), Peter Parker's proverbial bulb lights up and he asks my wife the following: "Can I hold your baby?" At this point Avery is about 120 hours old, as if that matters. What comes to my head? Well, the kind version is, "UMMM, we'll pass." I turn to Anna and I didn't quite recognize her. Probably because she suddenly looked like a guard at Fort Knox. That and the face she wore looked like she was asked to give the square root of 589,658.23, without using a calculator. Spidey waved, with both arms, as we moseyed on home.

If you haven't experienced this playground wonder, it's only a matter of time because...they are everywhere.

Short Abby story:

Abby was very excited when Anna picked her up from the health club daycare this evening. She told her mom, "I talked tonight." Definitely pat-on-the-back worthy for our shy Abber Dabbers. The teacher from daycare corroborated Abby's statement. Apparently Abby told her teacher that her daddy is funny and I tell her jokes. When prompted to tell a joke she learned from her daddy, Abby said, "Why did Tigger stick his head in the toilet?"
Teacher: "I don't know, why?"
Abby: He was looking for Poo(h)"