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" for me. I know the other adults in my family 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'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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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

GAME RESET: 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 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 Tried, re-arranged them again resulting in some sort of maze looking design and then looked on the face of my four year 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

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 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 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 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...