December 30, 2012

Christmas in Texas 2012

Christmas in Texas 2012
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 30, 2012

It was time for a Christmas Road Trip down Interstate 35.  We were headed from Minnesota to Texas, but first we had to pass through Iowa which was the victim of a wicked blizzard just a couple of nights earlier.  It was a mixture of freezing rain and snow which created some very unpleasant driving conditions.

We didn't count how many vehicles we saw in the ditch, but it had to be somewhere near a hundred.  I'm glad we didn't have to drive during this storm because it certainly didn't look like it was a very pleasant experience.

The reason for our trip was to spend Christmas with my family.  We also heard that Santa Claus was down there and we wanted the chance to exchange a few words with him as well.  He's actually a very down to earth kind of guy which I didn't really expect.

Unfortunately my sisters live far away so we don't get to see them as often as we'd like.  But when we get together, we tend to make pretty good use of our time with one another.

This is my sister, Tracy, her husband, Dave, and their daughters, Lauren and Brittany.

This is my sister, Tammy, along with Mallory, Bailey, Lindsey, and her husband, David.

This is us.

And this is Grandma Linda right before her grand-kids dunked her head in the toilet.

Before we left, my sister was bragging to me that the temperature was 71 degrees and the sky was sunny.  When we arrived, Minnesota must have followed us because it dropped down into the twenties and there ended up being a bunch of dang snow on the ground!  So much for our escape from winter!

But we weren't going to let a little snow stop us.  We were going to spend some time outside in the water!!

It may have been 25 degrees outside and maybe 20 degrees warmer in the pool, but that didn't stop Sunny from jumping in about 500 times.  He never gets to see this much water without ice on top of it in Minnesota this time of year.  So he's going to take advantage!

I think Lindsey has only seen snow a handful of times in her life, but she sure seemed to enjoy it.

Uncle Dave didn't like spending time out in the cold.  He preferred staying inside and playing with his pineapple.

Inside or outside, the boys sure enjoy spending time hanging out with their cousins.

This is a photo of the cousins from Christmas 2004 next to a photo from Christmas 2012.  It's amazing to witness just how fast time really does fly.

Bailey introduced us to her new friend Lee.  Or as I like to call them:  BaiLee.

Christmas Lights Up Our Lives!

Bowling Also Lights Up Our Lives!

We sure have a great time when we get together with my family.  I'm not sure if people who stay in the hotel rooms next to us can say the same thing, though.

Swank Family Christmas Letter 2012

Merry Christmas! 

I guess we can’t really say that any more.  Since the Mayans say the world is going to end on December 21st, there won’t be a Christmas this year.  So let’s just say Merry December 18th instead.  It was nice knowing you all.   

We seriously can't believe another year has already gone by.  Since not nearly enough exciting stuff has happened to us to fill a whole new Christmas letter we've started stalking more interesting families.  We wanted to steal ideas to make it seem like our lives are better than they actually are.  We didn’t get a lot of ideas, but did have the cops called on us a couple of times which spiced things up a bit.

Luke and Avery keep us really busy.  Although it’s mainly with the same boring stuff we told you about last year.  They do robotics and Boy Scouts and Honor Band and ski club and golf club and stuff like that.  Although if you asked them, they’d say they only do those activities because we force them to do it.  If given a choice, they would play Black Ops on the Xbox 18 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.  They think this gives them all the skills they will need in life.  Mom & Dad know this is a Bunch of Beeswax, but secretly are kind of happy about it.  Just in case some day a massive virus strikes the planet and the world is overrun by zombies, we know they will be able to protect us.  Those boys got good aim!

They did get to do something new a couple of months ago when they went to Washington DC with a couple hundred of their 8th grade classmates.  Unfortunately, their mother and father didn't get to attend, although we kind of felt like we participated when it came time to pay the bill for their trip.  It cost almost as much as if we'd planned a whole family vacation together down there.  So that was nice.

We did get to go on a family getaway to Florida for a week in the spring.  Our hope was to go dolphin fishing, but apparently that's frowned upon.  Instead we went to Kennedy Space Center and loved seeing all the huge alligators in the ditches on the drive there.  Todd wanted to pull the car over, get out, and take pictures, but one of the NASA employees said the beasts could run 30 miles per hour and had a fondness for people whose arms look like flippers.  So we decided to take photos from the car while driving by instead.  Unfortunately, the pictures are pretty blurry, but at least we're not out any more fingers.

Our summer was spent boating and golfing and figuring out ways we can blame the 1 percent for our lots in life.  If only our government would tax them more, we think all would be much better.

Todd did get to go to the Pebble Beach celebrity pro-am tournament with work this year to see some of the ultra-rich in action.  He watched Tiger Woods, Bill Murray, Tony Romo, Andy Garcia, and many other superstars play golf.  He tried to stand in front of them looking cute and desirable, but unfortunately none of them offered to take him home to live with them.  Maybe next time.

Sheri continues to spend her days as a paraprofessional at a local elementary school working with children and then spends her nights at home working with more children.  She constantly has multiple people demanding her attention at the same time which makes her a bit crazy.  She’s been trying to figure out a way to clone herself to solve the problem, but keeps falling off the copy machine. 

Our golden retriever Sunny continues to age gracefully.  His golden fur is slowly changing into a stately white.  He thinks it makes him look very distinguished and keeps his head held high at the dog park while the other dogs sniff his butt.

Our goals for 2013, are still a bit flexible.  We haven't started working on our underground shelter yet, so we gotta get going on that before the meteorite hits on the 21st.  We then plan on avoiding earth’s surface for at least a couple of years.  Then when we emerge, if there are still people around we'll seek out careers in either politics or entertainment.  If people are scarce then most of our focus will be on hunting and gathering.

We wish you all the best as you endure the upcoming collapse of human civilization.

God Blesses Everyone!

The Swank Family                                                                                                                                              


December 16, 2012

2012 Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Tournament

2012 Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 16, 2012

The week started with Minnesota's first blizzard of the year.  Miss Sheri tried to drive up our driveway, but couldn't quite make it because it was just too slippery.  The boys and I quickly grabbed shovels and tried to start building her a path, but apparently weren't doing it to her liking.  She barked at us to "Just go inside and I'll take care of it!"  Which we did and then she got out the snowblower.  She later told me she didn't want me shoveling the driveway while wearing shorts, but I think it was really because she doesn't like my technique.  Who knows?

Wednesday night brought us to the celebration of Grandma Linda's 70th birthday.  It's hard to believe she hit that milestone!  I swear she doesn't look a day older than 69....

Thursday night brought us to Jackson's house to work on the boy's robot.  They'd been getting together 2-3 nights a week for the past two months with the hopes of being able to dominate in the Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Tournament.

 Our team name was S.W.A.T which represented the 4 members of the team luke Swank, jackson Walters, Avery swank, and Thomas ngyuen. The boys woke up bright and early on Saturday morning. The tournament went all day from 8am to 4:30pm and Team S.W.A.T. wanted to be there ready to roll! 

We needed all the extra time we could get.  Although the boys had re-built their robot countless times and had replaced every part they could, they were plagued with mechanical issues that would cause them major problems all day.

9:30am rolled out very quickly and the first match was set to begin!  Joe Passofaro and members of the high school robotics team KING TeC explained the rules to the participants and their supporters.  Joe's son founded the high school team and he is retiring after this year after having teams win multiple awards at both the state and world championship levels.  He and his family have helped build an incredible robotics program in Prior Lake and their contributions will be greatly missed after they retire.

Joe turned over the responsibilities to Joel Volm and Mike Lins this year.  Things started off a bit crazy as they learned the ropes, but the program really didn't miss a beat and was every bit as great as it was last year.  These guys really deserve a round of applause because even though they were light on preparation time, they grabbed the ball and ran with it.  The kids were lucky to have them step up and take over the program!

Grandma Linda, Grandma Leona, and Uncle Jerry all came to the tournament to root on the boys!  We sure were happy to have them in our corner!

The boys competed in 7 qualifying matches throughout the day.  Unfortunately for them, it was 7 matches of complete frustration, but we were proud of their positive attitudes and extensive efforts to resolve the issues they were experiencing.

The concept for their robot was very solid.  It could suck up balls with the best of them and it easily lifted them into the fire-pit to be scored.  The problems they experienced was the dang thing just wouldn't run consistently.  It would go for 10 seconds and then stall for 30 seconds or longer.  So they spent the majority of their matches just sitting still and watching the other robots run circles around them. 

But because they could score several balls at once, they somehow scored third place in the qualifying rounds.  This allowed them to be in a position to select another team to align with and compete in the semi-finals!  But unfortunately their stalling problems caught up with them and that was as far as they were able to go.  But despite their problems, we have zero regrets.  The boys learned so much through the experience and had an incredible time being part of this program.  They kept positive attitudes throughout the process and had a ton of fun!!  So that's a good thing!

I never knew there was so much dancing at a robotics tournament!  But those kids could Gangham Style with the best of them!

During the tournament's intermission, the high school team's robot came out to entertain the crowd.  I was told this robot competed at the world championships in St. Louis and could shoot a basketball more accurately than 2500 other robots that were there!  Pretty impressive!! 

The tournament ended and our old friend, Thomas, was on the team that won this year's championship!  He was on the boy's team last year and we were happy for him and his team!  They executed very well and had an incredibly exciting match to win the big prize.  Way to go, Thomas!

The Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Program is one of the largest in the state of Minnesota.  Although it can be pretty intense at times, the experience it provides to these kids is invaluable!  If you ever have the chance to get your kids involved in a program like this, we highly recommend it!

December 9, 2012

Nor-Tech Christmas Party 2012

Nor-Tech Christmas Party 2012
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 9, 2012

On Monday night, we headed to Prior Lake High School to watch the 8th grade Honor Band and 8th grade band concert.  

Avery plays the trombone and Luke does percussion.  When they play, it's like music to our ears.  Which I guess makes sense.

On Tuesday night, the boys worked at the Boy Scout Christmas Tree lot selling Christmas trees.  Would you like a fresh cut with that?

On Saturday night, we headed to the Nor-Tech Christmas Party.  

The Bolligs know how to throw a pretty fun shindig!

I always have fun when I hang out with my co-workers in a social situation.  We really only do it once per year, so maybe they don't have as much fun as I do.

This year, Dr. Bollig built a huge zip line in his backyard for his kids.  He's like the best dad in the whole world.  I keep hoping he'll adopt me some day.

We all had a bunch of fun zipping down the line.  

But no Christmas celebration would be complete without a walk down the large hanging bridge between a couple of big trees.  Several more people wanted to climb up here for this picture, but Dr. Bollig waved them off.  I guess he doesn't have much confidence in his construction skills.

Before we went home, we stopped by Babe's in Lakeville to do a little bit of dancing.  Not very many other men joined us, but for some reason....I didn't mind!