December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 27, 2015

Christmas came and went this year.  It started fun with an office party with my co-workers on Tuesday.  I work with so many fun people!  We had lunch together and then went bowling.  Very Christmasy.

On Wednesday night, I went to see the Minnesota Timberwolves play the San Antonio Spurs.  The home team got smoked!

Bizarrely enough, when I first walked into the Target Center, I bumped into my old buddy, Karl Towns.  He's the father of our #1 draft pick, Karl Anthony Towns, and I met him at the team's home opener as can be seen here.  I shook his hand again and said Hello.  My boys asked me if I thought he remembered me and I said "Sure.  Why not?"

I was down near the locker room at half time snapping pictures of the players.  We have a lot of great young athletes like Andrew Wiggins and Zach Levine, but the wins are still kind of slow in coming.

When I was walking back to my seat, I noticed a couple of court side seats still open so I figured I could rest there for a few minutes and take some pictures.  I'm sure no-one minds that kind of thing.  At least that's what I tell myself.

If I didn't do this kind of thing, how would I ever get to see Kevin Garnett barking up real close?  I wouldn't.

Walking back to my car, I stopped to admire the Christmas Tree in the IDS Tower.  There are certain benefits to working downtown.

On Christmas Eve, we drove to the farm in Inwood, Iowa to be with Grandma Leona.  We made it just in time for a most pleasant church service.  We got to hold candles and sing Silent Night.  I especially like it when the wax drips on my fingers.

Later that night, we hooked up with Uncle Jerry and his family to play games, eat, drink, and be merry.  Being merry is my favorite part.

The boys opened most of their presents in record time this year.  It was more quiet than usual, but also much more efficient.  We tore through those bad boys in no time.

The family re-connected for a fantastic Christmas meal including both turkey and ham.  I was ready for my Christmas nap after that one.

On Saturday, I drove to Canton, South Dakota to see my step-sister, Martha, my nephew, Ryan, and his friend, January.  It was great seeing them all and we had a wonderful lunch together.

They took me to a restaurant called Paul's Place.  If you're ever in Canton, I highly recommend it.  They had one of the best burgers I've ever had before.  It was called the Mama Popper and consisted of a great burger, topped with two Jalapeno Poppers, and a raspberry chipotle sauce that was incredible.  I'm going to have to see if they'll mail me another one some time.

December 20, 2015

Prior Lake VEX Robotics Tournament 2015

Prior Lake VEX Robotics Tournament 2015
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 20, 2015

On Saturday, we spent the day at the Prior Lake Middle School Vex Robotics Tournament.  The boys' high school team sponsors and runs the tournament so we went with them to pitch in a hand.

Our good friends, Dan & Jen Walters, along with the team's head coach, Mike Lins, did most of the heavy lifting for the middle school program this year.  I think I heard that 85 kids participated and it looked like everyone had a great time.  Even me.

Our robotics program is so big, it has it's own band!

And we just love to cheer on our own personal Little Drummer Boy.  He hates it when I call him that.

Avery helped with the tournament scoring.

While Luke helped with the queuing and getting the teams ready for their next matches.  

On Saturday night we connected with a bunch of good friends to say Good Bye to NYE's Polonase Room in downtown Minneapolis.  It's supposed to be closing down one of these days after being in business for more than 65 years.  The food was still great, even though I'm guessing they're starting to throw in all of the old stuff that has always been shoved way back in the freezer.

Afterwards, we headed to Tony Jaro's to try some of their famous Greenies.  I don't know what the heck is in those things, but they sure were tasty!

On Sunday, we finally found the time to go see the new Star Wars.  No spoilers from me for those of you who haven't seen it, but I will say it was amazing and definitely worth the wait.  One Big Thumb Up from me!

Swank Family 2015 Christmas Letter

This sucks!  I've been having writer’s block and am really struggling to create this year’s Christmas letter.  I think I will just copy last year’s letter and see if anyone notices. 

Merry Christmas! 

 Boy, we are sure glad to have our letter out before we catch the Ebola Virus!  The way that stuff is spreading it sounds like we will all have it by Spring! 

 Ahhh, forget it.  Let's just recap 2015 and settle on the fact this will be another crappy Christmas letter.

In February, Luke underwent a successful procedure to get a new Pacemaker. It really seems to be benefiting him.  Best of all, not only is it helping him to grow and thrive, we also get a good laugh every time we turn on the microwave and watch his hair stand straight up! 

Avery has taken up programming as a hobby and future career goal. His chosen language right now is Java. He says he wants to use it to help with the high school robotics team, but we’re suspicious he might be up to no good. Apparently he thinks he’s going to be able to hack into his brother’s pacemaker, take control of him, and make him “Do Tricks.” We’re really hoping he doesn’t figure out how to do it.

This summer, we made the silly decision to bring another critter into our house. Blue is our new baby golden retriever and we’re not sure if we really like him yet. First of all, he’s constantly biting our beloved 10 year old Golden Retriever, Sunny. Second of all, he is chewing everything in the house that isn’t put high on a shelf! Finally, he keeps requesting Sunny to give him piggy back rides and we’re worried that the constant humping is going to give the older dog hip dysplasia. 

Todd finally left the computer hardware business after 21 years and started a new job selling enterprise software for Oracle. It’s a great opportunity, but has been very challenging to start. He spends his entire day constantly cold calling CFO’s, CEO’s, and CIO’s. And none of those people ever answer their dang phones any more! Todd hasn’t suffered from this much rejection since high school.

Sheri has taken on a tremendous amount of unexpected household projects this fall. She’s had to single handedly repair a broken garage door, a broken washing machine, a broken faucet, and has had to coordinate repairs to 2 of our cars and our hot tub. If Todd would just stop breaking stuff, she could actually have some free time.

On a positive note, both of the boys received their driver’s licenses this year. This is great news for us as Todd and Sheri finally have a couple of legal designated drivers!! The boys are pretty happy about it also because they used to hate picking us up at the bar on their bicycles.

Luke pursued a job last summer at the local Dairy Queen. He took a leave of absence when school started which made us all sad. Especially the dogs. They loved licking the ice cream off his shirt every night when he’d get home. There sure was a lot of it.

The boys are keeping busy with robotics, Boy Scouts, and Luke is also in the band. They are preparing to take their ACTs and have been visiting colleges. They have fun trying to imagine where they’ll be in 2 years. Their mom and dad just hope wherever they end up, they will be happy and doing something they enjoy. And that doesn’t cost us a ton of money.

For 2016, we look forward to the Donald winning the presidency and changing the country's name to the United States of Trump.  We are going to sell shirts with a map of the US emblazoned with a huge golden T across it and get rich!

God Bless Us Everyone!

The Swank Family

December 13, 2015

Hawaiian Monk Seals at the Minnesota Zoo

Hawaiian Monk Seals at the Minnesota Zoo
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 13, 2015

It was Grandma Linda's birthday this week.  I can never remember how old she is but I'm pretty sure it's 80 something.  We took her out for the day to celebrate another awesome year with her.

Our day started out at the bakery.  Turns out, Grandma didn't want anything so I ate a doughnut and an almond butter croissant in her honor.

We thought it would be fun to take Grandma to the zoo because old people supposedly like looking at animals.  This was my first visit to the zoo since they converted the old dolphin exhibit to the new exhibit hosting some huge Hawaiian Monk Seals.  It was kind of weird seeing the old dolphin tank no longer holding dolphins.  The Minnesota Zoo decided to get out of the dolphin business after a string of tragedies ended up in the deaths of multiple animals.  You can read about it here.  It was pretty sad stuff.  If you're into dolphins that is.

We only saw one of the big seals in the tank while we were there, but we heard that there's a couple more.  They must have been taking a smoke break or something because we never saw them.

We saw this guy swimming around for awhile and then he jumped out of the pool to be fed by his trainer.  We were impressed with how big he was.  He also seemed to be making good progress in his training so one of these days we'll have to stick around and watch the seal show so we can see what else they do besides swim and eat.

I decided to play more with the photo digest feature on my camera.  It's a setting where I can have the camera capture a few seconds of video before each photo shot.  I always find the resulting video interesting.

I'm always mesmerized by the jellyfish.  I bet they taste awesome.

We went outside to see the bears.  It was pretty warm for December, but for some reason we were the only ones out there.  Maybe people don't realize the bears are actually locked in cages.

Besides that, they're also hibernating.  It looks so comfortable in there, I'd just love to go dive in the middle of them and cuddle up with them all.  I'd need to remember to wake up before Spring though, because they probably wouldn't be too happy to wake up and see me rubbing up against them.

Back inside, Avery was taking penguin selfies.

I thought this guy and I were getting along well and he was posing so nice for this picture.  It wasn't until I came home and downloaded the photos did I realize he was actually flashing me.  I feel so violated.

I wish I had monkey arms.

We walked up and saw this turtle look like he was struggling a lot.  We asked one of the employees what was happening with him and they said sometimes they get hit and air gets in their shell and then they have a buoyancy problem.  They can't dive down below the surface and there's not really anything they can do to remove the air.  He said they're working on a way to add some weights to his shell so he can dive down, but in the mean time he just floats around the top.  Poor turtle really bummed us out.

 The wolf was looking in fine form.  Although someone really should get in there and comb his coat.  Poor dog is going to get it matted if they just keep letting it grow out like this.

It's always good to see the bald eagle.  He's kind of a regal looking fellow.

After the zoo, we went to Red Robin.  Yum.

Later that night, the Zitzewitz Family came over for a late night filled with debauchery.  A perfect way to cap off a great day!