December 18, 2016

The Swank Family 2016 Christmas Letter

It’s Time to Make Christmas Great Again!

This year celebrates 25 years of Sheri and Todd as a couple.  Todd has driven this woman crazy for a quarter of a century.  We started dating July 27, 1991.  In that same year the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, the Dow passed 3000 for the first time, Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture, and Donald Trump proposed to Marla Maples.  Our love has outlasted the President’s!  So we got that going for us.  Which is nice.

We are feeling pretty reflective this year.  Our twin sons, Luke and Avery turned 17 and are graduating in the spring. Luke plans to attend Mankato to study business.  Avery has been accepted to the University of Minnesota College of Science & Engineering.  He’s waiting to hear from UW Madison before deciding. He's a whiz at programming and will study computer science.  It's going to be so weird for us being empty nesters.  We will finally be able to walk around the house in our birthday suits again!  The Dominos guy is going to be so excited.

Luke and Avery both earned the rank of Eagle Scout this year and have been heavily involved in the high school robotics program.  We are so proud of them.    They also played on the Ping Pong team, but we’re kind of embarrassed about that.

Todd is still selling enterprise software for Oracle.  Emails are Todd’s life.  He is so constantly overloaded with them that it’s rare for him to do anything else.  Sheri even bought her own Christmas presents this year.  She asked Todd if he wanted to know what he’s getting her and he said No, he’d rather be surprised on Christmas morning.

Sheri is still putting the rest of us to shame with her work ethic.  This year, she re-built our porch and dug a massive drainage ditch throughout our yard.  Todd asked her once if she ever fantasizes about him.
She said “Yes.  I fantasize about you taking out the trash.”

Our two Golden Retrievers are still the most active members of our house.  Old man Sunny and Baby Blue really love each other as they prove to us every day.  They play this game where one of them pretends to be sick while the other climbs on his back and tries to push him to the hospital.  It’s pretty cute.

Our goals for 2017 are to lose weight, get rich, get famous, and solve world hunger.  Either those goals or we will binge watch every episode of Breaking Bad.  We never watched that series and hear good things. 

God Bless Us Everyone!

The Swank Family

Prior Lake 2016 VEX Robotics Tournament

Prior Lake 2016 VEX Robotics Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 18, 2016

On Saturday, we attended the Prior Lake Robotics Middle School VEX tournament.  I'm president of the Prior Lake Robotics booster club so we were there to volunteer for some activities and support our friends running the tournament.

Head Coach Mike Lins and I awarded a plaque to Jen and Dan Walters for their years of service to the VEX program.  Their son, Jackson, is graduating this year so they are turning over the reins to a new coach for next year.  We have been in robotics together for 6 years and it's hard to believe our kids are all done after this year.  Where does the time go?  

Avery received some exciting news this week when he was notified he was accepted to the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering.  According to their website, they received 13,985 applicants this year and are only accepting 1084 students so we were pretty nervous about his chances prior to being notified.   He's still going to wait to hear from UW Madison before making his final decision, but mom and dad are excited that he may end up going to school so close to home.

Luke also received some good news that he was accepted to the University of Minnesota Duluth.  He's still pretty confident he's going to Minnesota State Mankato, but it's nice he has a couple to choose from now.

On Saturday night, we connected with the Hornbuckle clan for our annual Christmas get together celebration.  We started at the VFW in Minneapolis where we had some luck playing the pull tabs.  Such a good way to celebrate the holidays!

We had dinner at The Herkimer Pub & Brewery.  It was pretty darn good.

We then headed back to the VFW to scream out some karaoke which is one of my favorite activities!  I'm gaining an appreciation for the songs of Stone Temple Pilots.  That Scott Weiland had a pretty raspy voice which works out just about right for me.

December 11, 2016

A Pinterest Holiday Party

A Pinterest Holiday Party
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 11, 2016

We have had albino squirrels following us around since our boys were born.  When the boys had something scary going on with their medical situation, it would always seem like one would pop up which made us feel like they were our own personal guardian angels.  We hadn't seen any in the past year or two, so we were quite happy when this guy showed up in our back yard this week.

On Friday night, it was snowing so we thought it would be fun to have our friends the Zitzewitzes and the Browns over for a hot tub dinner party.  We love taking baths with these people.

We put Troy to work skewering meat right when he arrived.  

We're pretty intimidated when cooking for Troy and Karl because both of these guys are really good chefs.  Miss Sheri asked me to pick out some ideas for her to try so we could attempt to keep up with what they have cooked for us in the past.  So we went to Pinterest and searched for Holiday Supper Ideas.

We were pretty darned pleased with how everything turned out.  Each of the recipes was great so I thought I'd share them with you all in case you'd be interested in trying something new and fun.  Here is what we had:

Grilled Asian Garlic Steak Skewers
Salad Cranberry Walnut Avocado Salad

After dinner it was time to strip down to our swimsuits and get in the hot tub.  A good time was had by all.

It snowed for the rest of the weekend which made Miss Sheri excited.  She just loves blowing snow!

December 4, 2016

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 4, 2016

We started getting little bursts of snow over the past couple of weeks so it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I sometimes walk through the IDS Tower in downtown Minneapolis over my lunch break and I was impressed with their tree and the choir singing underneath it.  I bet they get tired of being there when it gets late at night.

Even Mystic Lake Casino is getting into this spirit with this  display of Christmas houses.  I wish I could live in this little village.  It seems so peaceful.  Although I'd probably hate trying to sleep here with all those little trees.  One would probably poke me in the butt every time I rolled over.

Our week started with an Eagle Ceremony for three fine young gentlemen, Nick Benz, Keaton Kaisersatt, and Ryan Trapp.  It was a very pleasant celebration.  We watched these three grow up through the years in scouts and we were very happy that they were able to earn this achievement.

On Friday night, we had dinner with our good friends, The Perera Family.  They are incredible cooks and we had a great night discussing a wide variety of topics.

Guy cooked up a whole bunch of spare ribs.  I'm not normally a huge fan of spare ribs, but these were incredible.  He had some very spicy hot sauce that we covered them in and I found myself nibbling away on that meat for more than an hour.  I finally had to stop because I was breathing fire and everyone else had finished eating long before I had.  It's a good thing I did, because I could have probably gone on eating those dang things for at least a couple more hours!

On Sunday morning we went to the VFW in Prior Lake for a Pancake breakfast fundraiser for the high school band.  We brought along our neighbor Jim because he's such good company and he really likes pancakes.

Several of the high school bands played throughout the breakfast which was enjoyable.  Miss Sheri said it would be cool if we could eat pancakes and sausage at every one of their concerts!  I'm sure the high school would get fussy about having syrup in the seats of the auditorium though.  Too sticky. 

November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 at the Farm in Iowa

Thanksgiving 2016 at the Farm in Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 27, 2016

On Wednesday night, we hopped in the car and drove to Iowa to visit Miss Sheri's family for Thanksgiving.  There was a rumored blizzard that was going to cause us possible problems, but the snow we received was relatively minor.

We love spending time with Grandmas Leona.  Lots of puzzles get completed when we are together.

Grandma lives on a farm in northwest Iowa and there's not much around at all.  It's always a time of peace and solitude for me.  Mainly because Grandma doesn't have internet access, cable TV, or satellite.  So I usually get a lot of reading done on these trips.

Blue and Sunny love going to the farm.  They can run as far as they want in any direction!

The only problem is that I have to keep a constant eye on them as they are always finding something interesting to put in their mouths and eat.  Lucky for Sunny and for me, it was only snow this time.

We like walking down the gravel roads also because there's seldom any traffic.  We occasionally have to dodge pickup trucks and tractors, but these guys are ready for that challenge.

Sometimes when I'm walking around the farm, I find myself really questioning my manhood.

Other times I just stare at the fields and wonder exactly what might be crawling around in that deep grass out there.

I try to drag the boys outside with me.  It's usually pretty easy since they don't have internet access either.

We tried taking pictures of Uncle Jerry's cows, but they had no interest in standing around and posing.

Sunny remembers a day when he wasn't allowed out of the back room when we visited Grandma's house.  Now the new puppy gets to sit on the couch and pose for pictures.  Things are so much easier for kids these days!

Thanksgiving dinner was awesome as usual and we had a wonderful time each night playing games and reminiscing with Grandma Leona, Uncle Jerry, Aunt Laura, and cousins Karli and Joey.  We don't get to see them all enough, but always have fun when we are together.

We also had the opportunity to connect with my step-sister, Martha Williams.  She lives in nearby Canton, South Dakota.  We went out and had burgers at Paul's Place and caught up on old times.  It was nice seeing Martha again!

November 20, 2016

Prior Lake Robotics 2016 Minne Mini Tournament

Prior Lake Robotics 2016 Minne Mini Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 20, 2016

On Wednesday night, we had the opportunity to see a sneak peek of the movie, Edge of 17.  I thought it was great.  It stars Hailee Steinfeld in a coming of age tale.  It really moved me and allowed me to get back in touch with the 17 year old girl that lives inside of me.  So that was nice.

I came home from work on Thursday night to find Miss Sheri high up on the roof hanging Christmas lights.  There was supposed to be a blizzard coming on Friday so she wanted to get it done before it got too slick up there.

This weekend brought us the 2016 Minne Mini Tournament for Prior Lake Robotics.  The event gets about 2000 visitors to come watch some exciting robot on robot action.

The tournament has 36 teams from around the state of Minnesota come to Prior Lake High School to compete in last year's First Robotics Challenge.  It's a nice way for the younger kids to get experience in participating in an actual tournament to help them prepare for the 2017 game which will be announced in early January.

Our high school team is KING TeC #2169 and they have had a very successful run over the years at competing in various tournaments.  These matches are a lot of fun to watch.

Avery is head of programming this year so it's his responsibility to make sure the robot responds to the commands given by the drive team.  It's usually pretty stressful getting the robot ready on the night before a tournament.

Avery also taught a couple of classes in Java programming  to students from the other teams before the tournament began.  He's taught these classes before, but it was my first opportunity to be a  student in one of them which I really enjoyed.  The content was all way over my head, but Avery certainly seemed to know what he was talking about.  I guess I'll probably never know for sure.

At the same time as the high school FRC tournament was happening, we also hosted a tournament for the First Lego League elementary school teams.

Luke is the captain of the Jr. FLL team which mainly consists of him recruiting and managing various volunteers from the high school team to help mentor the younger kids.  He and Avery spent most of their day acting as judges for the FLL tournament.

Prior Lake Robotics currently supports more than 350 kids in 5 different robotics programs stretching from kindergarten through the 12th grade.   It's an incredible program.

The best part of the tournament for us is that we get to hang out with a lot of really cool parents!

It takes a lot of volunteer hours to put together a tournament like this and these ladies put in a ton of effort to make it a success.

It ends up being a pretty long weekend, but it's good that we get to do it with a bunch of fun people.

We're pretty lucky to be in a school district that supports robotics as much as ours does.  This is the principal of one of our local elementary schools, the principal of the high school, our head coach, Mike Lins, the superintendent of schools, and a school board member who all came to the tournament to show their support.  We sure appreciate all that they do for us.

We also had Tony Albright stop by who is a recently re-elected member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and a friend of Prior Lake Robotics.  Thanks, Tony!

After the tournament, we went to our friends the Zitzewitzes for a Beer Tasting party.  We tried all sorts of interesting flavors.

This was one of my favorite beers.  I discovered that I'm pretty much an IPA guy and not too big of a fan of the stouts and porters.  I also learned that some of the IPAs are just like bunny rabbits on cocaine.  Pretty Hoppy.