A great visit with family

As expected, it’s been a great weekend. Last night, Jessica and I went out for a date night in Seattle while my sister Dana and her best friend Michelle stayed at our house with the girls. We had dinner at El Gaucho, which was excellent, and after filling ourselves to the point of barely being able to walk out, we headed to a movie theater to see ‘The Drop’, which we both enjoyed very much. Just getting out for a night on the town is a special occasion for us these days so we’re very appreciative of Dana and Michelle for allowing us to do so. I specifically didn’t eat all day in anticipation of the fancy meal that was awaiting us, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Wicked Shrimp, Oysters Rockefeller, salads, filet mignon, mushrooms, spinach, hash browns, and bread pudding were all on the docket and we loved every bite.

As much fun as light night was, however, today was even more special. We were paid a visit by my Uncle Jim, Aunt Brenda, their daughter Kristy, and Kristy’s daughter Madi. Getting to spend time with them is always a nice treat. They were so kind to bring us new toys for the girls to play with, and fresh corn from the farmer’s market that I’m looking forward to preparing. I’ve always been really close with Jim, Brenda, and Kristy throughout my life, so getting to see all of our little ones playing together is the best.

We knew Madi would be looking forward to playing with the girls, so seeing them all have so much fun together is great. Madi loves to hold Elise, and even though Elise is eager to show off her newfound walking skills, she’s still quite content to be held at just about any time. We hung out talking, watching the girls play, watching football, and eating lunch. After about 3 hours of visiting the girls were getting tired and cranky so we had to call it a day and put them down for a nap, but it really was a great time the we hope to have again sometime soon. Next time we’ll be more than happy to drive down south to visit them, and I’m especially excited to see Kristy’s new house, which is less than a minute’s drive from her parent’s place.

As soon as they left the girls both went down for a nap, leaving Jessica and I a little time to relax ourselves and enjoy the remainder of the weekend. As mentioned in my last post, I’ll be traveling to Dallas for work this week, and even though I’ll only be gone one night, I still never like being away from Jessica and the girls. That said I’m lucky that this is the first (and probably only) time this year that I’ve had to do any traveling for work. The same can’t be said for most of the other members of my team, but my manager completely understands my family situation and therefore has gone out of his way to allow me to stay home as much as possible.

Tomorrow I’m going to make a pitch at work for an idea I have about writing a JavaScript library to accomplish various tasks like localization, hotkey registration, metrics collecting, and more, that various teams throughout our organization are all handling differently on their own. One of the key differences between a WDE 1 (my current role) and a WDE 2 (the role I’m trying to get promoted to) is that a WDE 1 has a positive impact on their own team, while a WDE 2 has a positive impact on teams other than their own. By creating this library that I have in mind, and getting other teams to adopt it, I will be impacting many teams and promoting standardization throughout the organization. This is exactly the type of leadership my manager wants to see so I don’t expect anyone to prevent me from executing my plan.

No plans for next weekend as of yet, just looking forward to getting through a busy couple of days in Texas and getting back home to my girls. Jessica is now 22 weeks into her pregnancy with Enzo, meaning she has crossed the half-way point. His due date has moved up from February 5th to February 1st, so we’ll see how that turns out. Ava was born nearly two weeks early and Elise was born on her actual due date. Only time will tell. Below are a few photos from today’s visit with Jim, Brenda, Kristy, and Madi. Thanks again to each of them for such a nice day, it was certainly a pleasure on our end.

Madi and Ava
Madi and Ava

Madi and Elise
Madi and Elise

The girls stacking up
The girls stacking up

Elise playing with Uncle Jim
Elise playing with Uncle Jim

Sold the Durango

Last night we sold our Dodge Durango to a nice couple from Marysville. I was starting to get a little worried because we weren’t getting much interest on it, and as with any car purchase or sale you never end up getting exactly what you want, but in the end things worked out pretty well. When the cash is on the table staring you in the face it’s pretty hard to let the deal fall apart over a few hundred bucks. I’m just glad to have it over with so we can focus on more important things like getting things ready for when Enzo arrives. At least now I can start parking my car in our driveway rather than the cul-de-sac.

Next up for sale is my motorcycle, although this is the wrong time of year to be selling a bike in Seattle so chances are I’ll be waiting until Spring to unload it. Every time I mention that I’m selling my bike people seem to automatically assume that Jessica is forcing me to do it, but nothing could be further from the truth. She was actually the most surprised person of anyone when I told her I had decided to let it go. My position on it is simple: all I use it for is commuting back and forth to work and I’m not getting any fun out of it. Obviously with young kids around I need to make it a point to be as safe as possible, and the thought of anything happening to me combined with the effect that would have on my family is just too much to bare. Although I love riding my motorcycle, it doesn’t even come close to the love I have for my family, so for now its time to move on. I have no doubt I’ll own another motorcycle sometime in the future, but not for now.

We’ve got a really exciting weekend to look forward to. Saturday night, thanks to my sister Dana and her best friend Michelle offering to babysit, Jessica and I will be going out to dinner and a movie. El Gaucho basically owes me a dinner for making their football pool website so we’re going to take advantage of that and have a fun night out. We don’t get to do things like this very often so we’re really looking forward to it. Then on Sunday we’ve got Jim, Brenda, Kristy, and Madi coming over for a visit. We always love getting to spend time with them, and seeing Madi play with the girls is a treat in and of itself. Considering that this is the Seahawks’ by-week, the timing is perfect. Looking forward to writing all about it sometime next week.

Speaking of the Seahawks, we attended our first neighborhood party this past Sunday to watch the Hawks face the Denver Broncos in a Superbowl 48 rematch. We’ve become good friends with our next-door neighbors Jim and Cara, so we were excited to go over there for the game and get to hang out with everyone. As expected we had a great time and enjoyed getting to know some of our other neighbors that we hadn’t spent much time with before that. The kids were all great and we came out of it planning to host a party of our own with the neighbors sometime soon.

Although I haven’t had to do any traveling for work this year, I’ll be making a trip to Dallas next week to visit a couple fulfillment centers and take note of how we use the Kiva robots. I’m going to be working on software related to Kiva robots next year so getting some familiarity with them is important. I’ve never been to the state of Texas before, and although we’re only there for one night, I’m sure we’ll make the best of it. I’m a big fan of the TV show ‘Fast ‘n Loud’ so I’m hoping to have dinner Wednesday night at the Gas Monkey Bar ‘n Grill, which is owned by Richard Rawlings, who also owns Gas Monkey Garage – the focal point of the TV show. The restaurant is very close to the airport so hopefully I can convince my co-workers to check it out.

Not much else going on right now. Looks like we’ve got some family coming out to visit for Thanksgiving, which is also Ava’s birthday week, so that should be great. We’re still studying German daily and really enjoying it. Hopefully all the fun stuff we’ve got going on this weekend will give me plenty to write about next week. For now I need to attend to a couple of hungry little girls. Au revoir!

It’s a Boy!

Monday afternoon at 4:00, while Ava was still in daycare, I met Jessica and Elise at a doctor’s office near our house for arguably the most important day of the pregnancy other than the day of delivery: the ultrasound appointment where we learn the baby’s gender. We’ve been looking forward to this day for quite a while and, as expected, it turned out to be quite exciting. As I’ve been saying all along, all I’m hoping for is a healthy baby and a healthy wife, and so far we are right on track with both of those requirements. Although Jessica is still dealing with some pregnancy-induced sickness, she has shown some improvement over the past couple weeks, and the baby is right on track.

I was running a bit late due to traffic but arrived just in time for the big news, which is when they announce the baby’s gender. The technician’s exact words were “I think it’s a boy.” After a long pause I asked her how sure she was about that announcement, and she said “Well, I never tell anyone that I’m 100% sure, but let me take a closer look.” Upon further inspection she said she was quite sure it’s a boy, and proceeded to point out his parts, which was good enough for us. I think I was slightly in shock because I didn’t say a word for several minutes. Of course Jessica cried, which is par for the course in this type of scenario, but I just stood there holding Elise and took it all in.

I didn’t want to say anything publicly until we found out what we were having, but I had a dream about 3 weeks ago that we were having a boy. I never had a dream like this with either of our first two pregnancies, but the dream I had was so vivid and clear that I felt nearly positive from the moment I woke up the following morning that we were having a boy. Obviously I wouldn’t have been the least bit upset to have another girl, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited about having a son. Growing up, family members on my Dad’s side always told me that if I didn’t have a son, the family name would end with me. Overall I think the Pellegrini name, which is the most common name in Italy, will be fine regardless of the outcome of this pregnancy, but I’m thrilled to keep our little branch growing on for future generations.

Now that we know the sex of the baby we can move onto his name, which has been decided since before Ava was born. Before I get to the name, however, I need to share a couple of stories from my youth, which will make the reasoning behind the name much clearer. When my Mom was pregnant with me they didn’t have the kind of technology they have now, meaning they didn’t know whether they were having a boy or a girl. My Mom knew though. She knew in her heart and in her gut that she was having a boy, and she wanted to give him a really cool and unique name. She was basically settled on naming me either Giovani or Giancarlo, but my Dad, who was much older than her and from a different generation, had other ideas. Both of my Dad’s parents were born in Italy, and they both made that long journey across the Atlantic ocean to the United States in search of a better life. They both passed through Ellis Island in New York and both ended up in Aberdeen, WA. At that time, having an ethnic sounding name meant that you would often experience disadvantages in America, so it was a common practice for families just arriving in America to change their name to something more ‘American sounding.’

Based on that logic, and the realities of life during my Dad’s youth, which was the Prohibition era, he vetoed my Mom’s ideas of naming me Giovani or Giancarlo. So, as cool as it would have been to have a name like that, I understand and respect his reasoning behind that decision. Ultimately he didn’t want his son to face any disadvantages in life due to his ethnicity. What he didn’t realize is that in this day and age those types of disadvantages are all but extinct, but there was no way he could have known that and I don’t blame him one bit. My paternal Grandfather’s name was Modesto, but in America everyone called him Mike; because of this they decided to give my Dad the middle name of Michael. In order to keep that name alive, they decided to name me Michael as well, and to this day that’s why I go by Michael instead of Mike.

Here’s the other story, albeit a bit more concise: when I was a child, my Dad always used to tell me “If you ever have a son, don’t try to honor me by naming him Elmer. Don’t make him go through life with a name like that.” To hear the story about why he was given the name Elmer, read this post. I always promised him that I would honor his wishes, and I’m certainly not going to back out on my promise now, but he never made me promise not to give my son the same initials (‘EMP’) as him, so that is exactly what we intend to do.

When Jessica was pregnant with Ava, before we knew whether we were having a boy or girl, we spent a lot of time thinking about names. Jessica came up with the name Ava Simone Pellegrini, partly because it would mean that she would have the same initials (‘ASP’) that her Mom had when she was born. I liked the name and gave it a thumbs up. For a boy’s name, Jessica said she liked the name Enzo, and immediately I thought about the story of my Mom wanting to give me an Italian first name, but my Dad saying no. I also liked it because it started with the letter E, just like my Dad. Giving him Michael as a middle name also made perfect sense because it kept the family name alive for another generation, and it gives him the same initials as my Dad, all without breaking my promise not to name him Elmer. From that moment on Jessica and I agreed that if we ever had a son, his name would be Enzo Michael Pellegrini.

Not to get too sentimental, but something as simple as this means a lot to me because it keeps my Dad’s memory alive. For my own selfish reasons I would love to have him back so that I could spend time with him, even if just for one day, but nothing would be better than to see him with all of his grandchildren. He only got to meet Dana’s son Kallan, his first grandchild, and the image of him holding Kallan and talking to him is something that will forever be etched in my mind. He died a month later, and part of me thinks he held on just long enough to be able to hold his first grandson in his arms and tell him he loves him. I know nothing would make him happier than to see all the beautiful children Lora, Dana and I have had in the years since his passing, and I’m so glad that one of them will be carrying on the ‘EMP’ torch. Guess I know who will be receiving all of his various ‘EMP’ engraved lighters, money clips, and other memorabilia.

With a name like Enzo Pellegrini it seems like there are only two possible professions: race car driver, or soccer player. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. In all honesty, we weren’t planning on having a third child. We couldn’t have been happier or more in love with Ava and Elise, and our plan was to quit while we were ahead, but that’s not exactly how life works. Looking at our situation now I have to believe that having a third child, and a first son, was meant to be. After all, my Dad had two girls and then a boy, so why not me as well?

We were thrilled to pass along the good news to the entire family, and they all seemed equally as thrilled to receive it. I’m sure the Grandma’s are already out shopping for little boy’s clothing. Obviously we’re not home free yet; there’s still that little delivery part to get through, as well as about 4 more months of pregnancy for Jessica to endure, but as far as I’m concerned February can’t come soon enough. Did I mention my Dad was born in February? I keep wondering when this string of luck and good fortune for our family is going to wear off, but as it stands we couldn’t be in a better place. We have two little girls that we love more than life itself, and can’t wait to extend that love to our baby boy Enzo.

Returned home from Vegas

In the wake of my Aunt Lisa’s passing last weekend, I felt like making a trip to Las Vegas this week was the best thing to do. I wanted to help out in any way I could, and getting some quality time in with my Mom and uncles seemed like a good idea. Although the purpose behind my trip was grim, I knew that each of us would make the best of it, and as expected the trip ended up being very enjoyable.

I flew into town on Tuesday evening and after being picked up by my Mom at the airport, we stopped by Lisa’s place to check on my Uncle Terry, who has been staying there all week. We then quickly stopped by Bob’s place, which is in the same neighborhood, before heading out to dinner. After having an excellent meal at a Mexican restaurant, and a good talk about Lisa, we headed home to get to bed early. We knew Wednesday would be a long day and wanted to be as ready as possible.

Wednesday was the hardest day of the trip. Denny came over to ride with my Mom and I, then we met Bob, Sandy, and Terry at Bob’s place and all of us headed over to the funeral home for a viewing. Since Lisa didn’t know anybody in Las Vegas, it didn’t make sense to have a formal funeral for her, but it was important to us that we all assemble and say our final goodbyes. Obviously this is a tough thing to experience, and although I was sad to say my own goodbyes, seeing my Mom and uncles say theirs was, for me, the toughest part. I have plenty of good memories with Lisa but they pail in comparison to all those collectively shared by her siblings. It’s just really hard to see people you love so much dealing with all this emotional pain, but there is nowhere else I would have rather been, and I know it meant a lot to them that I was there.

After the viewing Mom, Denny, Terry, and I went out for lunch. We shared stories and got caught up, which turned out to be a lot of fun. This was the first time I’d seen Terry in a very long time, and I hadn’t seen Denny in a while as well, so it was nice to catch up. After lunch we headed back to Bob’s place so Terry and I could help him install a window in his home. With the addition of Lisa’s bird Charlie, he now has two birds, and he decided that a window in their area would be good for them. Although neither Bob or I is a trained carpenter, Terry actually is, so getting to work on it as a group turned out to be a great experience. As with all home carpentry projects, it wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the hardware store, but I didn’t mind. Getting to hang out with my uncles was a rare treat that I wanted to take full advantage of.

Later that night Bob, Terry, and I went out to the Luxor casino to play in a poker tournament. I decided I’d allow myself one night out on the strip while I was in town, and it ended up being a good one. Terry doesn’t play poker so he decided to stick to the slot machines, which turned out to be a good idea. Although neither Bob or I ended up in the money in the poker tournament, Terry was able to turn a $20 bill into $250 at the machines. After taking Bob home Terry and I decided to hang out a bit more and get something to eat. We walked around the strip for a while and talked about all sorts of things. Since I haven’t been able to spend much time with Terry throughout my life, I had lots of questions for him.

As the night went on I asked Terry a ton of questions about his life. One look at him tells you that he is a pretty tough dude, but I’ve always known that there was a lot more to him than meets the eye. I was worried that all of my questions would annoy him, and I even told him to feel free to tell me to shut up at any point, but he was more than willing to share many of his life experiences with me, which I appreciated very much. It quickly became apparent to me that Terry is a really smart and talented guy. He’s got a great sense of humor and loves his family very much, so it was an honor for me to get to spend this time with him. It was certainly the most time we’ve ever spent together one-on-one, and I came away from it with a newfound respect for him, as well as a plan to regularly keep in touch.

After the long day on Wednesday, the rest of the trip was a piece of cake. Nothing but good times and some much needed work around the house. I started off on Thursday by cleaning my Mom’s minivan. The outside needed a little love, but the inside needed much more than that. She’s been using her Mazda minivan as a work vehicle for years and it had gotten pretty trashed over time. I must have spent at least an hour vacuuming it out and throwing stuff away. After that my Mom had a couple projects around the house that needed to get done. First I installed casters on the legs of a table she had recently refinished. She wanted to be able to roll it around and it was a super simple project for me to do.

Once that was finished I got down to the real work. Years ago my Mom replaced all the carpet on the main floor of her house with tile, however the laundry area (including the downstairs bathroom) had a different type of tile. The plan was to rip up this old tile and replace with a new tile that matched the rest of the downstairs. This seemed easy enough, but of course it turned out to be harder than expected. The problem was that there’s a layer of glue between the tile and the concrete, and although the tile comes up fairly easily, that layer of glue is extremely difficult to remove. Luckily my Mom has a Dremel power scraper that came in very handy, but it was still a ton of work. I had to disconnect the washer and dryer, which I knew how to do after moving into our new house, and move them out of the way so I could remove all the tile underneath them. After working for two days on it I was able to get about 90% of everything removed. I wanted to finish it off but my Mom forced me to quit at a certain point. I’m just glad to have been of some help to her around the house.

We had everyone over for dinner on Thursday night and Friday night, both of which turned out to be a lot of fun. Thursday night we had appetizers, grilled sausages, and salads, while watching the Ravens absolutely dismantle the Steelers. Then Friday night I made Chicken Picatta with pasta for everyone. We sat outside on my Mom’s back patio and had a great conversation about family, our favorite television shows, and our favorite books. I didn’t realize this but as it turns out, Terry is a big reader. After talking about some of his favorite books I decided that I need to get him a Kindle and fill it up with my entire book collection. That should keep him busy for a while.

Speaking of books, the only mistake I made on this trip was the book I chose to read at the airport and on the flight. Normally the vast majority of the books I read are related to web development, but I also really enjoy reading non-fiction, mainly because you learn so much when reading non-fiction. Autobiographies are easily my favorite genre of books, and due to all the time I’ve spent playing guitar recently, I’ve decided to re-read Eric Clapton’s autobiography, which is easily the best of one I’ve ever read. For this trip, however, I decided to switch things up a bit and read a novel called ‘Choke’ by Chuck Palahniuk. I’ve read a couple of his books in the past, including his most famous novel ‘Fight Club’, and really enjoyed them. Unfortunately this one was a complete dud and I quickly found myself cursing myself for reading fiction. I actually decided that my punishment for reading such a ridiculous story was to finish the book. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking about what a waste of time this was, and how I could be using that time to study something worthwhile. When I read, I want to learn something; I’m not into reading fictional stories and the idea of reading purely for entertainment just doesn’t jive with me. Anyway, I got through that stupid book on the flight home today and am looking forward to getting back to my usual type of reading material. Hopefully I’ll be starting the Clapton book tonight, and I’ve got a new programming book that I’m pretty excited to dig into as well.

Luckily while I was gone Jessica and the girls had some company. Joel and Melanie are out here visiting from Iowa for the week, and as always its great seeing them. They’ve been staying busy exploring the area, including an overnight camping and hiking session at Mount Rainier. Tonight they’re going out to dinner and tomorrow they’re going to the Mariners game. I’m glad they’re making the most out of their trip, but I’m also looking forward to spending some time with them before they leave on Tuesday morning.

This was the longest I’ve ever been away from my girls so I’m very glad to be home with them. Plus we’re only about 6 weeks away from going back to Vegas to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. Although this wasn’t the easiest of weeks, I’m so glad I got to spend an extended amount of time with my loved ones. Looking forward to a relaxing day at home tomorrow, then hitting it hard on Monday with a very busy week at work. Most importantly, we have Jessica’s doctor appointment on Monday evening. We’ll be doing an ultrasound that day and finding out the gender of our new baby! Obviously we’re very excited about that, so I can’t wait to share the news. Until then…

Me, Monkey, and Denny
Me, Monkey, and Denny. I love that little dog so much!

Bob, Myself, and Terry after dinner on Thursday night
Bob, Myself, and Terry after dinner on Thursday night

Me and Uncle Bob
Me and Uncle Bob

Rest In Peace Aunt Lisa

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my Aunt Lisa passed away this morning at 1:30. Last weekend she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery on her stomach, and she simply wasn’t able to recover from it. This whole ordeal happened so quickly that it’s pretty hard to even comprehend. She was only 55. Obviously I’m very sad to have lost her, but more than anything my heart goes out to my Mom, Uncle Jim and Aunt Brenda, Uncle Bob and Sandy, and Uncle Terry.

Lisa didn’t have any children but she was a mother to her many pets. In my entire lifetime I’ve never seen someone more connected with animals than Aunt Lisa. When I was a child she worked as a horse trainer at the Longacres racetrack in South Seattle. Over the years she has cared for many dogs, cats and birds, and she loved them all more than you could imagine. She had such a presence with animals that you had to see in person to believe it. Not only did her own animals follow her every command, but so did other people’s pets. For example, my Mom used to have problems with her dogs running out of the house if the door was left open. However when Lisa came over, she had such command over those dogs that she could leave the front door wide open and the dogs wouldn’t budge. I asked her how she did it and she said that “they have to recognize you as the leader of their pack.” If you’ve ever watched the show ‘The Dog Whisperer’ she was exactly like that.

Lisa spent the past 20 years or so living in Yakima, which is in Eastern Washington. For the past 5 years she would make an annual trip to visit my Mom in Las Vegas. She had been wanting to move to Las Vegas for years in order to be close to my Mom, and even more so after Bob and Sandy moved there, but she had to wait until she could retire from her job at Safeway. Just over a month ago she finally made the move that she had been looking forward to for so long. She recently emailed me to wish me a happy birthday and said she was looking forward to seeing me and my family when we come down to visit on Halloween. I was very much looking forward to seeing her and introducing her to Elise. She met Ava once when Ava was very young so it would have been great to see two of them together again as well.

I have fond memories of Lisa babysitting me as a child, but more than anything I will cherish some of the recent phone conversations we’ve had over the past few years. Although we didn’t speak often, it wasn’t uncommon for our conversations to last an hour or more. Lisa was really smart and fun to talk to. In many ways she reminded me a lot of her Mom, who was my Nana. She was just so real and so easy to talk to. You could talk to Lisa about anything and expect to receive honest and valuable feedback. I don’t think she had the easiest life, but she was happy, she loved her animals, and she loved her family. She was my Mom’s only sister so the bond the two of them had was very special. Without question I feel fortunate to have had her in my life and, like many others in our family, I will miss her dearly.

With Lisa now gone my attention and focus needs to shift to providing love and support for her siblings. I’ve been having a lot of lengthy conversations with my Uncle Jim over the past week and I know that he’s doing okay. In order to provide some much needed emotional support for my Mom and Uncle Bob, I’m going to be flying down to Vegas on Tuesday evening and staying until Saturday morning. This will be the longest that I’ve ever been away from my own family, and that will be tough, but it’s the right thing to do. I’m so fortunate to have such an understanding and supportive wife as Jessica. Luckily Joel and Melanie will be coming into town right as I’m leaving, so at least Jessica won’t be alone the whole time with the girls.

It’s times like these that make you realize how much you love your family, and how important it is to not take anyone for granted. As we all know, people can be taken away from us with little to no notice, so it’s important to me that everyone knows how much I love and appreciate them. Although the cause of my upcoming trip is very sad, I’m going to make the best of it by spending some quality time with my Mom and Uncle Bob and trying to bring them some much needed joy. I wish I had a chance to say goodbye to my Aunt Lisa, but there is no question she knew I loved her, and I know how much she loved me. Rest in peace Aunt Lisa; you will forever be in our thoughts and our hearts.

Lisa enjoying the view during her visit to San Diego, 2011
Lisa enjoying the view during her visit to San Diego, 2011

Laboring on Labor Day

Before I get to all the fun (and when I say fun I mean work) we’ve been up to this weekend, I first want to send our love to my Aunt Lisa. She had to be rushed to the hospital this weekend for emergency surgery on her stomach. I don’t know many details regarding her condition, and it wouldn’t be my place to share them even if I did, but I want her to know that we love her and are thinking of her. Hopefully she’ll be on her way to a speedy recovery very soon.

The main goals for the weekend were to prepare the Durango for sale, get it posted for sale on Craigslist, perform some routine maintenance on the Acura, and get my office organized. Saturday I bought a hydraulic jack and some jack stands, then came home and got to work on the Durango. I inflated and rotated the tires, changed the oil, and changed the oil filter. On Sunday I cleaned out the inside, which was easily the toughest part of all the work being performed. There was so much dog hair in the back! Even though Bruno has been gone for well over a year, his hair remains, and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if for the rest of my life at least a few of his hairs remained stuck to one of my possessions. As a hound he had really wiry hairs that stick to everything, and you can’t just vacuum it up. I’ve found packing tape to be most effective, but even that was a chore. I was cracking myself up thinking that I was essentially giving the inside of our car a Brazilian.

Today I spent a bunch more time cleaning the outside of the Durango, taking pictures, and getting it posted on Craigslist. In the first couple hours that the post has been live I’ve already been contacted by two people. If you’ve ever sold anything on Craigslist you know that there are a lot of flakes out there and you have to be prepared for people to not follow through, but that’s okay. I know it will sell sooner than later.

Yesterday the four of us made the mistake of going to the outlet mall at the Tulalip Casino. I say mistake because everyone and their brother was there because of the holiday weekend. It was so crowded I couldn’t believe it. I went to the Levi’s store hoping to try on some jeans but there was a line of literally at least 35 people just to get into a dressing room. It wasn’t long before both of the girls were throwing fits, so we decided to cut our losses and head to Costco. We had originally been thinking about doing a day trip to Whidbey Island but Jessica hasn’t been feeling well and the whole idea seemed pretty daunting. Going to Costco was also a mistake because, like the outlet mall, it was so ridiculously crowded that I wanted to scream. I’m just going to say it right now – I hate the samples. More accurately, I hate the human psychology that if there is free food available, people will literally stop in their tracks, leave their cart right in front of me, and run over to get some food. The fact that it’s free is the worst. I was telling Jessica that even if they only charged one penny per sample the amount of people rushing over would decrease drastically. Obviously that’s not what Costco wants, and they know that giving out free samples is good for business, but it drives me absolutely crazy! Neither Jessica or I deal very well with crowds and I came out of there practically looking for a fight with the next person that does something ridiculous/stupid in my general vicinity.

I will admit however, that the samples came in handy for the girls. Like their Mommy and Daddy, the girls weren’t enjoying the chaos in Costco and started throwing tantrums about half-way through our visit. Luckily we were able to mitigate their frustrations with copious amounts of Pirate Booty, Vegetable Crisps, and White Cheddar Popcorn. Normally I try to keep my distance from the samples but this time there was no choice. At the very least I try to be considerate to others by moving our cart out of the way before approaching the sample stand with my tail between my legs begging for a handout.

Since today was Labor Day I decided to make the most of it by trying to get as much work done as possible. I started out on the Acura early this morning by changing the oil and oil filter, and replacing the air filter. I also added air to the tires and filled it up with gas, just in time for a short week at work. After finishing that, as well as doing the remaining work on the Durango, I moved my efforts inside, where Jessica and I got a bunch of cleaning and organizing done in my office. I now have all of my pictures up on the walls, and easy access to my guitars, which I plan to start playing much more regularly. I played a bit for the girls and they seemed to love it. Before long Ava brought her drum into the room and provided some erratic percussion to accompany my out-of-practice pentatonic licks. Jessica continuously stresses to me how important it is for the girls to see me playing music, and I really love doing it as an outlet and form of personal expression, so I’m excited to start playing more often. Being out of school provides me so much more time to do the things that I love, so its important to make the most of that time.

I want to thank my Aunt Brenda for thinking of me and challenging me to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, although I had to politely decline. I was sick all last week, and ended up having an ear infection that required antibiotics to cure, so the last thing I wanted to do was dump a bucket of ice water over my head. Hope I wasn’t being a Debby Downer but I’m glad she had fun with it earlier in the week.

I wish I could say that Jessica is doing much better now but the truth is that this weekend was really rough on her. The girls and I hate seeing her get sick, especially since there’s nothing we can do to help her. At least I understand what’s going on, but the same can’t be said for the girls. Someday this baby will learn about the trouble it caused for it’s Mother, and hopefully this will give her some prime bargaining chips when the time is right. For now I’m just trying to force her to eat, and stay out of her way when she makes a B-line to the bathroom. She’s got another doctor appointment soon so hopefully we can start getting to the bottom of all this. To say that this has been her most difficult pregnancy would be the understatement of the year. Obviously she already knows this but I’ll say it anyway, we love and appreciate you so much. Can’t wait for our new little bundle of joy to arrive and for your (current) troubles to subside. The joy of parenting I guess…

All else is going well and I’m excited for the upcoming short week at work. Tomorrow I get to park in the parking garage for the first time in my car (rather than the motorcycle), and I get to start working on my new assignment. For a second there it looked like I was going to get pulled into another high priority secret Jeff B. project but my director said he couldn’t spare any more resources. Either way I’m excited about my new project because it will provide me with another learning opportunity, as well as another opportunity to prove myself.

Gotta end this post by saying that I’m more than ready for some Seahawks football! Can’t wait for kick-off at home on Thursday night versus Green Bay. In my usual football season tradition, I’ll be making beef stew on Sunday. I love getting it started early in the morning and letting it cook all day while I watch games. The whole house ends up smelling good while I post up in my comfy’s on the couch for a full day of watching games. Go Hawks!

Ava at the outlet mall fountain.
Ava at the outlet mall fountain. She threw a fit when we made her leave, but at least there were a few minutes of pure happiness.