Happy 2nd Birthday Enzo!

Yesterday our sweet little boy turned two years old! Considering that his favorite thing to do is eat, it only seemed fitting that we would host a food-based party at home. Several weeks ago Jessica and I decided on doing a pizza party, and by all accounts, it was a huge success. We were joined by Grandma and Grandpa Martin, Auntie Dana, my Godfather Pete, Uncle Butch & Aunt Carol, and our friends the Palmers, the Schreibers, the O’Hair’s, and the Hancocks. It was a full house and everyone had a great time.

As we tend to do when hosting a party at home, Jessica took care of the decorations while I focused on the food. There were pizza-themed decorations everywhere, and even a little pizza oven made out of cardboard by Jessica and Enzo that all the kids loved playing with. I had been practicing making pizzas from scratch over the previous couple weeks and ended up making 14 pizzas throughout the evening. I was happy with how they turned out but the ultimate praise came from our guests. A couple people told me they were the best pizzas they’ve ever had, which was quite flattering to hear, but what I got the biggest kick out of was when a few other people said “Wow these pizzas are really good. Where did you buy the crust?” As you might imagine, I would do no such thing, and took great pride in telling them that everything, including the crust, was homemade.

There were 3 different pizzas on the menu: Enzo’s Special (pepperoni & black olive), Pellegrini Primo (Italian sausage & mushroom), and Margherita (tomatoes, basil, garlic, & rosemary sea salt). Jessica made a cute little menu and put it up on the fridge. As it turned out, we didn’t need to make 14 pizzas, so as the party was winding down, I asked several people what their favorite type of pizza was and ended up sending them home with an entire pizza of their own. Even after everyone was gone I still had 3 pizzas to make, so I did, and just threw everything in the fridge. Looks like we’ll be eating those leftovers for a few days to come.

Although the food was good, there was no question that the combination of people we had together was the highlight of the event. It was just a great ambiance with tons of good conversation and laughter. In the background we listened to the ‘Enzo birth’ playlist from 2 years ago, while the kids played in the front room and most of the adults gathered around the kitchen table to talk, drink wine, and be merry. I was working in the kitchen the whole time but was almost always joined by someone who came over to hang out with me. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my sister Dana, who proclaimed herself my pizza apprentice. It was just a great evening that we’ll never forget. Big thanks to everyone who came to celebrate Enzo with us!

In addition to Enzo’s special day we’ve all been doing really well. Grandma and Grandpa got here Wednesday to stay with us for a week. They’ve been doing fun stuff with the kids everyday like going to museums, looking at planes, going out for tacos, etc. Friday night Jessica and I got out for a little date night (our first in 4 months) and ended up going to an Everett Silvertips hockey game, followed by dinner at Azul. Although we lost, the game was still a lot of fun, and dinner was great, but honestly it wouldn’t have mattered what we did; Jessica and I always have fun when going out so it was nice to get some private time together.

Due to my new involvement in ice hockey, we’ve made several family trips to the ice arena lately to do some skating. Turns out Ava really enjoys ice skating, so we’ve taken her 5 times over the past two weeks. Not surprisingly, she’s been getting better each time we go, so on March 1st she and Mom will begin their seven-week ‘Learn To Skate’ class together. When Ava sees the little girls taking figure skating lessons she gets really excited, so we may look at something like that down the road. The other night we were watching figure skating on TV and Ava said to me “Daddy I want to skate on TV.” Oh boy. We’ll just take it one step at a time and see how things turn out. We also saw a girl’s hockey team as we were getting off the ice one day, so maybe there’s a chance we can get her interested in that.

Speaking of hockey, last Sunday was my first session, and although it was my first time playing on ice (rather than concrete), I had an absolute blast and I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked. I have my second session tonight and I can’t wait to get out there. The only issue for me last week was that although I had purchased a lot of gear beforehand, it turned out that I was literally the only person on the ice not wearing hockey pants (which are padded), or shoulder pads. I couldn’t believe it because this is a beginner’s course, but everyone else was totally geared up. As you might imagine, it can be intimidating coming up on a full grown man on ice when they’re fully padded, and you’re not. I fell on my butt pretty hard once, then even harder on my hip a few minutes later, and was sore for several days, but it’s okay. Enzo and I went to the hockey store the very next night and I purchased hockey pants, shoulder pads, and two jerseys, so tonight I’ll be good to go.

We play on the community ice at the Xfinity Arena in Everett, so right upstairs is where the Silvertips play. There was a game going on last Sunday (as there will be again today), so people hanging out in the bar for the game can look down into our rink and watch us play. This means that I (and several others) was doing ice skating drills for the first time in my life, with an audience. Not surprising that I fell a couple times. The format for the class is to spend the first half hour doing drills, then the second half hour playing a scrimmage. One thing I couldn’t believe was how tired and sweaty I got from our game. You play in shifts so you’re only out there for a few minutes at a time, but believe me when I say it’s very tiring.

After the game the camaraderie in the locker room is great. All the guys are super cool and we’re just back there laughing and telling stories about things that happened during the game. There’s one guy on the team who, not only had he never played a game of hockey before, he’d never even skated before, so props to him for getting out there. As I’ve mentioned before, getting into hockey is a bit of a commitment, so to go out and buy all the gear without having ever even stepped on the ice is pretty impressive. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Jessica and the kids can come out to see me play.

We tried exposing Elise and Enzo to ice skating but it doesn’t seem like they’re ready for it yet, which is totally fine. Elise got so far as stepping out onto the ice, but she wasn’t comfortable and was worried about falling, so she decided not to stay out there. We took her a second time but she just wasn’t having it, and we’re not going to push it. Enzo did his best but his legs were slipping around so much he reminded me of a baby Bambi. We’ll definitely try exposing him to it again in the future, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready. Some rinks have a session called ‘Walk the Ice’ where people can go out there in shoes and just walk around, so that may be a good way to expose Elise and Enzo in the future.

Poor Elise has a big scab on her nose and upper lip from a rug burn she got when falling off the couch the other day. We tried to lighten the mood by telling her she looks a bit like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but you can tell she feels bad about it. Poor thing, I hate seeing her like this, but I’m sure it will heal soon. It reminds me of a huge scab I had on my face from an accident on the slide in pre-school. Other than that she’s doing good though, and gets so excited to go to school every Tuesday and Thursday.

Ava is now going to school the same days as Elise, plus Fridays, which is good because it won’t be long before she starts Kindergarten in September. Every time we drive by Penny Creek Elementary she says “Daddy that’s going to be my new school!” I love her excitement but taking her there for the first time will probably put a big lump in my throat.

The next couple months will probably be pretty quiet for us, but we’ve got our trip to Raleigh, North Carolina to look forward to in April. Although we’re going for our friend’s wedding reception, it will be the same week as our anniversary, so that should be fun. Considering we spent our 6th anniversary in the hospital getting Jessica’s appendix removed, it’s probably safe to say that number 7 will be a bit more fun.

Thank you again to everyone who made Enzo’s second birthday such a memorable one. The people, the presents, the conversations, everything was just excellent and we appreciate it all so much. We’ve only got a few photos to share for now, but luckily my good friend Leon was there taking tons of pictures, so it won’t be long before we have those to share.

Happy 2nd birthday Enzo! I love you so much buddy!

The birthday boy

All cleaned up and ready for the party

The first pizza! An Enzo’s Special of course.

At my post in the kitchen

Like father like son

Taking a ride on little brother’s fire truck


Happy birthday Enzo!

Back in the swing for 2017

After an excellent winter break, our family is back to normal and settling into a groove for the new year. Actually it’s a new normal, because we have several fun and exciting new things going on, but more on those in a few. First I want to take a minute to extend my sincerest gratitude to Grandpa Rick and Grandma Chris for everything they did to have us out for Christmas. This was easily one of the best Christmas holidays I’ve ever had, and of my 3 trips to Iowa, it’s probably fair to say that this was my favorite one. I certainly had a great time on the other 2 trips as well, but there was something special about this one that I’ll never forget. Looking back at everything Rick and Chris went out of their way to do in order to ensure we had a great trip, it just blows me away. I know they did it all out of love, and would be happy to do it all over again, but I just want them to know how much I personally appreciate it.

Although Jessica did a great job of describing our trip, there’s one part that I want to focus on a bit more: the food. One thing you know for sure is that when you’re staying at Rick and Chris’ house, you’re going to eat like a king, and this trip was certainly no exception. It’s nearly impossible for me to pick my favorite meal of the trip because we ate so well the entire time, but if I had to pick a top 3, it would be:

  1. Beef tenderloin at the Rudd family Christmas dinner
  2. Lobster, Crab, and Corn chowder on Christmas Eve
  3. Deep Dish Midwest Pizza (we had several during the trip and they were all excellent)

Honorable mention goes to the grilled Iowa pork chops Rick made on our second night there, and the ham we had at the Rudd family Christmas dinner. I’m definitely going to have my work cut out for me when Rick comes out for a visit this Spring, but rest assured, I’m already planning a menu 🙂

When we got home on Thursday night, I still had a four day weekend ahead of me before returning to Microsoft on Tuesday. Unfortunately we didn’t notice it until Saturday morning, but our furnace wasn’t working, and surprisingly enough, it was colder here in Washington than where we were in Iowa. By the time we noticed that the heat wasn’t working correctly (the house wouldn’t warm up past about 64 degrees), everyone was closed for the holiday weekend. Not surprisingly, it was freezing that weekend and we actually got more snow. By the time Sunday came around the five of us were staying bundled up with winter coats and hats all day, even though we were inside our home!

I called Rick and he guided me through a bunch of troubleshooting steps to diagnose our furnace, but unfortunately we were unable to get it fixed. First thing Monday morning I got on the phone looking for someone to come out and have a look. The first couple places I called were closed for the holiday, but luckily I got through with a company called CM Heating, and they were able to get someone out that day. The guy that came over was extremely friendly, professional, and even nice enough to let me shadow him throughout the process so I could learn more about how to troubleshoot the furnace. Turns out we had a drainage issue; the condensation that builds up when the furnace is running has to get drained out of the system, but a blockage had built up in our drainage pipe, so the water was backing all the way up to the water sensor. This explained why the furnace would fire up, run for 20 seconds, then shut down. Basically as soon as some condensation would form and try to drain out, it would hit the blockage, trigger the sensor, and the whole system would shut down. Luckily the repair was very inexpensive and I learned a lot about how a home furnace system actually works. As a first-time homeowner, there are plenty of lessons like this to learn, but I find this stuff pretty interesting. I’m just glad it wasn’t something major that would require a whole new furnace.

As far as the family goes, we’re all doing really well. The girls were excited to get back to school last week and see all their friends. In addition to their normal Tuesday Thursday schedule, Ava is now attending school on Fridays as well. This will be a nice way to ramp her up for Kindergarten, which begins in September.

Starting tomorrow night, Elise and Ava will be going to swimming lessons every Monday. I’m really excited about this because I want the kids to be comfortable in the water from a young age. My initial impressions based on experiences we’ve already had at swimming pools is that Elise is a bit more comfortable in the water than Ava, but hopefully that will even out very soon. I loved taking swimming lessons as a kid, so I hope they do too. If they get really into it maybe we’ll consider getting them into some type of swim team, but only time will tell. Regardless, I just want them to have fun, and develop good solid swimming skills so they’ll never feel uncomfortable in the water.

Our little man Enzo is doing great as well. I can’t believe how advanced his vocabulary is becoming! When I see him around other kids his age it really stands out. While other kids are grunting and saying single words here and there, Enzo is dropping entire sentences. Granted, not everyone can understand everything he says, but Jessica and I can, and it’s impressive. Just the other night he noticed a new calendar on the fridge, pointed at it, and said “I don’t know what month it is.” Jessica and I were like, wow, did he really just say that? Plus, it was super perceptive of him to notice that the calendar has changed due to the new year. Impressive indeed. The other thing he’s been doing really well is throwing balls. He just has a natural throwing motion and throws things harder and faster than you would expect. He always seems to throw with his right hand, so it’s likely that he’s right-handed. Although I wouldn’t force anything on him, he may have some natural athletic talent, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Jessica worked a very long shift on New Year’s Eve while I stayed home with the kids. I felt a little guilty for not being there with her, because I had an offer to work, but finding a babysitter that night is much easier said than done. As a testament to her constant hard work and professionalism, Jessica received an impressive (implied) job offer to become the private dining coordinator of El Gaucho Seattle. This would be the perfect job for her, and we definitely considered it, but unfortunately the timing isn’t right. If the kids were in school it would be totally different, but for her to be able to take it now would mean major changes for the kids. We’d have to hire a full-time nanny, and the kids lives would be turned upside down, so we decided not to pursue it. Hopefully another opportunity like this will come up when the time is right. Knowing her, and how good of a job she does, I’m quite confident that it will.

Today Jessica re-joined at 24 Hour Fitness. She was going a lot last year with her friend Solana, and all the kids loved going there to play together, but after Solana quit Jessica decided to take a break. Lately she’s been feeling like she needs some physical activity to balance out her creative hobby of painting rocks, so she’s back to the gym, and I’m very proud of her. Hopefully she will enjoy going to all the various classes and will have something new to look forward to on a regular basis.

Speaking of new physical activities, I too have been feeling lately like I need a physical hobby to balance out my creative hobby of playing guitar. I used to have that with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when we lived in San Diego, but I was never able to find a school I liked in Washington, and subsequently gave it up. Well, after a bunch of encouragement from a friend at work, I’ve decided to join an adult beginner’s ice hockey league. I know it sounds a little crazy but I used to love playing street hockey as a kid and I think it will be a lot of fun. Fortunately I work for an awesome company that is so dedicated to employee health and fitness that they give us an annual fitness allowance to spend on stuff like this. Hockey is one of those sports that isn’t exactly easy to get into unless you grew up playing it, mainly because it requires a bunch of gear, and a membership in a league. If you don’t know for sure that you want to play, you’re probably not going to head out and buy all the gear, then pay to get into a league, but Microsoft basically alleviates those concerns for me, so I’m just excited to get out there. I went out this week and purchased all my gear, so now I can’t wait for my first session, which is 2 weeks from today. For now I’m just going for an hour on Sunday afternoons, then after this first session ends we’ll see where we’re at in terms of getting into an intermediate league.

On a side note, based on all the political stuff I wrote around the time of the election, I just want to say that since then I’ve had several very positive conversations with my Uncle Jim and my Father-in-law Rick, and based on those conversations I feel like I have a better understanding of the complete picture. I’m not saying my perspective has changed, because I still feel strongly about the environment and gun safety, but I now have a better understanding of where a lot of Trump’s supporters were coming from. Being back in Iowa and seeing all the factories, I can see how someone would feel if they were struggling to put food on the table because they had been laid off from the only job they had ever known, and the factory moved overseas. There’s no question that if I were in that situation, my priority would be on providing for my family before it would be on protecting the environment, so I get where they’re coming from. That said, I can’t help but take some pride in the fact that I’ve been able to put my family in a position where they will never have those types of worries, but I certainly understand and empathize with those who do.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, however, is separating the message from the messenger. The fact is that I don’t like or respect Donald Trump, so I tend to focus on his negative attributes, of which I feel there are many, rather than look for the positives in his statements. I’m also unhappy with his cabinet picks, and honestly I’m very concerned about our country’s future, but I would never direct any of that dissatisfaction towards his supporters, especially now. The outcome of the election has caused me to reflect on a moment I had with Rick on my first trip to Iowa, which was for Christmas, 2009. At that time, Obama had just been elected, and his election came up during our conversation one night. I remember Rick saying “He’s not my first choice to be our president, but regardless he will be our president, so I will support him.” I remember being really impressed with that type of level-headedness, and it has stuck with me ever since. Well, now is my chance to apply that same mindset because although I’m not a fan of the man, I am a fan of our country, and I only want the best for it.

For the near-term I’ve decided to take a break from politics and focus on things that are nearer and dearer to my heart: my family, my career, and my hobbies. Jessica and I have also incorporated some new environmentally-friendly practices into our everyday lives that we’re happy about, so that’s not going to change. What is going to change for me though, is the daily articles, podcasts, social media posts, etc. I’m just not feeling it right now, mainly because it does nothing but upset me, and I don’t like spending a disproportionate amount of time feeling upset. There’s simply too much good stuff going on in our lives right now to focus on anything else. 2017 expects to be an exciting year for us, and with all the fun new stuff we’ve got going on, I think it’s safe to say we’re off to a good start. Happy New Year!