49 Things I Thought About Super Bowl 49 (and throughout the month of January)

49 Things I Thought About Super Bowl 49 (and throughout the month of January)

Finding 49 things about Super Bowl 49 was kind of tough, so since I’ve sworn off Twitter, and have decided to stay away from posting “nonsense” on Facebook, I thought I would create a blog post full of 30-something things I thought about Super Bowl 49, and 15-something things popped into my head this last month. Have fun!

1. If you’re not a Seahawks apologist: WHAT A GAME!

2. If you’re not a Seahawks apologist: WHAT AN ENDING!

3. If you are or are not a Seahawks apologist: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!

4. You have the top rushing attack in the NFL. Your running back is known for pushing for those extra yards, despite being gang-tackled behind the yard of scrimmage. Your quarterback rushed for 849 yards this season, that’s top-5 for his position in NFL history, and has risen himself to a top-10 status in large part because of his ability to extend plays with his legs. I’ve seen him fake a handoff, roll out, and then skip into the end zone numerous times. But a slant, to your third receiver, at the one-yard line, against a secondary that covered you well all game long?!

5. Give the Patriots credit, they stacked the line, they (thought they) knew what was coming, and instead of allowing the Seahawks to score quickly (something I would’ve thought about doing), making sure Tom Brady would have the ball with nearly a minute remaining, they stuck with their defense. They were going to win or lose with their D and …

6. Bad play call or not Malcolm Butler made an incredible play. Take a look at it again. This isn’t an easy play, or catch, to make, but he did both, and no matter who you rooted for you have to applaud this (undrafted?) rookie for making a play like this in the waning seconds of a Super Bowl. By the way, great on-field video of the interception.

Chris Matthews' Super Bowl TD (courtesy of USA Today)

Chris Matthews’ Super Bowl TD (courtesy of USA Today)

7. Speaking of unsung heroes, through the first 2 1/2 quarters it was looking like a second straight unknown would be raising the MVP trophy for the Seahawks (SEE: Smith, Malcolm). Chris Matthews entered Seattle folklore with four catches, 109 yards and a TD. I know Russell Wilson was making the throws, but the 6-foot-5 receiver was going up and getting it done. The Seahawks exploited the matchup until …

8. The Patriots defense was overshadowed by the Legion of Boom. And somewhat deservedly so, but the Patriots aren’t too shabby themselves, and they showed it late in the third, through most of the fourth quarters by holding the Seahawks to three straight three-and-outs.

9. For the third time in (11) years, Lis, who could care less about American football, won my annual party pool. She won $12, and was the only person in the 12-person pool that picked the Patriots to win (worth two points), the first score to be a TD pass, nailed LeGarrette Blount’s rushing total at 40 yards, and other “closest to the pin” victories.

10. Nailed it! In my prior post I wrote “A Letter to Seahawks fans” talking about how the Patriots do this annoying thing taking “…your momentum and use annoying slants, screens, checkdowns and running backs from the scrap pile to slow your team down.” Since they couldn’t run on the Seahawks (nobody could) they used the short passing game to move up the field. I wasn’t sure if the LOB would allow them to do this, but the Patriots have been to six Super Bowls for a reason, they figure this crap out. And they figured it out.

11. While the Patriots were doing what do so well the Seahawks were doing what they do – extending plays, and converting on possessions that normal teams wouldn’t be able to. Seriously, you’re going to take a shot at the end zone at the end of the second half, without taking the nearly automatic three points? Touchdown pass to Matthews tied the score at 14 at the half. Matthews caught two other huge gains. Jeremy Lane picks off Brady on the first drive of the game. Bobby Wagner steps in front of Rob Gronkowski, leading to a score. Up 24-14 in the third quarter, and looking as though my buddy was going to nail his 30-17 prediction, the cameras caught Wilson and coach Pete Carroll with big smiles on their face as if to say, “Hey Russell! Do what you do and that MVP trophy is yours!” And then …

12. No. 12 as in Tom Brady. If you’ve read me long enough you know I’m not in love with Brady. But you have to give respect to history, and those that make history, and right now Brady is rewriting the history books. Despite his two picks, he spent the last quarter dissecting the Seahawks defense like nobody has done. Seriously, nobody has done. This was it, this was the game that confirmed his status as …

13. The G.O.A.T. Yes, the Greatest of All-Time. He has more Super Bowl appearances than everyone else. He tied Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most Super Bowl wins. He’s thrown the most Super Bowl TDs. He’s won three Super Bowl MVPs (tied with Montana). He’s won four championships within a span of 14 years. I’m a Peyton Manning lover, but I have to admit, I can no longer compete. (And still won’t post a picture of him on my blog. Putting my foot down!)

14. Let’s step away from the Super Bowl for a bit, and waste a line or two talking about the party I attended, the food I ate, the halftime show, and the commercials we saw.

15. Thanks to our new friends for inviting us over for their Super Bowl party.

16. With a house full of kids both Lia and Levi were busy the entire time, allowing Lis some grown up interaction (and forcing her to watch football), and Lukas and I to enjoy the game with friends.

GoHawks17. Heck, we even dressed the part as 12th Men!

18. The party was great! New people to hang out with, and of course: Meatballs, chicken wings, Buffalo wings, little smokies, chips, dip, and cookies! Yum, yum and yum!

19. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth swore off Deflategate, except they kept talking about how they weren’t going to talk about Deflategate. Isn’t that the first rule of Fight Club?

20. Meanwhile our host nearly became deflated after leaping from the sofa after Matthews first score. He became light-headed, had to sit down a bit, catch his breath and then prepare for Katy Perry’s halftime show.

21. Have to admit, Perry surprised me and put on a pretty good show. Except that she opened with “Roar” when I predicted “Dark Horse” but whatever! Roar

22.  She kept it fairly tasteful, she sang her hits, did a duet with Lenny Kravitz, and brought out …

23.  Missy Elliott! Okay, so I may have been one of the only people at our party that knew who she was, but she looked good, did a nice job and made a little comeback.

24.  What?! I owned her Supa Dupa Fly album.

leftshark225.  Funny, I joked to Lis about the “Left Shark” saying, “Yes, mom I was in the halftime show! I was that shark on the left.” Now he has his own Twitter account and tons of memes.

26.  Move over Al Michaels, for the second straight game I impressed my son (and surprised myself), by throwing a stat, or fact, out of my head and then Michaels or Cris Collinsworth repeating it seconds later. For example, with 2:02 remaining I turned to Lukas and said, “This is the same exact time that they had the ball against the Packers.” Marshawn flanks to the left and I follow with, “And this is the exact play that Marshawn caught that pass down the sideline, watch for him here.” Wilson to Lynch for 31 yards. Setting up …

27.  Wilson misses on a receiver. Next play it appears he missed on another receiver, or the aforementioned Butler made a terrific play on the ball, either way for the second straight game it looked like the Seahawks were headed for another “miracle” finish. Butler deflects the ball, Jermaine Kearse falls to the ground, the ball bounces off his hand into the air and then into his arms. He has the sense to get up and run, however Butler’s series of amazing events continues as he has the wherewithal to not let Kearse just get up and run, instead pushing him out of bounds. Amazing! Unless you’re a Patriots fan then you’re devastated. Check out Deadspin’s super slow motion version of the catch by clicking here.

28.  Four touchdowns times seven points each (adding the PAT) equals 28. I did my own research (so I may be off a bit), but the last time a quarterback threw for four TDs against the Seahawks was on December 26, 2010 when Josh Freeman threw five in Tampa Bay’s 38-15 victory. That means the LOB had never allowed a QB to throw for four TDs in a game EVER! Did I mention Brady’s pretty darn good?

29. My choice for best commercial … this Doritos ad:

30. I liked the Mindy Kaling Nationwide commercial, but the second one put a dagger into the hearts of everyone at our party. Mixed feelings. As an ex-Nationwide agent you want to make a point with your advertisements, and they did that. Nobody forgot that commercial. However, how many people are calling up Nationwide for quotes now?

31. Back to football. Hate to say it, but if the Seahawks came away with that win, like they did the Packers game, 12th Men had to be thinking you were pretty darn lucky. For the second straight game the Hawks were outplayed. I know we can second guess that last play call, but c’mon, it took some mighty fine bounces, to get you that close.

32.  Even with the ball on the one, and the Patriots needing to kneel the ball, you wondered if they would end up with a safety, with Brady basically in his own end zone. And then Michael Bennett got trigger happy, encroached, and game over except …

33.  Classless. Frustrated a mini-brawl erupted with Bruce Irvin being ejected for instigating, and two dudes trying to take out Gronk. Gronk was on Kimmel and said, “Screwit! I’m throwing some haymakers!” Here’s the clip from Kimmel

34.  Speaking of Gronk … he’s a beast, and though the Seahawks did a nice job of somewhat containing him, he and Brady took advantage of him lined up on K.J. Wright, and really, the only way you’re stopping that is if Gronk drops the ball or Brady tosses a bad pass.

35.  I’m pretty sure Chancellor knocked Julian Edelman out, even saying that the reason he kept running despite his knee touching the ground, was that he had no feelings in his legs. Even after he kept running he wobbled back and forth.

36.  This Marshawn Lynch/Rob Gronkowski video with Conan was great, and convinced Lukas to wear his worn down Lynch jersey to our party. Careful NSFW and a little bit on the gory side.

37.  This list is harder than I thought it would be.

38.  Since I’ve run out of things let’s do this …

39.  Loving life lately. Love my new job. Love being a 509er (that’s what we call ourselves on this side of the mountain, based on the area code for the eastern part of Washington) I have awakened happy more times in this month than I have for the last couple of years. I recently did a devotional titled “One Word That Will Change Your Life” which mentioned trying to find your one word for the new year. If you read my Year in Review then you know what my one word is. Psst … it’s “Chill” as in relax! Life is good in 2015!

40.  Speaking of new job, I think I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up! Gone are the dreams of writing for Sports Illustrated, becoming a screenwriter, teaching a bunch of fifth graders, and owning my own business. Nope, my new goal is to become a trainer! No, not the kind that will help you lift weights and eat healthy! The kind that will teach you new hires about the services, and products that Liberty Mutual has to offer. And why not?! I’m patient with everyone but my kids. I’ve been a coach. I’ve led community events. Now it’s time to combine my 11 years of experience (will be close to 15 when I have the opportunity), with my dream of becoming a teacher! Glad to have a goal I’m excited about!

41.  One of my goals for the new year was to read more books. Nearing the end of my first book, Jeff Guinn’s Glorious. It’s a story based in the ol’ West.

42.  Speaking of the ol’ West, I’ve always been fascinated with that era. Though it’s my favorite time historically, I wouldn’t want to spend more than a day in it (a little too dirty and dangerous for my likings). Still it intrigues me (and even Lis) enough that we somewhat binge-watched PBS’s six-disc documentary The West. What have I learned? Okay, the Indians may have gotten a raw deal, life was rough no matter where you came from, it’s amazing how this part of the country has been transformed in just over 100 years, greed (land), greed (gold) and more greed (more land), and man we were violent back then (and we think we’re violent now…HA!).

43. There are many, upon many, things that my kids have done that have brought me great joy in my life. Near the top of that list is watching as the kids learn how to read. I don’t know about other parents, but somewhere around Lukas’s age 3 I became interested in the fact that some day, in the near future, he would be reading the books that I was currently reading to him. I was curious to see how they would go from not knowing any words to reading an actual book. What steps would it take? How would they do it? Will he actually know how to read? This fascinated me.

Good news! Lukas did in fact learn how to read, and continues to do so with slightly-better-than-grade-level success.

Now it’s Lia’s turn, and once again I’m amazed at how kids have picked up reading.

DISCLAIMER: I adore my daughter, and find her brilliant in many ways. I will probably brag about her in the following paragraph. If that bothers you, or makes you want to vomit in your mouth then stop reading, or skip to the section titled “When I Grow Up.” If you want to use the following paragraph as a comparison to your kindergarten, feel free. If you’re like, “My kid does that, and does it better,” then congratulations you’ve got yourself a superstar. 

I’m not sure if it’s the school system, or my lack of memory, but Lia started reading fluently two months into her first year of school. I don’t recall Lukas doing that until first grade. It’s been fun to watch, and impressive. She’s always had a gift with language, talking immediately (my sister-in-law remembers her humming as a baby, while she slept), speaking fluent Portuguese by age 3 (and with a perfect dialect), and enunciating each word (other than the letter R) perfectly, and usually the first time. I sat alongside her this week as she nailed a second grade reading level book, needing  help with a couple of words, but mostly sounding out every letter and every -ch, -ck or whatever other two-letter sound she needed to sound out to complete the word. As mentioned it’s a joy to sit alongside her as she reads her book, and to see her so excited to learn.

44. You can have Baby Einstein and Mozart, I like my chances with Curious George and Mickey’s Clubhouse, especially George. Lukas learned about cirrus clouds from Curious George, and Levi surprised us the other day by correcting me about the colors that combine to make green. Asked where he learned that from and he answered, “Mickey’s Clubhouse.”

45. My brother and sister-in-law announced that they will be having a baby girl. Awesome news for everyone involved! Unfortunately I’m down a point in the baby pool. That evens it out on our side of the family with three boys and three girls!

46. Despite the fact I watched the game with Seahawk fans, my close friends are fans of the birds, and my family all roots for the Seahawks, this was probably the best Super Bowl I had ever witnessed surpassing the Super Bowl XXXIV when the Titans, much like the Seahawks, fell 1-yard short of a title, along with recent Super Bowls that featured David Tyree’s football-to-helmet catch, and Santonio Holmes’ game-winning, toe-dragging catch in XLIII.

47. March Madness is a little over a month away!

48. Pitchers and catchers (for the teams that I care about) report to Spring Training in 16 days

49. I’m pumped for baseball season! Both my favorite sports team (the San Diego Padres), and my third favorite sports team (the Seattle Mariners), look like contenders this year!

Learning about Heartbreak

Learning about Heartbreak

So much to say, but I just don’t want to talk about it.

However, sometimes it needs to be said, so instead of wasting an entire evening diving into another post about how I tend to dislike sports about the same time, every friggin’ year, I’ll just briefly write about what’s on my mind.

NOTE: After finishing I’ve decided, I didn’t really briefly write about it. So here’s another sad post about football. I need a new hobby.

Learning about Heartbreak

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We were all smiles before the game. Afterwards … one of us was in tears.

My eldest son, 10-years-old, is a Green Bay Packer fan, has been since he became a sports fan 3-4 years ago. Why Green Bay? His favorite color is green. Now he owns two Aaron Rodgers jerseys, a Clay Matthews figurine, and a Rodgers figurine.

If you paid attention to football on Sunday I won’t have to tell you about how he learned about the heartbreak of sports, and really, just heartbreak in general.

His team was minutes away from the Super Bowl. But I warned him. I had seen these Seahawks pull off some wacky stuff in the fourth quarter. Tease teams for three quarters then turn them into a blowout. This was different, but still, teams are scared, extremely tentative when they face Seattle. Teams take the conservative rout, not running back interceptions, just running the ball for the last few drives. Afraid of making mistakes doing what they normally do, they instead make mistakes doing what they’re not used to doing (recovering onside kicks, playing defense on two-point conversions). Understandable, Seattle’s defense is scary, and allows just enough time for their offense to figure out what they need to do to win the game. And they did.

And when they did my son’s emotions of happiness and triumph, turned into sadness and defeat. It was crushing to watch. I understood it. I’ve been through what he’s gone through plenty, of plenty of times. (Like I’ve said before, teams I’ve rooted for in my 20 years of being a sports fan have won one title, and that was the Colts in 2006, after I had been a fan for a mere two years.) But to watch my son breakdown in tears, knowing that his team was one mishap from winning, was extremely heartbreaking to watch.

Watching this game sure felt like we were watching history. No, not in the miraculous way the Seahawks came back (Can we stop with the Russell Wilson is holier than now QB and that’s why they won?! C’mon!), but in watching my son experience his first heartbreak. Sure there will be other sports heartbreaks, heartbreaks from dumb girls, and girls he may have loved, but this was his first, and you always remember your first – especially when your dad blogs about it.

A Letter to Seahawk Fans

As my ex co-worker used to say, “Welcome to my world!” Yes, welcome to my world Seahawk fans. You now get to face my nemesis, the New England Patriots.

I know you’re excited. You think your team is a team of destiny. I’m always one to say that you need a little luck to make a magical season happen, and if you’re really honest, you needed some luck (or stupid football decisions) to get past the Packers. But now you face the one team that doesn’t care about your magical run. The team that looks luck (and Luck, as in Andrew) in the eye and says, “Thanks for coming.” The one team that will take your momentum and use annoying slants, screens, checkdowns, and running backs from the scrap pile to slow your team down.

Sure Eli was able to beat them – twice – making two clutch throws. Sure your quarterback is known for being calm and collective as well. But this is different. These are the Patriots. The Evil Empire. The team everyone loves to hate. You will learn to hate them too.

Yes, you beat them – in Seattle – in October of 2012, by ONE! Yes, that was the world’s introduction to Richard “U Mad Bro?” Sherman.

I talked about heartbreak well, let me, from a decade of experience, introduce you to these Patriots, the team that has caused me a few heartbreaks, and why they are so evil, because they are so darn good.

The Hoodie
bill-belichick-wearing-hoodie-470-thumb-470x338-89542He’s a slob. He has the same facial expressions whether they win or lose. He wears a hooded sweatshirt, and sometimes with CUT OFF SLEEVES! You think Marshawn gives “exciting” press conferences? Bill Belichick invented the “exciting” press conference! You think your coach is the greatest? Well Belichick – pains me to say this – is the greatest. I used to hate when they called him a genius, and now I just shake my head in agreement.

Why you ask? Look at last year’s roster and then think about a coach that would’ve won 12 games with that squad. We know it’s hard to be consistently good in this league – except if you’re the New England Patriots. I won’t break it down, but click here and look at the 15 seasons since “The Genius” became coach in 2000. As another leader of another Empire might say, “Impressive, most impressive.”

The Pretty Boy
gisele-bundchen-2-600Tom Brady is making his record sixth Super Bowl. That isn’t easy to do, ask my man crush about that. Tom Brady is handsome. Tom Brady married a Brazilian super model, after knocking up a not-too-shabby actress named Bridget Moynahan. The dude has a moat around his house. He has three Super Bowl rings and is looking to win a record-tying fourth. I know we consider Joe Montana the apple of the Super Bowl quarterback world, but Brady is in his sixth Super Bowl and if, just if, he wins he’ll tie Montana for rings, and outnumber him in appearances. He’s cocky. He’s good. He’s not easily rattled. And if he loses he still goes home to the world’s most popular Victoria Secret model.

Gronk
Not only does he have a nickname that sounds like it comes straight from a Marvel comic book, but he has the body, and attitude, to accompany it.

If you don’t know what Gronk looks like close your eyes … I’ll wait … and picture what you pictured a football player looked like when you were in high school.

Yes. It’s a perfect sketch.

Rob Gronkowski is healthy. He’s also 6-foot-6 and 265-pounds of incredible athletic ability. Earlier this year he tossed a Colts defender “out of the club” because he was mouthing off to him. Yes, straight picked him up and tossed him away from the sideline. This after Gronk caught a pass from the 18-yard line, knocked over four defenders, before leaping into the end zone. Yes, you have big, strong, and athletic defenders, but Gronk is a machine. Have fun with that.

Revis Island
You all have been enamored by your L.O.B. that you might not know about Revis Island. Yes, Richard Sherman is a great cornerback, but if you’re not familiar with Darrelle Revis, you can make sure your Dougie Baldwin, or Jermaine Kearse will soon be making themselves familiar with him. Revis can make an argument as the best cornerback in the game. He may not pick off passes like Sherman, but that’s mostly because passes aren’t coming his way. If I need a cornerback to shut someone out, I’m taking Revis. Sorry bro!

Oh, and it doesn’t stop with Revis. Fans of the Seahawks might remember someone named Brandon Browner. Yes, he’s on the Patriots this year, looking for a repeat Super Bowl title himself. They also have the best linebacker that nobody is talking about in second-year pro Jamie Collins. And then there’s Vince Wilfork, the 6-foot-2, 325 pound defensive tackle who’s much faster than his weight tells us he should be.

Be careful Seahawk fans. Don’t get too overconfident. Not with the Patriots. Belichick has two weeks to figure out your defense and how to contain Russell Wilson. He has two weeks to figure out formations that nobody else has figured out. Formations that leave coaches thinking that maybe the Patriots are cheating. You won’t know what receivers are eligible, whether they will be running the ball, and who will be running the ball. You won’t know what little white receiver will lead them in catches. You won’t know if Brady will toss the ball down field, or use quick little screens to both eat up the clock and eat up the field.

Like your team does to others, they’ll chew you up with third-down conversions, unexpected trick plays, running backs that bulldoze linemen, clutch quarterbacks, shutdown cornerbacks, and the Gronk. They will hurt your head and leave you frustrated and confused.

The Seahawks do things to teams that … well, that the Patriots do, so I won’t be making any predictions or bets.

It should be an entertaining and competitive Super Bowl. These were clearly the two best teams in football, and as a football fan with no real rooting interest, it will be fun to watch.

I’ll just say, don’t get too overconfident, not with this team, not with Belichick, not with Brady, not with Revis and not with the Gronk.

NOTE: Yes I made no mention above about the Colts loss to the Patriots. I wasn’t expecting much, holding out for that “any given Sunday” line. I was happy they made it that far. Give them a decent defense (hello Robert Mathis) or a running back and we’ll be right where these teams are.

Around the family (AKA non-sports stuff going on in our lives) …
Before Lis and I forget about what Lia always prays about before bed, I want to remind us about “…and pray that I don’t have bad dreams, and dreams I don’t want to dream about.” Every night for the last year. She’s awesome. That’s all. … Lukas (and I) lost our 16th straight basketball game. This time a 12-8 defeat in our postseason opener. The kids played their best basketball, and once again Lukas played hard. He continues to be one of the hardest working players on the floor. If only I can get him to control his anxiety. … Erik and Stephanie drove over the mountains just to watch the game with Packer fan Lukas. That was nice of them. I’m going to rat my sister-in-law out and say that with six minutes remaining she was ready to pack the car. … I started my new job today, and though I had a few lines that got some laughs, my favorite, which didn’t generate any laughs, might have been my comparison to us newbies walking across the service floor, and having all the current employees eyeing us like Andy Dufresne entering Shawshank State Penitentiary. The dude next to me said, “As long as they don’t start yelling ‘fish’ I’ll be alright.”

Last Stop?

Last Stop?

I teased in my “Five for ’15: The Year to Chill” that, in reference to building towards the future, “Things are looking promising already, so we’ll consider this a tease until next week’s post titled “Last Stop.””

I’m sure you’re all dying to find out what I was referring to. Am I right? Don’t answer that.

Last week I secured a position with Liberty Mutual Insurance working at their service center a block from my house. Yes, a block from my house. Did I mention “The Year of Chill!”? Well this most certainly helps!

Not only does this save close to $200 on fuel (and wear and tear on our new van), but this position offers me a sizeable pay increase, more benefits (like my two favorites – vision and retirement!) and opportunities to move up in a company.

Unfortunately when you work for a small insurance agency, room for growth is rather rare. You need to hope someone moves on (which they often do), dies (which they often don’t), or hope that their son or daughter doesn’t want to take over the family business (which they often do).

As much as I enjoyed the five months I worked for my current agency, and especially the people I worked alongside, the opportunities were too great, and as I inch closer to 40, I’m thinking more about how I need to start setting aside some money in planning for the future (three kids possibly headed to college; Lis and I being able to enjoy retirement).

Working for a large corporation is just another thing I can check off the “Jobs in the Insurance Industry” list that I’ve done. I’ve done personal lines, commercial lines, life insurance and, most recently, hardcore agriculture. I’ve been an office manager. I’ve had my own little office. I’ve worked for small agencies. I’ve worked for large agencies. Other than the two things I don’t care to do – claims and underwriting – I’ve pretty much done it all. Except taking a shot at the corporate world.

I actually enjoyed my last corporate job, with Eddie Bauer/Spiegel, and I liked it, not only for the friends I made but because I moved up through the company, from call taker, to contact person in the .com department. And then they shipped all of our jobs to Canada. Those darn Canucks!

I’m thankful for the opportunity I received from my current agency.

When we decided to move here last summer I didn’t have a job in mind. In fact, we were going to head over, job or no job. They were the only ones, out of the few that I either interviewed with or applied with, that offered me a position.

The people I’ve worked with are awesome, and I fit right in. However, it was my first drive into work that I realized how close I am to Liberty Mutual, and how I wish I had tried to find a job there. Months later I applied for a personal lines service agent, and was denied for lack of experience. Um … sure.

It’s fine, the hours would be all over the place. Holidays, weekends, nights, overnights. I wasn’t too bummed, like I said, I enjoyed the place and people I worked with.

Then my current position popped up. It was a day job, offered a higher pay, so I applied, and two long months later I was offered the position.

But before I left my old gig, there were some things I had to do first – like pull out a few pranks.

SIDEBAR: I truly believe I have a top-10 wife. Meaning she’s one of the top 10 wives in all of the land. Not only has she done an incredible job of raising our three kids, supporting me through tough times, fighting off cancer, and putting up with my crud, but she’ll also use the roller to crush Alka-Seltzer, so I can replace it with creamer for tomorrow’s coffee run. Oh, and she also makes Jell-O mold so I can put someone’s calculator and favorite pen in the middle of it. Yes, she’s clearly top-10 status, and I’ve learned that when you have that you need to not take that for granted. Oh, and she also thought of the idea to super glue the foam animals that my co-worker likes to throw at me to my co-worker’s desk. Brilliant!

Yes, so I replaced the creamer with Alka-Seltzer, I stuck a calculator and pen in Jell-O (though it didn’t work out well), I super glued a farm animal to a desk, I set the fart machine in the office next to the only other dude’s cubicle, and I changed the keyboards to US-Dvorak so they can’t type properly. How did it go? Ugh!

I was hoping to give a timeline of what happened, but since they (fine, I) sucked I’ll instead explain how each prank played out:

IMAG3179 - CopyJell-O: The calculator gal walked in and immediately tried to put something in the desk that had the not-that-solid mold with her calculator sort of inside of it. “What the …?” was her first question, followed by, “This better still work” and “You’re going to clean this up right?” FAIL! Later I employed her to ask the other Jell-O mold gal for a pen. She was nice enough to play along, unfortunately, when she reached for a pen it was in the wrong drawer, and then another wrong drawer. “Um … how about you try that other top drawer,” she suggested. FAIL!

Fart Machine: Not bad except that an hour into the day it started going off, fart, after fart, after fart, after … you get it. The two that heard it found it hilarious. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to push the button when I wanted.

Keyboard on US-Dvorak: This was probably the winner of the day. The new gal tried to sign in, and seconds later when she couldn’t, was ready to toss the keyboard. She grew frustrated until 15 minutes later another gal used Google to solve the issue and I whispered to myself, “Newman!” Oh, and I guess I never selected US-Dvorak as the default on the other two computers because it never worked. FAIL!

Creamer: Turns out three of the four coffee drinkers drink it black. Translation: We don’t use creamer. The other gal brings her own creamer, and the other gal uses the liquid creamer in the fridge. So who uses the powdered creamer that now rests in a Tupperware container in my drawer? Nobody! So my wife’s time crushing the tablets was a waste?! FAIL! (By the way, tried this with water and AWESOME if you can pull it off!)

Super Glued Farm Animals: The lady that throws them at me wasn’t there today. I think this one will be the best yet. Go figure it’s the one my wife came up with. I can’t wait!

Yes, I’ll miss these ladies and the jokes we played on each other. But I also look forward to the next batch of co-workers I will meet on Monday!

In the last year we’ve blown up a lot of stuff (SEE: Year in Review). Here’s hoping this will be the last KABOOM! Here’s hoping this will be my last stop!

Fun Football Sunday for the Johnsons!

Fun Football Sunday for the Johnsons!

Darnit! It was just two days ago that I mentioned how well I’ve done with not writing about sports. It was two days ago that I mentioned my next post was going to be titled “Last Stop” and mention how promising the future looks for us.

But I can’t let this buzz wear off, not now at least! I must write about the incredible Sunday of football that was had in the Johnson household.

nope.0Sure, most of my readers had their fun on Saturday. The Seahawks, led by an 11-tackle, one 90-yard interception return for a TD performance (and two incredible hurdles over both the defensive and offensive lines on back-to-back Carolina Panther field goal attempts) by (Kam) Chancellor Palpatine (Lukas’s nickname), did what they were good at by creating havoc defensively and driving opposing defenses nuts by consistently converting third-and-long situations into touchdowns (what sucks the wind out of a defense more than that?!) in beating the Panthers 31-17.

Seahawks fans went nuts, grew even more overconfident, and I had to remove them all from my social media wall to take a break from all the #GoHawks from people I’ve known forever that were never, ever, ever football fans but suddenly are.

I had hoped to have the same glow from a playoff win, but knew my chances were slim.

Lukas had hoped to have the same glow from a playoff win, and though his chances were better, he still had a tough task at hand.

You see I am a Colts fan and they were headed to Denver favored by no one to defeat a hungry Peyton Manning and a Bronco team that was built for a Super Bowl win or bust. I liked the Colts chances. Why? Because I’ve been a Manning fan for 11 seasons and have felt disappointed in all but 10 of those seasons. I know what he can do in the postseason, against a team with “no chance,” and after he struggled down the stretch in the regular season.

Wait? Didn’t you root for the Broncos in the Super Bowl last year?

Yes, but haven’t you read my blog the last few weeks? Didn’t think so. After last year’s Super Bowl loss I was tired of being frustrated and disappointed with sports, and Manning, and felt it was time to recommit myself to one team. The one team I’ve followed for 11 seasons, thanks to Manning, the Indianapolis Colts.

Lukas is a Green Bay Packer fan. Why? He likes the color green, so when he started to like sports he chose the Green Bay Packers as his team. It’s the same reason he’ll be rooting hard for his favorite collegiate team in the first-ever playoff championship (what are they calling this thing nowadays?), the Oregon Ducks.

The Packers came back on the Dallas Cowboys, and yes benefited from “The Reversal,” the controversial, but not controversial catch made by Dez Bryant at the 1-yard line. Did it look like a catch? Yes. Did I think it was a catch? Absolutely. Is the rule book clear on the rule that was enforced, causing the Cowboys to turn the ball over on downs because the refs overturned the catch to a non-catch? Unfortunately yes.

But Aaron Rodgers is great, and his play with a torn calf muscle was incredible, causing Lukas to be a happy camper, and then go outside in one of his two Rodgers jersey and do this:

It was then the Colts turn to take care of business, but after a stupid penalty allowed the Broncos to score on their first drive, I was a bit worried. But then the Colts scored, and then they scored again. Then when Adam Viniatieri shanked a field goal attempt that could’ve made it a 10-point contest I was worried.

Instead the defense played well, the offensive line protected Andrew Luck for the second consecutive game, allowing Luck to hit short shots and long shots, and just like that the Colts had upset the Broncos, possibly ending Manning’s career (how fitting would it be that Manning goes out, eliminated by the team that rid themselves of him – which I totally agreed with – and outplayed by the one player that will continue to draw comparisons with him, his replacement, Luck).

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These two guys had a pretty good Sunday watching football.

Now Lukas and his Packers will face the Seahawks in Seattle. On “Blue Friday” he’ll wear his Packers jersey. I’ve warned him about talking trash, and about receiving the wrath from people. Can he handle it? We’ll find out.

Now Kevin and his Colts will face my longtime nemesis, the New England Patriots. To be honest, I don’t think the Colts have a shot against the Patriots, and if they advance to the Super Bowl, against any of the NFC opponent. Say what you want, but they aren’t ready. They lack a running back (Boom Heron is no Marshawn Lynch or Eddie Lacy), they lack a stellar defense, they have holes in their O-line, but they do have offensive weapons, and Luck on their side.

When Luck was drafted, making the playoffs was in their three-year plan, like by year three they hope they can make the playoffs. Instead they’ve improved each season, losing in the first round in year one, second round in year two, and here we are in the AFC Championship.

It’ll be a fun football Sunday, will we be feeling the same joyful bliss that we’re filling today? Not sure.

I will say that at the beginning of the season my son and I made predictions (and posted them here). I had Denver over Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game, and Green Bay over Seattle, with the Broncos defeating the Packers.

Lukas took Green Bay over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. Not too shabby.

One more weekend to go. Here’s hoping I’ll be this excited next Sunday evening!

Five for ’15: The Year to Chill

Five for ’15: The Year to Chill

Last Saturday, shortly before midnight, I left my newspaper gig and was welcomed by a snow-covered van, on a snow-covered street.

Actually, to be fair, the snow was covering the ice that covered the street, but that’s not really the point. The point is that I’m not real fond of driving on snow or ice-covered streets, and knowing that my house is an 18-mile drive from work, I had a decision to make.

Do I take the Interstate, a straight shot to our house, and likely with roads that had been recently sanded, or do I take an arterial road, one that is also a straight shot, but one that would definitely be covered in snow?

I chose option B – the arterial route.

Why? On the Interstate there will be pressure for me to sustain a decent speed. I’ll have people behind me, semi-trucks on the side of me, and everyone else will be attempting to do the speed limit, despite the news that 5-8 inches were headed our way.

On the arterial route I could take my time. There would likely be no pressure of people behind me, or wanting to pass me. I wouldn’t be expected to do speeds at more than 25-30 mph. It would be less stressful. And it was; less stressful, more relaxing, and actually quite peaceful.

And thus a prime example of why I’m dubbing 2015 as “The Year to Chill” … or was it “The Year of Chill” … or did I like “Keep Calm and Chill”? It’s a work in progress, which reminds me, if you have any ideas on how to corporate “chill” and 2015, then please feel free to let me know. Donations are gladly accepted.

Please don’t send me “Let’s Chill,” a reference to the 1990 hit by Guy that pops into my head every friggin’ time I think of “The Year of Chill.”

I know at least two occasional readers that will respect my reference to the trio from Guy, so let’s roll the video from the hit single featuring uber-producer Teddy Riley, crooner Aaron Hall, and the one dude I had to look up because I could only remember 67-percent of their names, Damion Hall (Aaron’s brother).

As I do every year I follow-up my Year in Review with my annual Five Goals for (insert year). Thank you to those that finished my 10,000 word, three-part miniseries that was my Year in Review. I promise this won’t go 4,000 words. Actually I won’t promise because I never know where my fingers or mind might take us. How fun! I know right?!

I also take a look back at how I failed (because I mostly fail) at the goals I set the prior year.

Let’s briefly, I said briefly, take a look back at 2014’s goals and move onto 2015.

Going All In
I was tired of stressing and worrying, so I was going to do things my way, the way I wanted to do them when I first started my little office. I was going to join networking groups. I was going to market. I was going all in. Except that lasted two months until I fell behind, got stressed and worried and months later I decided that instead of going all in, I’m getting out. Grade: D

Lead Them
Inspired by the Sanctus Real song, I was going to work on putting my family first, to be a man who both my wife and kids could respect, to be an example to them as a husband and father. I think I did okay, and in the end I led them to our move across the state, and to an area I felt will be better for my family in the long run. Grade: B

Be Positive
Though some people may disagree, overall I did okay with this. As the Rascal Flatts’ song “I’m Moving On” said:

I’ve lived in this place and I know all the faces;
Each one is different but they’re always the same;
They mean you no harm but it’s time that I face it;
They’ll never allow me to change

The people from your past will always see you just as they saw you in the past. My friends still see me as goofball Kevin. My family still sees me as short-fuse Kevin, who spouts off or says what is on his mind. What they don’t notice is that the last two years I’ve kept pretty quiet. I haven’t had blow ups. I’ve kept things inside, or between Lis and myself. I’ve been more positive, and less likely to say what I thought or was feeling.  Like anyone that is working on improving themselves, there have been moments of relapse, but overall I felt I’ve improved, my wife knows I’ve improved (just double-checked with her), and the Man Upstairs knows I’ve improved, and that’s all that matters (and my kids, but they still think I’m great no matter what).

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m headed in the right direction. Grade: B

Monitor the Stuff I Put Into My Mind and Body
It’s one of those things that comes and goes. One night it’s Tosh.0 the next day it’s all Christian music on the drive into work. I know I did a better job of keeping things out of my body, but I also know I had moments where my guard was down and I let things in. Yes, I’m being nondescript for a reason. I can’t let you entirely into my world! Grade: C-

Spend Christmas and New Year’s in Brazil
Ha! Midway through 2014, knowing that we were likely moving, and noticing that airline tickets were not going down, we realized we weren’t going to have enough money to travel to Brazil. Feliz Natal! Grade: F

Now to this “Year of Chillaxing and Relaxing” … nah, not feeling that one either; what do I mean by “The Year to Chill”?

As you might have skimmed through in my Year in Review, 2014 was pretty darn hectic. I stressed, I worried, I kept busy with community events, church events, coaching basketball. We went on vacation. We moved. We felt like we aged 5-8 years.

It’s time we chill.

Before I move into my five finalists, let me remind you that of course my goal every year is to better my relationship with Christ, my wife and my kids. That is and always will be the first thing on my heart and mind. I’m a father of three and a husband of one, first and foremost.

Like everything else in our life, it's time to move on from this as well.

Like everything else in our life, it’s time to move on from this as well.

Second, there were a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the final five. I want to upgrade our GameCube console. I want to get out and ride our bikes more, and enjoy this area we moved to. I want to celebrate Lis’ 10th anniversary of being in remission. I want to read and write more (Can I do 10 books in 12 months? Can I post weekly or bi-weekly?). I want to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens at midnight on December 18 with my eldest son. I want to introduce my kids to their generation of Star Wars characters, and take the entire family to see the movie maybe more than just twice (and watch my youngest son’s face light up when he sees the actual movie and not just the trailer).

And in the immortal words of Mr. Freeze, “Alright everyone chill!

Chill … Less Stress, Less Worry

As my snow example showed, sometimes I need to think about the less stressful or worrisome option and do that instead. That means not letting other peoples’ actions get under my skin. That means removing myself from conversations or situations that may bother me (notice I have had no I Heart Andrew Luck posts lately?). That means not reading comments under certain stories, or social media posts that may annoy me. You get what I’m saying right? Doesn’t matter, I do.

The move over here will be helpful. I’m sure eventually we’ll meet more people, and those people may annoy me at times, but no longer will I have to wonder why my buddy drove past my house, to visit our other friend, after traveling 3 hours, and then wants me to come visit him there. I’m hundreds of miles away. I don’t have to care anymore! All of these less stressful and worrisome situations will hopefully lead to …

Chill … Get Your Chest Pain Under Control

I spent about 348 days last year with tightness in my chest. I went to bed nearly every night last year with pain in my chest. I went for walks in the cold and had pain in my chest. I woke up one night from a chest jolt. Ever have one of those? Me neither until my body was jerked awake in the middle of the night as if I had been struck by a defibrillator. That was interesting! What’s causing all this pain? I’m sure most of it was stress. I’m sure most of it was my GERD (and the whole “Don’t Eat Anything That Tastes Good” or “Don’t Eat After 6:15p.m.” ordeal). But still, it’s worrisome (darn you words from the Worry Family), and something I need to get under control before it’s too late. A physical is in my near future. When I had a 10-hour GERD episode in 2012 they said things were fine, but that I need to watch what I eat, when I eat. Hopefully that’s it. Hopefully I just need to chill.

Chill … Don’t Get Involved
Raise your hand if you’d like to volunteer for coaching basketball! *Hand raised*

Raise your hand if you’d like to volunteer for teaching Sunday School! *Hand raised*

Raise your hand if you need to chill for a bit and take time for yourself and your family. *Pause. Hand sheepishly raised*

Basketball season is coming to a close (currently I’m 0-8 as a coach this year, coupling that with my 0-7 finish last year, and poor Lukas has yet to win his first basketball game) and it’s time for me to step back. I’d rather watch Lukas from the sideline than have to watch him and eight others from the sideline.

I went to a Relay For Life meeting and was eager to get involved. Then I went to another one where nobody showed and thought … it’s a sign. Just chill!

I teach Sunday school every other month. I actually enjoy that, it’s not that demanding, I’ll stick with this.

But that’s it. I already have a second job, and after the years and years I put into helping others, it’s time I spend a little time with the Johnson Five. No worries, I’ll be back, but not in 2015.

Chill … Social Media Less
I’m sorry, I haven’t figured out Twitter. I’ve been tweeting since it was introduced, but I don’t get it. Why do I need to pop on there and write what I’m thinking in 140-characters? Really there are about two people who notice what I write anyway.

I’m sorry, but Facebook drives me batty. I took two separate sabbaticals from the site, only returning because it is helpful when you want to share pictures of your family with your family on the other side of the mountains, or bottom half of the world (and it’s attached to all my Spotify playlists!). We easily fall in a trap where we need to post everything we’re doing in hopes that we get validation, gratification and attention for who we are, what we’re doing, and what we’ve become. Don’t lie and say that you’re on Facebook for the advertisements. Fine, I’ll use Lis’ excuse that I use it to keep in touch with our family and friends, when in all honesty we’re doing it for the above reasons. Trust me, I’ve seen your posts and you’ve seen mine, and I know how you feel when someone doesn’t click the LIKE button. It’s okay, we all want the same thing … love.

No there won’t be any disappearances, like I said, all my Spotify playlists are attached to my Facebook login, plus then I get 3-4 emails wondering why people can’t stalk me anymore, because after all, I’m so stalkable.

I’ll still post pictures but I don’t need to share what I’m doing seconds after I’ve done it. I need to just chill, post pictures monthly, then worry about why a picture of a dog licking himself is getting more likes than a picture of my awesome trio of kids.

Chill … Plan for the Future
Okay, so this might not be a “chill” goal, but I’m closing in on 40 (2.5 more years), and it’s time for me to start thinking about getting older (not growing up, I’ll never grow up). It’s time to settle down, start putting money away, start thinking about a career, and that one day the kids will be gone and it’ll be Lis and myself and well, I’d love to chill in different countries every couple of years.

Things are looking promising already, so we’ll consider this a tease until next week’s post titled “Last Stop.”

Happy belated New Year!

2014 Year in Review: Part III – KABOOM!

2014 Year in Review: Part III – KABOOM!

If you made it through Part I and Part II, have no fear, the next six months shouldn’t have so many words.

NOTE: I just completed Part III and it still has about 4,000 words. Don’t give up Dad!

I know what you’re thinking, “Disneyland, lip sync, RFL! Why is he complaining about stress?! Sounds like fun!”

Sure those were fun moments, but all the while the stress from the up and down paychecks were killing me. Yes, I had the one good month, (and we were somewhat dumb for blowing some of it on vacation), but in between there were a few times I made anywhere from $750 to $900 a month. Making our monthly mortgage payment was rough. Surviving was tough.

On top of that I was wrapped up in being the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce President, I was being nominated for the Toastmaster presidency, I was leading the youth group at our church every Wednesday, and none of that was leading to more clients. Not that that’s why I do what I do, but I had hoped it would help, just a smidge!

Lis and I needed to make a decision, and when I returned from vacation in June I expected to be motivated to kick some insurance butt. Instead I was still burnt out, and looking for a way out.

We made the decision to not go to Hillsboro. It just didn’t feel right. We thought about offices in North Marysville and Bothell. Nationwide thought about lower King or Pierce County. Something was still pulling us towards Spokane, actually a town outside of Spokane called Liberty Lake.

July
To confirm our desire to live on the other side of the mountains, the five of us ventured to Spokane Valley to see if we still liked it. We walked through a couple of homes. We drove around to see how far school, the library, parks and bike trails were. I made sure minor league baseball was nearby, and a Buffalo Wild Wings. Everything was within 10-15 minutes, with most everything we needed within five minutes.

Liberty Lake was especially nice. The homes were newer, there were parks everywhere. You could jump on a bike and head to a trail within miles. The schools were some of the best in the state. Cost of living was less expensive than our little town. Nothing made us question the area.

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Vai Brasil!

As we pulled into the hotel parking lot the Brazil-Germany World Cup semifinal was just getting started. The hotel didn’t have ESPN, so we had to follow via the Internet. As I pulled up the score I noticed that it was quickly 1-0 Alemanha, I struggled to find a feed to watch the game, 2-0. At halftime it was 4-0, and I was quickly reminded about February’s Super Bowl where the team I rooted for was done before the game even got started. Still, watching the World Cup was fun. I always root for the United States and Brazil (for obvious reasons), and once again, I started to like, and understand, the game of futebol even more.

When we returned home things became more clear. Our decision had been made clear, it was time to blow things up and start all over. As of August 1 I would do the incredibly tough thing of closing the office, and walking away from a dream that I was able to accomplish, but unable to succeed at. We would leave behind our family and friends. We would walk away from our house, and the community we loved. KABOOM! It was time for a new beginning.

I have to thank Shane and Stacy Butler from Butler Insurance for supporting me the last two years. Their support was amazing, and even as I crawled through months, they were still super-supportive. The hardest part of closing the office was knowing that I had let them down. Incredible people, and as a whole, Nationwide was filled with people like them from the top to the bottom. I’m very grateful for the opportunity the Butlers and Nationwide gave me. If I had to do it over again I’d start in a bigger area. I’d have money set aside in savings for the struggle. I wouldn’t do it with a family of five.

As the Sultan lip sync had done in May, something else popped up and added some fun into my life. Okay, so maybe it didn’t pop into my life, after all I started it myself.

The Sultan Satire was first used to poke fun at all the crap that people were complaining about on the Sultan Facebook page. Little did I know that it would slowly gain a cult following. Like Batman, I kept my identity hidden from the community. I couldn’t let people know that the Chamber president was writing jokes about our little town, and the people who resided in it.

I had so much fun coming up with story ideas, and then writing the faux news reports. It allowed me to put my mind into something totally away from all the stress.

Articles titled: “Citizens Surprised, Library Has Resources Not Only Public Restrooms,” “Citizens Warned! Man With Backpack Cruising Thru Sultan!” “Family of Five Seen Riding Bikes In Town; Citizens Concerned,” and “STUDY: Burglaries Less Likely to Happen When Doors Locked.”

I had a blast writing it, and really, some of my best writing came from the month I wrote for The Sultan Satire. Check it out here.

I have to admit. I miss you Sultan Satire!

Meanwhile in Sultan, I emceed the main stage at the Sultan Shindig, and even participated in another lip sync performance, with kids! It’s all about the kids right?

Finally in July, Lukas participated in his first live fantasy football draft. He did well, without much assistance from his father. In fact, he finished in fourth this season. Meanwhile, his dear ol’ dad was the No. 1 team going into the playoffs and finished eighth. The Padawan had quickly surpassed the Jedi.

August

By August we had confirmed our desire to bail. The office would be closing on August 1. Our last weekend with church would be at our annual camp-in. We would have one last hurrah at Johnsonville before we made like the Jeffersons and moved to the East Side.

The first weekend of August was emotional.

At the camp-in the church recognized us for the service we had done with the church the last nine or so years.

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We are family!

Pastor called us up, shared some fun stories, allowed the youth to share something about me and the three years I spent with them, and then I made the mistake of attempting to convey my love for the second family that the church had become. Sorry, I was a little weepy.

This was the first church I really belonged to. I came to them as a disgruntled, question-filled 20-year-old in 1997. The first sermon I heard was from the assistant pastor, who ended up being a mentor of mine, and he used the NBA All-Star Game as a backdrop. I was sucked in.

I committed my life to Christ in the church. When Lis and I decided to return to church, we returned there. Four days later she was diagnosed with leukemia, and the church quickly wrapped their arms around us for support.

We became heavily involved organizing events like movie nights, Fourth of July pancake breakfasts, and New Year’s Eve parties. I led Youth Group for two years, building everlasting relationships with the teenagers, who ended up teaching me more about the Word, than I taught them.

The recognition was a touching end to our time there, and we will forever be grateful for what our church family has done for us. We made a lot of close relationships, all that have helped in our faith growth.

The day after our camp-in Lukas and I were baptized in Lake Roesiger. As I’ve mentioned before I love creating memories. I had put off being baptized for 15 years, waiting for that special moment, possibly with my future wife, or my child. Well, when Lukas made the decision to follow Christ, and be baptized, I figured this was a perfect opportunity to dip myself into Holy Water (or at least the waters of Roesiger).IMG_5252

What made it even more fitting was that we were getting baptized just days before we left for Liberty Lake. I felt it only fitting that the Pastor I had befriended, and that had helped me grow, be the one that baptized me. In an emotional moment, he thanked me for letting him baptize me – no thanks needed – and just like that I had accomplished my want for making my baptism an incredibly precious moment.

That afternoon we had our “Get Lost Johnson 5″ party. Family and friends from all walks of our life showed up to visit with us. We had a wonderful time with everyone. Thank you to everyone that shared in our moment.

Of course, never one to miss having his own special moment, and to pull at my heart-strings, my brother-from-another-mother Jerry rolled up blasting Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye (to Yesterday).” Well-played Big Dog, well-played.

That afternoon we had a blast listening to music, playing volleyball with kids from my Youth Group, people from church, friends from basketball, friends from school, Lukas’ friends, it was wonderful. Definitely one last Johnsonville hurrah!

IMG_20140805_145018A few days later my mom, Lis, my great friend Ian, and myself packed up most of the U-Haul, before Erik and my dad helped with the second round.

IMG_20140805_211813The Johnson Five rolled out of the Sky Valley on August 5, ringing the bell by the Sultan Post Office, before heading over the mountains.

I started a new job the following week, again working for a small insurance office. The people I work with are great, but insurance is insurance.

I had hoped it might escape me, but when I saw it got to Big Dog I knew it was headed to me. Yes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon hit us and well … here we are! I know people hated on the social media trend, hated on the fundraising opportunities, hated because that’s what we do, hate, but it was fun, and we used it as a positive spin that allowed me to teach the kids about this horrible disease.

September

We celebrated Lia’s sixth birthday, and she also began her first year of school, attending the Central Valley Kindergarten Center. Finally! She’s been ready to attend school for a couple of years now, but at last, she finally became of age and Lis was pumped! She’s always been a quick learner, and very social, so we worried that she might be a little too talkative in class. Turns out we were wrong.

In October we received an email from the teacher. Not knowing what to expect I was very proud to read that, “Just wanted you to know how awesome I think your daughter is.  She is always kind and a good listener. Whenever we get new students, I put them next to Lia because I know she will be a great help to them. It is so nice to have a jr. teacher like Lia in our class.”

Um…can you say HUGE SMILE ACROSS MY FACE! Sure the lip sync thing made me pretty proud, but receiving this, and seeing that she is excelling in school, more proud.

We of course had a Frozen birthday, and it was nice that our family, and Ian, drove over for her party. Thanks guys!

IMG_20140902_212319Not much else I can say about my daughter. I have written quite a bit about her the last few days, and though personally 2014 may have been a struggle, Lia’s 2014 was a success.

Our favorite show is The Middle, and this year is #TheYearofSue, Sue being the middle of three kids, and the only girl. Yes, we can relate a little too much. Well this year very well could’ve been #TheYearofLia. After seeing that Lia made the Monroe Monitor’s Year-End Review, Auntie Stephanie joked Lia was famous. I replied, “She’s just getting started.” She’s busy, dramatic, persistent, intelligent, witty, has a love for God that even her teacher commented on during conferences, and … special. I look forward to watching her growth, but as a dad, I’m a bit worried. Wait, no more worries Kevin!

In Non-Johnson Five News: My best, good friend Josh had a baby. Well his girlfriend did, but whatever. Josh had vowed to never have kids, but when you play with fire … you have kids? I don’t know. Stealing a line from my boss about one of our producers, Josh is like a Tootsie Pop. He may seem hard and crunchy on the outside, but on the inside he’s a softy. He’s always been really great with my kids. He’ll be a great father. … My youngest brother and his wife had their second child, a baby girl. We’ll chat more about that in December’s review. … Boyz II Men released their newest album “Collide.” I’ll give it a solid B. … The Mariners teased us into thinking they would make their first postseason since 2001. Unfortunately they fell a game short, but the Kansas City Royals postseason success, and the new pick up of Nelson Cruz, gave us some hope that the drought may end soon.

October

Speaking of new life, my brother Erik and the aforementioned Auntie Stephanie, announced that she was pregnant. The duo have been attempting to have kids since the night of their wedding, but through some difficulties were never able to. After trying everything from acrobats to velcro (I’m only kidding, right?), they decided to try In Vitro Fertilization. Success! Currently they have a healthy baby in the oven, and are expecting in June. I know attempting to have this baby was a very trying time for them, and I’m happy that they made it out alive, and am very proud of their new journey.

10-18-2014-10-18 13.36.53 (10)Lukas celebrated his first double-digit birthday, and since we just moved here, and his two closest friends were out-of-town, we celebrated by taking the family to bowling, bumper cars and miniature golf. Erik, Stephanie, Grandma and Papi came over the mountains to join us, and what turned into a botched birthday party, turned into one of the best and relaxing birthdays we have celebrated. Easy, inexpensive, and fun for all ages, we’re already looking forward to Year 11!

I won’t go into too much about Lukas, as you can read about my little buddy in October’s post “The Greatest“. Yes, he’s my mini-me. He tends to worry or stress easily. We both have a love for sports and Star Wars (though all three have that love for Star Wars), and he loves to do his imaginary football in the front yard. He continues to excel in school, flying under the radar, just consistently doing well, often above grade-level. I did the same until I reached sixth grade, which for Lukas is just two years away, that’s when I’ll need to make sure he doesn’t travel down the same path I did. He’s interested in college, and already has a list of where he wants to go (mostly because of college sports), but let’s make sure he stays in that mindset.

I started working part-time for the Spokesman-Review, the third-largest newspaper in the state. I’m in the sports department putting together sections of the sports page. It’s fun, puts me back in an environment I’ve always loved to be in, and pays okay. Nice extra income for doing something I consider a hobby.

November

We started November by selling our house in Sultan. What a relief! We had put it on the market in June, and within 17 days we had sold it. However, because we were short-selling we had to go through the long, drawn out process of the bank processing our paperwork, and making sure we were short-sale worthy. We were told months prior to us even putting the house on the market that we were definitely short-sale worthy. The process went smoothly, and I have to give props to Joe Platz and his Selling Snohomish team for making it fairly easy on us.

And because the stress of regular life wasn’t enough, we had a slight scare with Lis’ health when two black spots were found in her breasts. You can read about that in my post called “Concern Level: Zero!” It was a little nerve-wracking, especially when you’re having biopsies, traveling to and from places called “cancer treatment centers” and waiting patiently for results. It turned out to be nothing. Praise!

IMAG3062The first snow fall came in Spokane, and a day after my co-workers told me to pack extra clothes and blankets because I might end up in a ditch somewhere, I ended up in a ditch somewhere. I’m still unsure of what happened. Was my 4-wheel drive not locked in? Was it too windy, that my little Tracker slipped on the snow-covered road? Were my tires too bald? Either way, it didn’t matter, after fish-tailing twice, the third time took me into a spin that ended up into a rock canyon. It sucked! But after the way 2014 had been going, I wasn’t surprised.

10398023_10152585915998922_1572912281174063488_nIn other November news: Josh got Seahawks tickets so we drove over the mountains and I spent a day hanging out with two of my longest tenured buddies at the Seahawks game. Well worth the mini-trip, and will probably continue to make it an annual tradition. … I didn’t head out to the stores for Black Friday, but instead my deal came to me. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer was released at about 10 a.m. that morning. The first few views gave me the chills, a small tear, and lots of excitement for December 2015. We continued to watch it, and watch it, and watch it. What was cool was seeing the excitement it not only brought me, but it brought the kiddos. If you haven’t seen the trailer click here. Below is Levi’s reaction to probably the 10th time we viewed it. … With our family in town for Thanksgiving, we closed out November by visiting the Coeur d’Alene Christmas light show and parade. It was fun to be festive, but the frigid temperatures, coupled with the sideways rain and sand from the lakeshore, caused a little discomfort. But memories right? Memories!

December

After messing up my car and realizing it’s going to cost me $2,200 to fix just the physical damage, Lis and I sat down and thought long and hard about departing with her ’99 Ford Windstar and my ’01 Chevy Tracker. Both cars needed both physical and mechanical repairs that would cost us close to $10,000 total to fix. No joke. With my second job, her somewhat part-time job of cleaning the church twice a month, we figured if a dealership could meet our financial requests, we might, just might, be able to get ourselves our first new vehicle since we purchased the Tracker in October ’03.

We knew we were fond of the Dodge Grand Caravan, so we stopped into Dishman Dodge in the Spokane Valley to check them out. Instead we found a Chrysler Town & Country (the “luxury” version of the Caravan), that was a year newer, had better features than the Caravan, and was listed as the same price. SOLD! The dealership was very no-hassle, they met our budget guidelines, and by the end of the four-hour ordeal we had ourselves a new and improved family trickster, with so many fancy features we had no idea how to work them.

The van has been amazing. I no longer fear for my life when I take to the wintry roads. It’s bigger, safer, more comfortable, and since I know little to nothing about the mechanics of vehicles, it lets us know when we need to fill up the tires and oil. Plus it has a DVD player, which would be awesome if the boys didn’t have the motion sickness of their father, and threw up minutes after their eyes were off the road.

Finally, if you read my pre-Year in Review Christmas post you read that because of family drama we weren’t going to head to the mountains. Well, it took some talking, some praying, some thinking, before we finally gave in and decided to make the trip over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house.

I won’t go into details, but I will say my brother and I may have celebrated Festivus without even knowing it. There was no aluminum pole and no “Feats of Strength” but there was definitely an “Airing of Grievances.” Via Wikipedia, “The celebration of Festivus begins with the “Airing of Grievances“, which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of each person lashing out at others and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year.” Festivus usually takes place on December 23, the same date that my brother and I “celebrated” it. If you’re not familiar with Festivus click here, or watch Episode 10 from the 9th season of Seinfeld.

Thanks to our Festivus the Christmas holiday went well, and I continued to learn about myself. I got to meet my baby niece and she was kind of fond of me (or the loud colors on my Griswold jersey, I’m going with the “fond of me” excuse), and the kids got to spend the holidays with their family.

I think the move across the mountains was needed, for more than just the five of us. For months I let the pain from family drama linger inside of me. It ate me up. I had continuous nightmares. It was very unhealthy.

The move was God’s way of telling me to stop and focus on the things that matter most, Him and my little family.

And overall it’s been healthy for us. I care too much about what people think, so when nobody wanted to get together I found myself getting offended. When one of my best, good friends who lived hours away would drive past my house on his way to our other buddies house, it bothered me. Why didn’t he want to stop and visit? And it bothered me that on Christmas, family wouldn’t show up until minutes before (or after) dinner, and then want to leave shortly thereafter.

Yes, one of my other big faults is my consistent way of stressing myself or worrying about things that are out of my hands. It’s a work in progress.

Now that we’re hundreds of miles away I can’t stress about those little things. Now if they drive through Spokane and don’t visit I’m concerned, but if they don’t want to make the trek over the mountains I can’t fret about that one bit. I’m just very happy, and blessed, that they’ve visited so many times already.

KABOOM!

It wasn’t easy to pack up the family and uproot them from the only place they’ve known. It wasn’t easy for me to leave behind a community, friends and family I had spent the last 20 years with. People may have thought we were crazy. Some may have thought we were brave. I think we were a little of both. It took a lot of letting go to make this happen, and other than the day I spun into a rock (headed to an office I volunteered for), it’s been wonderful.

We found a church just five minutes away that had things we were looking for in a church. There were plenty of kids, most in our age range. The church had gone through some recent, and positive changes. A new pastor within the last year, a new youth director within the last few months. They emphasized the importance of small groups, something that was incredibly important in our spiritual growth. We found a group that fits us perfectly with five other couples all in our age range, with kids all in our kids range. And just like that I was teaching 4th and 5th grade Sunday School on an every-other-month basis, and Lis was helping in the nursery on a once-a-month basis.

Sure it can get cold here, but it’s dry. Lukas can still go out in the front-yard and toss the mini-pigskin around when it’s 30-degrees. Just bundle up! (Kind of funny how quickly we get used to sub-40 degree weather) No worries about dragging wet and mud into the house.

The commute is basically nonexistent. I drive 25 miles to work, and it takes me 27 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening. Everything else is 5-10 minutes – even Idaho.

There’s still a very old-school way of doing things here. The neighbor kids will knock on the door to ask the kids if they want to play, I’ll walk 10 steps to the neighbors to watch Monday Night Football with him, during the summer we had a bonfire in our driveway.

IMG_20140913_152913During the summer we were able to leave our house via bike and end up riding 10 miles to Post Falls, Idaho, or 8 miles to the Spokane Valley Mall. And during the summer the Golf Cart Phenomenon happens, where golf carts come out of every garage and show up at the grocery store, or at movie nights at the park. Ask my dad and Erik, they found this both amusing and interesting.

Were we running from the stress that everything was bringing us? I guess it could look that way.

Did we feel that a move to Liberty Lake would be better for raising our family? I guess you could look at it that way.

I hope to look back at 2014 and think of it like we did 2005, when Lis was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a trying year all around, but in the end it allowed us to grow as a person, and family.

I hope to look back at 2014 and laugh about how I would stress or worry about every little detail, but how it taught me to “Let It Go.”

Goodbye 2014.

Bring on 2015. The #YearofChill!

2014 Year in Review: Part II – The First Six Months!

2014 Year in Review: Part II – The First Six Months!

As mentioned yesterday, what turned into a one-day post may turn into a three-day post.

Without going further in-depth about how Elsa and I seem to have a thing going on (Confused? Read yesterday’s post by clicking here), let’s break straight into the year that was 2014 for The Johnson Five.

January

The turn of the new year introduced us to a little soon-to-be princess phenomenon called Frozen. (I warned you yesterday that Frozen weaves in and out of my 2014 like Elsa’s braid.) Released in November 2013, the hit film about the relationship between two sisters – and a snowman that loves warm hugs – really hit fanatical status during winter break of that same year. We watched it on New Year’s, and even though I left the theater a little teary-eyed and wanting to build a snowman, I had no idea what it was going to do to my next few months – and really my entire year.

Most of Lukas’s basketball debut took place in January. Our month consisted of two practices and a Saturday game, and though we finished the season defeated – fancy for saying winless – the kids showed incredible improvement, even leading in our season finale, before dropping our postseason game by a point. I was very proud of how the kids improved, and actually felt like I was a decent coach.1617128_10151993676928922_85181635_o

As a father I was totally proud of Lukas in his first season. He led the team in scoring, shot well, and in the last game did his best to will his team to victory. I was impressed, and excited to see him both having fun to play, and having an interest in continuing to improve.

February

It’s all about the love right? I mean Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, all the best holidays are in February … snooze! Well when it came to the Super Bowl, I was feeling no love at all.

I was a Peyton Manning fan living in the heart of the Hawks Nest. What a fool! I stood by my man the entire time, and when Manning and the Broncos were destroyed by the Malcolm Smith-led Seahawks I was hurt. Like for real … hurt.

IMAG1833I called my post-Super Bowl blues my Black and Blue Monday. Sure I lost a bet that caused me to lose my hair (though it felt incredible, and didn’t look too bad), but for the second straight season Manning and his Broncos had caused me emotional pain.

I had enough. I was tired of investing so much in sports and not getting much in return, other than agony.

I decided to walk away from the NFL, paying no attention to the offseason (at least until the NFL draft rolled around).

I also vowed that no longer would I have Team 1A and Team 1B. Nope. I’m sorry Peyton it’s not you it’s … ah, who am I kidding? It’s all you buddy! Thanks to Manning I had been a Colts fan since 2004. Ten years I rooted for Indianapolis, and when the Colts faced Manning earlier in ’13, I found myself rooting for the Colts. I was all-in!

I don’t know if it was the whole KABOOM! thing, or because the Colts are in a cake division, but this year I didn’t stress or worry about watching Indianapolis play. They get smacked down on national television by the Steelers, Patriots, or Cowboys, fine! I turn off the TV and go do something else, rather than wallow in my defeat. I liked it. I felt great! Let’s see how I feel this Sunday when the postseason arrives.

Do I still love Manning? Yes, I always will. After all, you always remember your first, but I didn’t follow him much this year and if the Broncos are one-and-done, I’m going to be okay.

What else happened in February? So glad you asked!

I dislocated my ring finger. I had jammed my fingers hundreds of times, but when I swiped at the ball dreaming of a sweet steal, followed by an uncontested lay-up, and  noticed that my knuckle resembled a tire iron (you know the ones that have a part that stick out…I don’t know), I knew something wasn’t right. Next day the doc popped it back into place, and six months later I was finally able to put on my wedding ring. Sorry ladies!IMG_20140214_154445

I spent Valentine’s Day with my brother from my Godmother (pictured right). I was at a Nationwide Insurance conference in San Diego, doing my best to ignite a sales fire under my buns (how’d that work out for you?), and when the conference ended at 1 p.m., and I had nine hours to kill, I decided to call the one dude I’ve been friends with since the day I excited my mom’s womb. We drove around for much too long. Had a beer, talked about life, and had a nice time. Actually was a nice Valentine’s Day. Thanks Chris!

I hosted the Sky Valley Community Awards Banquet. I told a lot of decent jokes, one horrible joke that seemed to ruin my performance, but overall I made the night fly by, not dragging on the evening and allowing members of the audience and community to be involved.

March

The first day of March brought the second anniversary of running my own little office. I also decided to take a much-needed break from social media. No, I wasn’t running from anyone, I just needed to rid myself of the distractions it caused me. I’m in an office by myself, it’s very easy to find myself surfing the Internet, and allowing one ESPN post to take me to three other posts. How’d that work out for you?

IMG_20140327_185652Levi turned three in March, and mirroring his laidback demeanor, we had a laidback birthday for him, with family only.

The not-that-little dude continues to amaze us. After two kids, you tend to take the third one, and the things he is learning, for granted. His vocab continues to bloom, and he does things that you forget most 3-year-olds aren’t quite doing yet. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s the size of a 4 or 5-year-old. Not so much Wreck-It Ralph anymore, we still will occasionally call him Tank, when he’s standing next to another 3-year-old or getting at it at the dinner table. He loves and looks up to both his brother and sister, often taking his brother’s LEGOs to build his own contraption, or taking his sister’s dolls clothes to put them on his own Star Wars figures or Ninja Turtles. We’re hoping it’s just a phase.

Oh, and I finally got to meet Mr. PopBlerd! in person, spending an afternoon walking the streets of Seattle.

April

The Star Wars expanded universe was imploded in April and a great disturbance was felt when millions of dorks cried out in terror. What?! We spent money thinking this stuff was canon and then Disney comes around and blows it up! Not cool, but kind of cool. All those books and bloodlines were making my head hurt.

I felt a similar disturbance when after weeks of trying to figure out what direction we wanted to take our office, and then deciding to take it over the mountains to Spokane, we were told HALT! Another Nationwide agent had decided to pull the trigger before us, just days before I was about to sign a lease. Things happen for a reason, but at the time we weren’t sure what our next step would be. We knew that Sultan probably wasn’t the long-term answer. It was a town of 4,000 with homes and residents outside of Nationwide’s market, plus we were seven miles from the biggest Nationwide agent on the West Coast. Meanwhile, the Spokane area had 600,000 people and communities that were popping up all over.

That’s when I threw my hands up and told God, “It’s all yours dude!” I had been a Christian since ’98 but for the first time in my life I was handing it all over to Christ. I was tired of trying to make decisions on my own. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t easy. I had no idea where He would lead us, but I didn’t care anymore. As I talked about yesterday, I worry too much, and for once, I no longer felt worried. I was relieved, and kind of excited to see where He would lead us.

Turns out he would lead us to a place known for its sweet onions and wineries – Walla Walla. At least that’s where my parents were hanging out at a dog show, and well we needed a drive to clear our minds.

Enter Job.

Not like work “job” or G.O.B. Bluth, but Job, the book in the Bible about the dude that was tested by God, to prove Satan wrong, to prove that even the most faithful, in a time of distress, will not turn their back on Him. Job loved God so much that despite killing his livestock, employees, and family, and that despite tormenting him health-wise, Job was still going to be faithful to God. He never cursed God for the trials he was facing. It was probably the third hardest story I had read in the Bible (that whole Abraham sacrificing his son thing gets me every time, and let’s not forget the nails in the hands and feet that Jesus went through). In the end God rewards Job for his faithfulness.

How did I get from Walla Walla to Job?

Well I had found Job while doing a lesson for the Youth Group kids on the wisdom books. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job. I had read the first three, but never Job. The story interested me. I put it on the back burner.

Then Lis and I watched The Tree of Life, a 2012 Academy Award nominated movie starring Brad Pitt. Though I didn’t necessarily love the movie, the first line of it was a quote from the book of Job that said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? … When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Another seed planted. Another seed ignored, as I still didn’t open the book of Job.

Oh yah, Walla Walla.

Somewhere between Ellensburg and Walla Walla your radio disappears and the only stations you have are either in Spanish or are sermons. Since we don’t speak Spanish (Lis is from Brazil folks), and the CD player was busted, we settled on sermons.

Two of the three sermons on that road between non-stop wheat fields were about … you guessed it, my buddy Job. Fine! I get it! I’ll listen!

What was I to think? Either he was going to kill off my family, or maybe I needed to realize that if I remain faithful through all the trials, he’ll provide. That though at times, like nixing the Spokane office, I need to not ask him “Why?” but just relax and realize, it’s not in His plan. It’s not easy to do, but I’m learning, and like everything else, it’s a work in progress – and kind of fun!

May

As May approached we still had no clue what we wanted to do with our office – and life. Lis and I had decided that we definitely wanted change. Things were caddywhompus in Johnsonville, I was feeling burnt out from … well, everything. We needed to shake things up, but how much?

Enter Hillsboro, Oregon. The area was booming and Nationwide wanted to be in that market. Personally, the housing market was good, schools were not the best, but still the Portland Trail Blazers were nearby, minor league baseball was down the street, and well, it was different. So, like we did a year prior when we visited Spokane, we took a trip to scout Hillsboro.

Other than no sales tax, the best Mexican restaurant we had ever eaten at, and the newer portion of town seemed nice, we didn’t get that good feeling that we had felt after visiting Spokane. It could’ve been that the kids were sick the entire drive down (I think we pulled over three times on the way down, just to clean up vomit, thus us renaming Hillsboro to Hills-BARF-o), or that nothing leaped out at us. Nothing wowed us. Why move our family, just for the sake of change, to a community we didn’t feel we wanted to raise our family in? So we put it in God’s hands and decided to sit on it for a bit.

I love sports. I love the beach. I love making sweet love to my wife, but nothing cured my stress and frustration like hamming it up with my brother-from-another-mother, the Big Dog, in front of dozens of people at Sultan’s annual lip sync contest.

I had asked, and was granted, permission to emcee the event, and after watching past hosts torture the audience with knock-knock jokes during dead time, I decided that Jerry and I would do something different. Not only would our back-and-forth banter that allowed us to entertain the masses at past community events help spice up this event, but we’d also add something different when the judges disappear for about 15 minutes and the emcees are left improvising.

Unrehearsed we would do our own impromptu back-and-forth version of the “Evolution of Dance.”

No more words … just video!

Of course, there’s always someone that plays topper, and that someone came in the size of a certain 5-year-old that has lip sync in her bloodlines.

As I struggled to get the band back together, Lia approached me about doing the lip sync herself. Solo. Just her, a giant stage, bright lights, and about a hundred people in attendance. I was nervous. She’s always been dramatic, hilarious, and loved being the center of attention, but this was usually in the confines of our home, or around the dinner table. After she decided to not perform in our church’s Christmas program months prior, I was skeptical that when the lights shined bright, she might buckle. Still, I’m her father and I will support her whether she rocks it or stands there in shell shock.

The song she chose? Duh! “Let It Go” from Frozen. I warned you in my prior post that this song and movie would weave in and out of my 2014.

Her dry run, from our living room “stage,” was incredible. As a veteran of lip syncing, I know that a lot of people – kids and adults – don’t always nail the most important part of lip syncing – the darn mouthing of the lyrics! She had that part down, better than most adults.

I’d like to take credit for her performance, sure I threw some ideas out to her, and she took some and left some, but overall it was all her.

Her lip sync performance, excuse me, her first-place, $50, winning performance, was amazing. It left me in tears. It left Jerry in tears. She didn’t buckle under the spotlight, in fact, she did the exact opposite, like a true entertainer she thrived. As a multi-winning lip sync champion, I know that certain people thrive when the crowd is having a fun time. Like her father, she thrived. And out of all the moments in 2014, this was one of my proudest. If I ever feel down and out, I watch this video and I’m all better again!

Me? Though my brothers held firm and denied my lip sync requests, and a chance at a repeat, and though Lis followed suit by turning down what would’ve been a fun (and winning) performance of “Love is an Open Door” – see our first-attempt, living room performance here – I couldn’t sit and do nothing. Yes, from Frozen, here are me and my dad’s puppet doing “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People.”

Oh, and in May Lis and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by doing the very “Life With Three Kids” thing of Red Robin with the kids. You can read my 11 Star Wars phrases that describe my marriage here.

June

Since May was a bit hectic, I’m throwing the RFL into June, since it did take place May 31 – June 1.

This year’s event was the 10th for Team Force, and unfortunately, likely our last. I had asked everyone, yes everyone, that had ever played a part in our nine years of Relaying to come out and support us one last time. Though turnout was good, it wasn’t what I had hoped for. Understandable, people grow up, and tired of our loud and obnoxious (but fun) bunch. Some lifelong members formed their own squad, a bit disappointing, considering the reason I got us all involved, but in the year of letting go, I was okay with it and ended up having the most relaxing event since Year One!

Of course, with that aforementioned brother-from-another-mother running the event for the third straight year – this time without me by his side – I knew that I’d be involved somehow.

First, I helped him with Opening Ceremony and … let’s just say, hoping to just kick it and relax before the event didn’t quite happen. Yes the walkie-talkie is on. No I can’t hear you over the surrounding noise.

Second, he asked Lis and I to speak at Opening Ceremony. It was Lis’ public speaking debut and she did great. You’ll find the speech here. Me … like I usually do I made a couple of stupid jokes, shared our story, cried, and cried some more.

As a team we did things differently. We parked our tent on the back of the track and you know what? It was relaxing! I walked and walked and walked, and was able to have conversations with those that did come out and support Team Force. As a team we put little focus on doing the activities but more on just hanging out together as a team.

Except when it came time for the lip sync. Team Force has long been the standard by which all other teams will be compared when it comes to the RFL Lip Sync competition. Since the event was introduced a few years back, we had won every event (technically we won in 2013, earning the judges vote, when another team earned the crowd vote). So in 2014 we looked to our ringer, and that 5-year-old girl that stole the hearts from the people in the Sultan High School cafeteria in May.

“Ladies and Johnsons” I give you yet another performance, this time in front of a few hundred people.

Once again the event was wonderful, with or without a full team, with or without being heavily involved. Jerry did a nice job in his finale, and it was nice to see him recognized for the volunteer work he does for the RFL. I’d like to think that I played a small part in him getting more involved, which makes me proud of what he’s accomplished.

And once again the event did what I love about the event. It allows my family and I to remember why every year we get up early, pack up our canopy, and hang out for 20-something hours – to celebrate Lis’ victory, to remember what she went through, and to continue to fight back against cancer.

Lis and I continued to struggle with what we wanted to do with our office. Hillsboro? Sultan? We weren’t receiving any signs from God, other than we continued to find a fondness for Eastern Washington.

Thanks to my best month EVER, and our tax refund, we decided to use some of our savings and take my first vacation in over five years. Maybe a vacation would clear our heads. Maybe it would allow me to come back rejuvenated and ready to attack the insurance world. We had set our sights on Brazil for Christmas 2014, but with plane tickets nearing ludicrous status (a spin off of Spaceballs ludicrous speed), we aimed for Plan B … Disneyland!

Our goal was to not let the kids know where we were headed until we had arrived at the gates, then SURPRISE!

We coaxed (okay, we didn’t need to do much coaxing) my parents into going with us, thus taking their motorhome down to save some cost on lodging.

Mom's Big Pics (234)We went from “getting gas” to “visiting Bob” (an acquaintance of my dad) to “a trip to Walmart” to eventually visiting family in Southern California. Which we did! It was nice to get reacquainted with my dad’s side of the family, spending an afternoon swimming in their pool, hanging out and then having dinner at our favorite pizza place, Felippi’s Pizza Grotto.

The following day we headed to Legoland, where Lukas was caught off-guard until the Lego figurines that guard the gate finally ratted us out.

Legoland was nice. Not as expansive as I thought (but expensive, make sure you use the Buy 1, Get 1 Free tickets from the free LEGO magazines), but Lukas loved it, and Lia made friends with my great aunt’s granddaughter (not sure how that relates to us, but that’s okay). Highlight: If you bring your own LEGO figure into the park, you can trade with Legoland employees that have figures dangling from their lanyards. It was quite fun, especially when Lukas found an Emmet figure. As he just put, “I started freaking out!” Indeed he did, but SCORE! Group (1)

After Legoland we headed up north to a RV park near the Happiest Place on Earth. The fireworks didn’t totally give it a way but Lukas’ curious mind was wandering.

Unfortunately, on the day between Legoland and Disneyland news broke while I was on the can that my beloved Tony Gwynn had passed away at 54. The San Diego Padres have long been my favorite sports team. I became a fan on June 6, 1986, three years into Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career in which he spent 20 years with the Padres – just the Padres. The best hitter I ever witnessed, Gwynn was not only a class on the field, but also off of it. I’m lucky to say I have his autograph at least three times, and I still vividly remember two of those times. First when I bought his book titled Tony! and he cordially asked me my name, shook my hand, and put it in the book he signed for me. The second was at Spring Training in Yuma when a bunch of kids – myself included – mobbed him and he quickly said, “Single file line.” and we all obeyed him better than we had obeyed our own parents. He sat there, on an aluminum bench, an 8-time batting champ, signing all of our cards or baseballs for hours. A few years back I bought a vintage ’84 Gwynn jersey to show my love to Mr. Padre. His death hurt, the first of my “heroes” to pass away, but I’ll forever remember No. 19.

After a day of chilling at the park, we headed to Disneyland for a Magic Morning (that’s where you sneak into the park an hour before all the “regular” ticket holders). Were the kids surprised? Sure, but I think the Magic Morning was a bit too early, so excitement didn’t happen until later that morning.

I don’t know what it is but they call Disneyland the Happiest Place on Earth, and gosh darn it, it sure lights up my face! There’s something magical about the park. It could be memories of being a kid, the way it’s laid out, the rides, the nostalgia, I don’t know, but I love it!

I love it so much that I don’t mind hanging out in line for 3 hours, 14 minutes so that my daughter can get her picture taken with … you guessed it! Welcome back Elsa and Anna! Mom's Big Pics (660)

While I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited … (What? I love my daughter, love to create memories for the ones I love, and met some crazy dads like myself in line) Lia was getting dolled up courtesy of my parents and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. What a treat! Okay, since you’re at Disneyland already, and have already shelled out a butt load of money, spend the extra cash and have your daughter treated like royalty at the boutique (or be grateful your parents volunteered to do that for you).

Lia picked out an Elsa dress (DUH!) and spent the morning having her hair, nails and make-up done. Afterwards she had her picture taken both with and without some of the Disney princesses. And since Disney rocks, they make sure that the princesses are treated like princesses the rest of the day. When she crossed over the parade route they said, “This way Princess.” When she got on a ride they carefully took her hand and helped her get on the ride. And when she approached Captain America for a picture he dropped to one knee, took her by the hand, and called her Princess. She blushed and still doesn’t like to talk about it.

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I can go on and on about Disneyland and California Adventure, but I’m nearing 4,000 words so here are highlights both in writing and with photos.

Small Canon II (482)KJ's Instagram (4)Highlights: Lukas got to be a member of Jedi Academy. … Levi and Papi were nap buddies, leaving us all after dinner to go back to the motorhome and watch TV before dozing off. … Like mother, like daughter both Lis and Lia went down Splash Mountain twice, once with little Lia peeking over the edge of the log before dropping 53-feet. … An exhausted Mom and Dad taking an exhausted trio back to the RV on the final day of our three days allowing a little Kevy and Lisy time in the Magic Kingdom. Kind of romantic. … Dad’s face the last day at the park, and after Mom forced him to buy Lis a friggin’ Disneyland sweatshirt. … Cars Land = AMAZING! Radiator Springs Racers = TOTALLY AMAZING! … Visiting my other PopBlerd! buddy Garrett on the drive home. … The memories that we made that summer afternoon.

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See you tomorrow for the rest of the year!