Category: Family

New York Mets Spring Training – Day 3

Our time in the New York Mets bubble has come to an end.

Back to reality.

No more waking up in the dark, throwing on a wrinkled blue and orange t-shirt and tossing an interlocking “N” and “Y” inscribed hat on my head, preferably backwards, 19 year old frat boy style.

We’re back to khakis and hair gel and spreadsheets.

But another year of memories have been added to the ever growing repository. We’ve already relived them 8 times over and started the 2018 planning. I’m considering creating a binding contract for my wife and kids to ensure they will happily attend these same festivities through 2025. I need to know this will never end and that we will act this young for the foreseeable future.

That bubble I speak of, here is what I mean by that:

We took a detour from fastballs and fungos on Tuesday afternoon and headed for the nearby beach, about 25 minutes away. We’d find a place for lunch and then glance at the ocean for some time before heading back to Mets Land.

We found a great lunch spot and hit up the beach where it was sunny and warm and pleasantly pleasant.

After sufficient breathing in of the salty air, we headed back to the rental vehicle with a brief stop at a bench in the dunes to wash the sand off of our feet.

Within seconds, we were welcomed by a group of five who appeared to be holding some sort of ad hoc religious discussion, complete with pamphlets and funky looking bibles. They were nice folk who appeared to be interested in the fact that we were wearing Mets gear. Of course we were still in Metsville so the fascination seemed like a means to strike up conversation and then solicit our sins.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to confess to slandering Matt Harvey’s reputation and ultimately learned that one of the women was former Met Tim Teufel’s sister in law who was in town to celebrate his 35th wedding anniversary. That’s how things work down there. It is all Mets all the time, and we love every fucking second of it.

Of course once you are armed with this type of intel, you have to take advantage of it. And so yesterday, when Tim Teufel, currently a Mets coach, arrives looking to sign autographs, it is a joy to throw a “Happy 35th wedding anniversary Tim, Rose says Hi” out there just to sit back and observe his dumbfounded reaction.


Day 3 was ultimately a wash out as most of the players remained out on the field for only a short time before heading indoors, and away from the crowd for the remainder of the workout due to the rain.

The rain kept the crowds away which was great, but it also limited our exposure to balls hitting gloves and the sound of wooden bat on ball. The sounds are almost as much of a part of the sensory experience as the sights are.

It is the sound of spring and promise.

We did manage to witness some action, including the daily treat of watching the players run from the main field to other fields where they are greeted by the coaches. The kids all jump in line and await their high-fives.

 

 

The pitchers day consisted of some long toss and a few bunting drills before they disappeared and left us wanting more. I had a lot of fun capturing their long toss sessions through the drizzle.

 

 

 

 

 

Every team should be forced to carry one side-armed pitcher because to watch them pitch defies the laws of physics.

 

Once the pitchers departed, I watched the infielders warm up and even a simple act of tossing a ball back and forth is fascinating to me. It is like art. I could ogle all day.

 

 

Warm up was done and it was time to practice turning double plays. Mets top prospect Amed Rosario has the “it” factor and I made it a point to observe the future for a few minutes.

 

 

 

Soft hands and panache. I like.

Another interesting part of watching practice, is to see which players are working out at positions other than where they normally play. Like Jose Reyes fielding grounders at second base.

Versatility is king as the player gets older.

 

 

We were heading out of the complex by 11:00 and other than a quick stay in the parking lot to see if any players were signing as they vacated the facility, our day and time spent in Port St Lucie was done for 2017.

We agreed to eat lunch before heading to the airport and just as we were about to turn right towards Rt. 95 South, we collectively agreed to take one last peek at the complex. As we pulled up, there was a small crowd gathered by the security gate so we gave ourselves 20 minutes max to wait it out and see who may appear.

The stars were apparently aligned as Mets captain David Wright emerged into the parking lot as the last remaining player. He got in his car, turned it on and then shockingly headed over to the group, willing to sign before heading home. With David battling injuries and Father Time, we knew that this may be the last opportunity to spend this type of time in his presence.

Our travel companion these last two years, Jeanine, nearly hyperventilated. To say she loves “David” is an understatement. She had never met him and had never secured his autograph.

Ladies and gentleman, dreams do come true at Tradition Field.

Who is with us next year?

 

 

 

New York Mets Spring Training – Day 2

Back at it again 5:30 this morning.

The day proceeded not too unlike the day before and come to think of it, not too different from year’s past. We ogled world class athletes while they played a game and then chased them all over the complex so they could scribble their name on an expensive official MLB ball.

And then we complained about lower back pain.

I could go into painful detail about geeky Mets and baseball stuff but that isn’t really appropriate in this forum. Some day soon I’ll start an all Mets publication where like minded nerds can wax poetic about the need for a third lefty in the pen or ensuring there is a balance of lefties available off of the bench or whether or not a six man rotation makes sense.

If you understood any of that, can we be friends?

Even as the chaos unfolded in front of me and I took hundreds of photographs, I felt something more today. I felt present. I stared at my kids and realized this was a special and fleeting moment in time.

My son is 14 and how much longer will he get this excited to take this annual trip?

I could watch him organize his binders and balls all day.

I could watch that shit eating grin when he scores another autograph.

I cherish that fist pump he makes when he thinks no one is watching.

Unbridled enthusiasm and pure elation and I want to drink it in until I’m drunk and falling down.

I felt live in the memories today and while they filled me with warmth, there was a dash of bittersweet in there and I didn’t like it.

May this never end.

Jack with future superstar Amed Rosario.

 

The kids with Zack Wheeler.

 

Jamie and her Jacob deGrom autographed ball.

 

The kids and the joy of a bubble gum bucket.

The lack of sleep, endless waiting and pacing, sharp pain in the calves and disappointment when a potential autograph falls through is all worth it.

Baseball and sunshine and family and friends. That is a good way to spend a day.

Fine, here are a few additional pics for you Mets fans and baseball nerds.

The three-headed monster of a pitching rotation. Syndergaard, DeGrom and Harvey.

 

The beast that is Yoenis Cespedes.

 

Remember kids, Uncle David Wright always says look the ball into your glove.

 

I love me some baseball bats.

 

Manager Terry Collins firing up the boys.

 

Goofy stretching is a rite of passage in baseball.

 

Robert Gsellman signing for Jamie.

 

Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

 

 

New York Mets Spring Training 2017 – Day 1

Pleasant sounding alarm awakes us all at 5:40 AM.

We all slept like shit the night before. 75% of us are battling illness and the cacophony of coughing emanating from room 210 probably kept the entire hotel awake all night.

But Jack and I push on.

We get ready in 7 minutes but bump into every piece of furniture at least twice along the way. The ladies will be up for good as a result but thankfully aren’t dumb enough to accompany us to Tradition Field in the wee hours of the morning.

Quick trip through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and we are on our way stocked with caffeine.

It is a 2 minute drive to the park because any further distance away and my son would physically attack us.

The three of us (including Jeanine, our Mets companion for the past two years now) arrive at the park at 6:07 A.M. and there are two other knuckleheads present and as insane as us.

We now wait for the players to arrive in the players only parking lot. The spots in the lot are marked with their uniform numbers so we immediately know who has arrived. Our move is to have me identify the player and then shout it out so Jack and Jeanine can plan accordingly. Some players are worthy of official major league baseballs and others fall down a bit and are worthy of a baseball card.

Within twenty minutes, we strike gold big time. Superstar Yoenis Cespedes agrees to come over and sign for us. Jackpot.

Fan for life.

We only get one more autograph but that is OK. The joy of this morning ritual is what gets us through the winter months in the Northeast U.S. We are diehards and proud of it.

The park opens up at 9:30 A.M, so we have time to head back to the hotel for a bathroom break and pick up my wife and daughter. The five of us are decked in Mets gear and ready to watch millionaires play catch.

Actually before that, there is stretching. Lots of stretching.

As they stretch, we start to sweat in the Florida heat and fucking love it.

The players then all run off to different fields to start the day’s drills.

The Mets lead the league in hair volume by a landslide.

We wander from field to field to watch infield practice.

But eventually settle on watching the pitchers because they are the main attraction for this Mets team and have been for years running now.

As the players run from field to field, we do our best to get in their way and annoy them and give them unsolicited high-fives.

That would be Thor (Noah Syndergaard) and his killer man-bun.

A favorite rite of passage dating back to 2014 is to be completely ignored by Matt Harvey and his ego and this year was no exception.

Swoon. I love a player who plays hard to get.

Practices last under three hours because baseball players are weak. I kid, they do a lot of work inside the facility away from the rabid fans where they don’t have to pretend to enjoy our presence.

And there are moments of intense exertion on the field as well.

As practice winds down, we all take our places in anticipation of the insanity that is autograph signing. And we wait.

And wait some more.

Until some of the players take the time to sign and interact with the fans.

Although, I honestly don’t know how they put up with it all day after day. Oh, they make millions? Scratch that.

We do truly appreciate those who take the time out and sign for the kids as they provide them with a memory for a lifetime. The smile on their collective faces make the trip worth it.

Each signed ball or card now has a back story that we relive throughout the year.

And f it, we’ll do it all again tomorrow morning starting at 5:40 AM once again.

 

 

26 observations from my 20th wedding anniversary trip to Antigua

My wife and I just returned from our 20th wedding anniversary trip to the island of Antigua. We expected it to be a romantic and relaxing and all time memorable trip … and it exceeded those lofty expectations and then some.

antigua

Rather than write up a summary of the trip and potentially bore you to tears, I decided to write up the highlights in list form for ease of consumption.

If you are interested, and why the hell wouldn’t you be, we stayed here.

And had the anniversary drinks/dinner here. Yes, on a daybed and on the side of a cliff while watching the sunset.

drinks

We’re still reveling in it all.

On to the list.


In no particular order:

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road (the left, sorry Brit friends) is challenging and fun. As is navigating around wild dogs and crater sized potholes. I found if I talked aloud about my next driving move, I was OK. “I’m making a left turn, don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic and will stay to the left after the turn.”

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  • I understand that vacation is a mirage and an escape from everyday life, but I like to think it removes all of life’s distractions and exposes the core of what brought you together as a couple in the first place. Our core is killer. Beyond what I ever imagined was possible as a wee young lad. I will not take that for granted. Ever.
  • Pineapple juice wins over orange juice every time. Why did it take me so long to recognize this? Oh, the quality of the pineapple makes all the difference you say? Got it.
  • My wife living in the upper northern hemisphere is akin to me growing bamboo in rural New Jersey. Neither resides in their native habitat and while we are knee deep in the native plant movement, maybe I need to initiate a move to get her back to her Mediterranean roots. Warm weather calls us. I just need to come up with a title for this movement.
  • The men in Antigua appeared to be way more friendly and engaging than the women. I wonder if that is cultural?
  • I am in the process of commissioning an artist to create a mural on our bedroom ceiling that simulates the view we had from our bed each morning.

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  • I reluctantly joined the fashion trend in wearing a shorter bathing suit and while I looked phenomenal and fit right in, I burned the shit out of my upper thigh which hadn’t seen the sun in decades.
  • Magical is an overused term and should be reserved for those moments that are truly magical by definition. Having said that, we experienced many of those magical times.
  • I am by nature, a non-explorer, so the day spent meandering through the windy and rainy and oft times terrifying roads of Antigua was a reach for me. An exciting and hilarious reach on a day we will never forget. Vasco de Markowski.

us-antigua

  • She’ll never admit it, but my wife could be a travel agent and vacation planner solely off the top of her head. Her ability to research is off the charts. From packing to flying to driving to meal planning to excursions to best local options to you name it, she had it covered. Her hourly rate is reasonable. I did zero.
  • $32.00 for a hamburger. You read that right. I’m not sure if that price included cheese or not.
  • I may or may not have flashed my passport like an international man of mystery while walking through the airport. And I did get giddy each time it was stamped.
  • Afternoon tea must be incorporated into the Markowski household. With clotted cream and scones. And a British accent.

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  • I had no idea that an Eastern Caribbean time zone existed. I still can’t grasp that we were operating at an hour later than NJ time. I’m so sheltered.
  • I may need to revisit my self-imposed ban on bathrobes. Holy comfort.
  • Give me Tetris and Bejeweled on the headrest TV screen on the plane and I can be entertained for hours.
  • I’m convinced that I could be the social media lead for a resort and be kick ass at it. The scenery sells itself and there is no excuse for not posting at least 5 Instagram photos per day. It is free advertising.

The pool at Carlisle Bay, Antigua. #carlislebay #carlislebayantigua #antigua #pool #caribbean #sun #escape

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

  • Tropical plants are a foreign concept to me and someday I’d love to invest a significant amount of time in learning all about them.

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  • I think it is a good sign that we both had tears in our eyes as we exited the resort.
  • I think it is important that the kids observe their parents enjoying time alone as a husband and wife. They should know that we missed them and didn’t miss them at all.
  • At the same time, it was fun to virtually share our experience with them via Snapchat and Instagram.

snap-antigua

  • One of the things I miss most already was the walk to breakfast each morning. Holding hands while walking through a palm tree lined path that lead to our eating feet from the beach with the entire day still in front of us. It was intoxicating.
  • antigua-3antigua-2Holding hands is way underrated.
  • Our idea of “water sports” consisted of trying to pick up shells before they were washed away from shore and giddily chasing crabs before they descended back into their holes.
  • Traveling the day after Thanksgiving is fantastic. No crowds at all. Getting to JFK airport was a dream and that has never been uttered before in the history of declarations.
  • I dog eared a book for the first time in my life while we were away. I am going to define myself as writer from this day forward. You can read more about it here. “What do you do for a living John? I’m a writer.” That feels fucking great.

Swingset trellis

“Jamie, how would you feel if we took down the swingset and put in a large vegetable garden and orchard? We could all work on it together. Wouldn’t that be fun? You could learn all about gardening. Plus, you don’t really play on it any longer.”

“Dad, you would ruin my childhood.”

OK then.

I’m still not sure if she was joking, but point taken. This swingset was put up before she could even walk and she is now 10.5.    

swingset trellis

Those are actually nicely trimmed weeds within the “playground” and not grass. At some point I gave up on mulching it and trying to fight the otherworldly weeds that emerged there each spring.

And now I’m prepared to turn that area into a deer-proof vegetable garden along with a few fruit trees for good measure. I’m still an amateur when it comes to growing anything edible but I’m ripe and ready (see what I did there?) to get all sorts of educated.

But what to do about that swingset?

I’m a nostalgic guy and all but it’s just a swingset, right? We’ll always have those memories of sliding down the slide in the snow, pushing the kids for hours on end when they were wee things and that one time when our family picnic went awry when the bees started to attack us all. Just because the swingset is physically removed doesn’t mean the memories are removed, correct?

Would you mind telling her that?

swing-jamie

And them that.

swing-jamie-and-jack

So my plan looks to have hit a roadblock. I can’t live with being a destroyer of memories.

But then one wonderful reader (may have actually been two) made a suggestion that I really should have thought of myself …

Use the swingset as trellis for beans and other edible vines. A swingset trellis solves the dilemma. 

I get it.

The swingset still stands in some capacity satisfying the children’s need to not erase their childhood and we get our long desired vegetable garden. F’n brilliant.

I haven’t approached the little decision makers with the swingset trellis idea yet but I think it could work. I can sell this. I’m even thinking we may be able to keep the set functional in ways while all sorts of deliciousness grows around them. This could actually be fun and dare I say, creative.

Here are some ideas I’ve already pulled from other sites:

Check out this swingset as trellis.

And this swingset as arbor.

And the benefit of not creating waste by doing this.

What do you think about a swingset trellis concept? Have any suggestions on how to best sell this to potentially heartbroken children? How about any creative ways to incorporate the swingset and keep it functional, like still being able to swing?

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Weekend in Connecticut

We spent a long weekend in Connecticut after being off from work all last week. Now we return to reality tomorrow and I don’t like reality very much. Actually that’s not true, I feel ready to conquer the world and do some big things in the near future. But that could be the vacation vibe talking. But who cares, right? Enjoy that feeling while it still lasts, right?

Before I jump back into spreadsheets and conference calls and holistic synergies, here are some pics from the weekend.

Time spent at the family retreat at Cedar Lake in Chester, CT always does the soul well.

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I have a lot of fears in the water (thanks Mom) and thankfully my daughter didn’t inherit those genes. She jumped right in the kayak and took off around the lake. Deep breaths and a few beers got me through it.

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My wife and I were graciously granted a lunch date by our host and hostess. Before they could say “enjoy”, we were at the Madison Beach Hotel restaurant, a luxurious hotel housed right on the Long Island Sound.

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Of course oysters …

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Followed by beach selfies with my one and only.

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On our way to the beach at Watch Hill, RI we stopped at a legendary italian ice joint, Vecchittos Italian Ice in Middletown, CT. Beyond delish and easily the best I’ve ever had.

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When in Watch Hill, RI one must pose for pics near the Ocean House. I wrote about this grand hotel a few years ago (you can read it here) and we are still in awe each time we see it.

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Once on the public beach in Watch Hill, the kids attacked the ocean and stayed in for hours, no exaggeration.

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I could go on and on about how well we were treated by all family this weekend, but you don’t know them and I need to protect their identity so only WE can enjoy it for years to come. Just know I ate Belgian Waffles for three mornings straight and never wanted for a single beverage.

And last but not least, the return to the garden. Always a consolation prize after returning from vacation.

Still plenty of blooms …

coneflowers and be susan

 

… but it is clear that the grasses have announced their arrival. It is their time to take center stage. Expect them dominate on this blog for weeks to come.

planter bed

 

karl foerster bee balm

 

panicum joe pye tomato cages

 

grasses 2

QOTD – have you ever dreamed up a big idea or made a life change decision while on vacation? If so, would you be so kind as to share the experience? I think I’ve got one but it will be a secret until it comes to fruition.

Moving on to high school

How the hell did we get here so fast? How is it possible that I have a son who can now be identified as a high school student as of last night? Damn, I always envisioned myself reaching a certain maturity level and having my shit together by the time my son hit the 9th grade and well, that didn’t happen. My parents seemed so much more mature and fatherly/motherly when I entered high school and now I’m realizing they may have just been hiding it real well. We need to have that conversation some day soon.

But this isn’t about me.

My son Jack graduated from 8th grade last night and as you would expect, my wife and I anticipated some emotions to bubble up during the ceremony. They already crept in leading up to last night so we knew it could get ugly real fast. I had a masculine front to hold up in front of the other dads so I had by best lip biting routine ready to go.

Turns out, I held up fine but my wife, not so much. I managed to keep it together during the slide show presentation of the students as babies, when each of the students presented their personal lesson learned from the school year and even when Jack was presented with his diploma. Maybe it was due to the gallon of sweat hiding under my shirt or concern with how long the salmon needed to sit on the grill when we got home, but either way, I survived the ceremony.

But it didn’t end there. What eventually got me was the following photo and it didn’t even move me when I originally snapped it last night based on my wife’s recommendation. Instead, it hit me like a ton of bricks this morning, when I was reviewing all of the pics from the festivities.

grad gym cleared out

The gym was all but abandoned as most had moved on to taking their obligatory outdoor photos with the family. I look at this pic now and the gym seems to be taking a much needed breath. You can tell that the gym has done this a few times in the past and has the routine down pat. It had already moved on and for some reason that saddened me. This locale was a huge part of my son’s world and I still needed time to reflect. He had been in this school and in this gym for 8 years (the beauty of a small town) so there our memories in every corner of that red and black gymnasium.

I remember our initial orientation back in 2008 when Jack looked like he saw a ghost during the entire tour.

I remember his first year of basketball here and biting my tongue every time he traveled and playing it cool when he scored for the first time, after traveling.

I remember the first “Back to School Night” and staring out at all of the parents wondering who we would get to know well over the next 8 years.

I remember the concerts and wondering if Jack actually knew what we was doing with that saxophone. It kind of didn’t matter, he looked cool.

I remember basketball practices together from this year, forever thankful that I got to coach and hang with him one last time.

And now we’re forced to move on.

If the first 8 years of school flew by, I can’t even imagine what we’re in store for with the next four years. Based on my research and through various forms of intel, I’ve determined that we should expect those 4 years to feel like 3 months. And I still have so many questions I need answered by someone if I have any hopes of feeling any level of control again.

Do I push him hard to pursue his passion or let him find his way?

When does the college discussion become a reality?

How does a new school and new bus route impact our family schedule?

When does that baby face transition to High School Jack?

Should I be more serious about Rogaine in anticipation of the high school graduation photos?

Will he still be as passionate about the Mets and can I book Spring Training trips through 2020?

Do we have any chance of him still liking us?

grad

If you have any of these answers, please provide immediately and you will be fairly compensated. In fact, that is my question of the day. Give me one piece of parental advice when it comes to managing a child in high school.

Thank you.

Next post we return to the gardening world where I have so much more control.

That was a joke.

Funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How one emotional journey led to apple trees

I will never give you gardening advice on this blog.

Never have, never will.

There are plenty of other places online and in killer books to find great info from experts all across the globe.

What I’ve enjoyed presenting here for the past 6 years is a peek into my own garden and what I’m doing, be it educational or smart or as you’ve witnessed many times before, just plain dumb.

I’ve also enjoyed sharing the emotions that come with hardcore gardening because yes, gardening is an emotional undertaking. There is anger when big plans fall apart over the winter. There is frustration when there is no answer as to why that stupid perennial still won’t bloom after three years in the ground. There is elation on those days when it all seems to come together. There is indifference when you get tired and start to question whether or not it is all worth it.

And all of those emotions occur within the same day.

I’ve also taken to sharing the evolution of not only the garden as a whole, but also that of specific plants. When I can, I like to capture plants in their infancy and then document their growth in subsequent years. I also enjoy sharing a plant’s ever changing look and feel from season to season. With that info in hand, it helps when deciding whether or not to purchase said plant and how it fits into your overarching garden vision.

I needed to dispense that background info before getting to the point of today’s post. Because all of that ties into what I’m about to show you.

A week or two ago my wife and I were enjoying one of our typical romantic soirees; both on our devices on separate couches while the kids watched Family Feud and the dog jumped from couch to couch trying to determine which was more comfortable and which adopted parent would offer up more attention (P.S. My wife wins every time).

After one of the many Steve Harvey “survey says?”, my wife handed me her iPad to show me a blog she had been reading. The couple and their young children were picking apples from a tree while skipping and smiling and enjoying life to the fullest. A f’n Hallmark moment. The intention was for me to see that the apple tree was producing 4 different fruits on one tree. She had never seen that before and admittedly, neither had this so-called expert gardener.

I handed the iPad back to my wife with the intention of then researching this fascinating apple tree to see if it was legitimate. But I couldn’t shake the photo. Yes, I realized it was a staged pic and the kids more than likely were fooled into giving a shit for their mom’s sake, but it still grabbed my attention for two reasons:

1)How did my own children get so old (10 and 13) so fast and were they already beyond the age of wanting to really hang with us? Could we legitimately pull off this type of scene ourselves? How much longer do we actually have in our current home knowing we’d like to move south in the future because we both hate the cold with a passion. Maybe 12-13 years? How does that factor into what I still plant here knowing our rough timeline?

2)Why haven’t I tried growing an apple tree before?

I know, you probably think this is a convenient set-up for what is to follow but I swear on all that is holy that this is exactly how it played out in my head.

That night I went on to the Stark Brothers website determined to purchase an apple tree or two. I still had time to nurse these trees to the point of giving fruit before Jack headed off to college. Poorly draining clay soil be damned, I’ll figure it our some how.

Within ten minutes I had purchased three trees:

Honeycrisp

Red Rome Beauty Apple (as a pollinator for the Honeycrisp)

4 on 1 Antique Apple (yes, similar to what we had seen in that blog post referenced above)

Time was of the essence and I could not deal with the regret of not having at least tried to grow apple trees. Too spontaneous? One could argue that, but I got caught up in the moment and allowed the nostalgic wave to get the best of me.

So last weekend, the three bare root trees were planted. It was a bit cold (in the upper 40’s) and windy and real wet but I feared not getting these in the ground soon enough. After some careful planning for like 3 minutes, I knew where I wanted them.

Out came 3′ in diameter sections of the lawn and in went my 3-4′ sticks of joy.

apple trees

Those trees are further apart than they look and the trees are all dwarf, expected to reach about 8-10′ in size. I’m not that incompetent.

After digging the holes and planting, I tried my best to ignore the reminders of how wet the soil stays with our high water table.

wet lawn 2

wet lawn

Too late, I’m all in. And determined to make this work. I even mapped out a plan to massively expand an existing garden bed off of my deck that would include two of the apple trees and a nearby River Birch. I’m thinking a small seating area with some large pots since I don’t want to mess with the roots of the three trees.

nrew bed

So there you have it.

Another opportunity to share a plant’s origin with you from the outset and we can all watch them grow up together and hopefully bear fruit some day. That, or we can laugh at my not-well-thought-out attempt at an orchard.

Either way, you the reader wins.

My emotions got the best of me here but I’m glad that they did. This should be fun and frustrating and scary and annoying …

Learning to love a small dog

So I’m watching “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” a few weeks back and I’m about to have a panic attack. I shit you not.

In case you’ve never seen this 2008 classic (wink), it is about a bunch of talking Chihuahuas and some sort of need to rescue one of the dogs in Mexico or something. And there is a lot of George Lopez talking. That’s all you need to know. It is utterly awful and annoying, especially if you’re like me and hate talking animals or talking babies.

More on that in a bit.

As you may already know, we adopted a puppy back in December. Mia is now about 5 months old and we are all in love. We have no clue what breed(s) she is and have heard everything from Dachshund to Terrier to Mountain Dog. Who knows? We’re considering running a DNA test to get a definitive answer but truth is we don’t care at this point.

When we got Mia, she weighed 3.5 lbs.

mia 5

While she was this fragile little thing, we knew in time she would grow to be a nice and healthy and at least average sized dog. Right? I will always remember our Puppy Kindergarten trainer’s words when she first met Mia “She’s going to be a small one, huh?” What? How does she know this already? How small are we talking? We are not small dog people. What did we get ourselves into?

About a week or so after that, we had a friend over to the house to meet Mia for the first time. After the requisite “She is adorable” and “What a cute little thing”, the next words out of her mouth made me fall to my knees and weep, “She might be a “Chiweenie“. Come again? What exactly is that?

ChiWeenieLuigiVonHunkledinkSaboDog

Oh OK, that isn’t terrifying or anything, a mix of a Chihuahua and a Dachshund. Could this be true? I spent every waking second checking out Mia’s ears to see if they were transforming.

Mia

I didn’t sign off on this. Are we going to carry her around in one of those large purses too? Is she going to wear a dress? Listen, I’m not a fan of cats and will never comprehend their “way”, but I may be more willing to care for a cat than this bizarro hybrid we acquired.

So when my daughter puts on “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” that was the last straw. I don’t know this world and don’t want to get to know it. I want my Labrador Retriever back. I get big dogs and I like big dogs.

Spoiler alert: As the weeks have rolled on, as have the visits to the vet, Mia continues to put on the pounds and as of yesterday, she is up to 18 lbs. That alone puts to bed the possibility of the horrid Chiweenie. She is small but tall, and has very long legs. I’m still rooting for an eventual 25 lbs but if we don’t get there, I’ll be OK with it. I’ve managed to adapt to the concept of the smaller dog, the lap dog if you will. Here’s our lap dog’s current routine:

  • Wake up between 6:00 and 6:15
  • Bathroom trip outside where she does “both” consistently
  • Wolf down the breakfast kibble
  • After the last kibble is downed, Mia races upstairs and jumps into our bed
  • Once in our bed, she greets Jodi with 8-10 licks and then climbs under all of the blankets and goes back to sleep at the foot of our bed
  • I get back in bed and fall back to sleep until 7:00
  • Jodi gets up for work
  • At 7:00 I make coffee and Mia trails Jodi wherever she goes and even partakes in some in some coconut oil
  • At 7:15 I place Mia in Jack’s bed so she can wake him up
  • At 7:25 I place Mia in Jamie’s bed so she can wake her up
  • By 7:30 Mia has put a smile on all of our faces

This is our new normal. And it ain’t so bad.

mia 2

And I should mention she is rather intelligent.

Time to sit back and enjoy the ride from here.

 

Why I Love Spring Training

The Markowski family “New York Mets Spring Training 2016 Extravaganza” came to a close earlier this week.

Put it in the books.

It’s outta here.

To say we are hooked on the experience is a gross understatement. It dominated our conversations all three days while we were in Disney World following ST, which is really saying something. Mickey ain’t got nothing on “The Big Sexy”.

bartolo-colon

After returning home late Wednesday night and somehow stumbling into the office on Thursday, I was bombarded with the requisite “How was your trip to Florida?” Normally I’m not a fan of recounting a vacation because you know, it’s over and I’m annoyed and you really don’t care much anyway, you’re just being courteous.

But this time was different.

Without hesitation, I went all tween:

 … and then we like, saw Harvey

I totally got a fist bump from Yo

Oh my gawd, Piazza was there and he looked like way skinny  

Yes I’m 43 and many of the players are of the age where they could be my son. Don’t judge.

As I provided detail after painful detail about the Spring Training experience I could see that my coworkers expected to hear more about Disney, the most wonderful place on earth. Sure it was magical or whatever, but it couldn’t hold a candle to watching overpaid men throw a baseball back and forth.

why i love spring training

At this point you are probably asking yourself, why the love for glorified baseball practice? Thanks so much for asking. You’ve aided in my transition to now listing all of the reasons why. Some will be obvious and others not so much, but collectively I hope I can effectively express why ST is a must-see for any baseball fan.

 

Florida is warm in February. New Jersey is not warm in February. If you hate the cold as much as I do, this is an easy one to grasp. My goal is to figure out how one becomes a snowbird and still keeps their day job at my age.

mets tradition field 2

 

There is no better player access than during Spring Training. I don’t know if all teams provide the same level of access as the Mets do, but it is phenomenal.

mets wright

The kids (and adults if they so wish) get fist bumps as the players race between fields and drills. You can listen in on the conversations between coaches as they watch/evaluate their players. Getting to watch the players hit in the batting cages from just feet away is worth the price of admission. Speaking of admission …

 

There is no admission cost. Yes, you heard that right. Attending ST practice is free, including the parking.

why i love spring training

 

The autographs. Good luck trying to score an autograph at a major league game. Those days have been over for a while now. But during ST, almost all of the players will sign at one time or another. With the success of the Mets last season, the crowds seemed to double in ST this year, as did those seeking autographs. Still, the chase is exciting and most of the players are as accommodating as possible, especially with kids.

mets wheeler signing

My son is an autograph freak. His collection has become super impressive over the past few years. I’m not going to lie, the hunt during ST is a bit like gambling and the rush is a hell of a lot of fun. This year, we were at the stadium for three straight days before 6:30 AM and were the first fans to arrive. Most of the time, the players arrived to the park and just waved, but there were a few who stopped to sign and that was awesome.

We also typically stay until the last player/coach has left the facility and have hit pay dirt from time to time.

Mets Collins

**Negative aside** There was one much more noticeable negative this ST in terms of autographs. We encountered way more “dealers” than last year and I’d have to assume that has to do with the team’s success. They had no problem pushing kids aside and shoving their way to the front of the line. My son is very laid back and not the least bit aggressive or obnoxious when it comes to pursuing an autograph. These a-holes made autograph pursuing a lot less fun this year for him and they don’t know a thing about the Mets to boot.

True story: a group of 5 guys came up to my son and asked him to identify a few players they had on a photo they were looking to get signed. I shit you not, it was Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard. I’m sorry, if you don’t know who they are by now, stay the hell out of Tradition Field. There should be a basic entry test before one is allowed into the facility. I’ll design it and even implement it next year.

 

Fan camaraderie. This is the most underrated benefit. The majority of the fans at ST are the diehards. Those that remember every Met dating back twenty years. They remember Butch Huskey and Danny Heep. They know who plays second base in AA and what WAR means.

At least 15 casual conversations are had each day with someone you just met and there is that immediate bond. I could listen to stories about how entertaining Rickey Henderson was in ST in 1999 or how much more out of shape the players were upon arriving to ST back in the 80’s. Every fan had a story and one was better than the next.

 

Taking an interest in a player’s personal life. Since the access is so fantastic and often times you get to chat up a player, it makes you interested in the person as much as the player. You feel like you got to know that player on a more intimate level even for a brief moment and it inspires you to want to know more about what makes them tick.

I’ve taken a liking to the Mets relief pitchers, specifically those who are on the bubble for a roster spot. You can see their appreciation for getting another chance and you cannot help but pull for them to make it. During the season you may scream at the TV “How can you walk a .225 hitter?” but then think back to that interaction in ST and realize they are more than just a number on the back of a uniform.

That player for me this year is Buddy Carlyle.

mets - jamie and carlyleSuper nice guy and beyond signing for my daughter, I watched him chat with another little girl who reminded him of his own daughter and all I saw was the human, missing his child, but having no choice if he wanted to continue in his current profession. I’m pulling for him.

 

A chance to watch the “up and comers” before they explode on the scene. Since ST includes those players who will start out in all levels of the minor leagues, you get a chance to get a sneak peak at the future stars. You get to see the players go about their business quietly and humbly since they are just starting out and learning the ropes. You get to see glimpses of their skills and why they were so highly touted in the first place. You get to see them before they have a chance to become hardened to the never ending carousel of fans and media requests. That player was Noah Syndergaard last year.

mets thor 2

Now he is “Thor” and has taken New York by storm in only one year’s time.

mets - thor hitting

 

Your fandom becomes a richer experience. Last year was the perfect example. As the Mets season developed into a special one starting in July and running all of the way through October, I got that feeling of “I was there from the beginning. I literally watched certain players meet on the practice field.”

I watched players get criticized in ST (Ruben Tejada) only to bounce back and play well at times during the season. I watched players come into camp as potential starters only to be gone at season’s end (John Mayberry). I watched pitchers who were up an coming really up and come within no time (Thor).

It’s the reason you start calling the team “we” instead of “the Mets”.

 

On a more personal level, here are additional reasons why I plan on heading down to Port St. Lucie, FL for the foreseeable future:

Photographic opportunities. If you read any of my posts from the past week, this one is obvious. ST allows you to feel like you were granted special access to the players. The photo opps for a wanna be professional photographer like me are endless.

Mets - Wright

 

Inspiration watching someone do what they love. Maybe it’s just me and where I am in age and professionally right now, but I walk away from ST determined to also pursue what I love as a profession. It may not last beyond the plane ride home, but watching these young dudes do something that requires such skill and athleticism and all of it done with a smile on their face is a thing of beauty. You can’t help but get caught up in it. It even extends to the photographers and the beat writers and the security guards and the coaches. It is a contagious thing and I gladly allow myself to soak it in.

 

The crew grows larger year after year. My wife and daughter and another friend attended ST for the first time this year and they have all admittedly been converted to lifers. It’s fun to watch someone experience it for the first time and we hope to up the crowd even more in 2017.

Mets - all of us

Who’s with us?