Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Many Happy Returns of the Day Tom!

Sunday was Tom's birthday and we did our best to make it the most fun, most relaxing and happiest day of his year. Not sure we succeeded but it was a damn good day.

We had a few key gifts planned (new book and new camera lens) and football games to watch.

Thankfully the Vikings kicked some butt and won. Then, in an extra bonus overtime, so did the Packers!! (ok, not sure Tom's excited about the Packers winning but I am!!)

I also mowed the lawn so that he could enjoy the game uninterrupted (wife of the year, I know...)

He was able to go to the club and work out and... had the dinner of his choice.  Lamb chops, creamy risotto and fresh green beans. I was in charge of the beans and risotto (my specialty) and he did the lamb. Needless to say it was amazing and I stumped him with my secret risotto ingredient. He couldn't figure out what it was but Kay did on 1st bite (spoiler alert, sr cream in risotto adds extra creaminess and bit of bite that the lamb needed)

Then we compared favorite stories from the year and our favorite birthdays.

Tom's favorites from the past year....
~ Him going back to work full time
~ Tracy getting a new job
~ Jimmy getting his drivers license
~ Kay getting 2nd in regionals on beam
~ Billy getting 2nd in nationals in sparring

Overall a pretty damn impressive year.

On the subject of favorite birthdays, he picked some classics ...
~ his 40th complete with a new fishing boat, photo shopped pictures from high school with Tracy in each one and staying up with friends and family until 4am
~ Jimmy's 5th birthday in Bangalore when everyone came dressed as spider man
~ Kay's 11th birthday and the live auction (enough said...)
~ Billy's 3rd birthday where he had a Cars cake and wouldn't let anyone touch it, he loved it too much
~ Tracy's most memorable but probably not favorite was when she turned 6 and her parents threw her presents into the way back of the station wagon as they drove to Disney World for a week, in June...

Tom, its so fun celebrating YOU! Thanks for all you do, who you are and what you mean to us.

We love you!!! OXOXOXOXOX

Jays class picture next to her former year pictures 


Billy's class photo 

Kay refusing to get her photo take + my cute boys

Jimmys class photo

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Watch out world, there is 1 new driver in your midst!

Yes, a major milestone and hurdle to adulthood, James Michael Lee Murphy is now a licensed driver.'

It was a bit of an ordeal but he got there.

A bit of context, getting a behind the wheel appointment in the Twin Cities is like trying to get an audience with the pope. It take forever and you need to have connections and do favors.  Since we didnt want him missing school and he didnt want to miss football, it left us precious few options for his test. In fact, it meant that Tracy and Jimmy drove to Winona in late August for the 1st attempt (foreshadowing, you can see where this is going...). Its a 2 12/ hour drive, the did it in the dark, through road construction and Tracy made Jimmy drive.  They had a wonderful chat about football, school and life and encountered some harrowing fog and windy hilly river roads but they made it!

The next morning, after some last minute rules of the road cramming and texting with a friend from Korean camp that is learning to drive in Winona,  they were up and headed to the drivers station.  It did not look good. The instructor was flustered, crabby and might have been hung over.  It didnt go well.  While Tracy waited with bated breath, Jimmy came in shaking his head and downtrodden, he didnt pass.  What really killed him was that it wasnt one thing. It was a point off here and there and a mandate to practice for another week and try again.  UGHHH!! It would have been better if he crashed or hit the pylon during parking.  But the slow no was killing him. Lets just leave it at ... the ride home sucked.

So, back to the drawing board to find a time to retest and back at practicing parallel parking and driving.  For the 2nd test, we were insistent that he use the Pilot as its going to be the car he drives. But, this is infinitely harder to park than the Insight (which he used in the 1st test).  Needless to say, the next 2 weeks were full of practice, frustration, minor moments of hope and building anxiety that he might not pass his second time either (on our part, for his part he figured "I've already passed once, i just need to do it again" the kid does not lack confidence...)

We found a 10am appointment in Chaska (30 min away) but it meant he'd have to miss gym. We were ok with that compromise. Now, the argument, who's going to take him. As the brilliant young man he is, he refused to choose between Mom or Dad.  Mom wanted Dad to do it because she still has PSD from the 1st attempt. Dad is steering clear and is actually scheduled to work at that time.  So, Mom it is, a second time.

Tracy heads to school to pick him up at 9am with a sinking feeling in her stomach and on the verge of heartburn with all her nerves.  The drive home will be a disaster if he doesnt pass this time.

As she pulls into school, kids are streaming out ... a fire drill!  They manage to find each other and off they go. Jimmy driving and getting warmed up.

The testing center is WAY more welcoming and there are many parent/kid combo sitting nervously around. Jimmy has, of course, researched this site and quizzed all his friends that have tested here. Its an open course and he's feeling confident.  The instructor comes out and has a big smile on his face.  A much more auspicious start than that 1st!  As Tracy is waiting, she's visiting with other parents and most are here for their 2nd or 3rd attempt. We are in good company.

Jimmy comes back - all smiles, thumbs up and excited. He passed!  His instructor even commented that his 1st attempt was a marginal fail.  They did the parking part 1st and while his parallel parking was ugly, it was effective (life hack, he turned his side mirror way down so that he could see the curb) In an interesting turn of events, as he was parallel parking, there was a fender bender 1/2 block away. The instructor got on the phone to call 911 and Jimmy was wondering if it was all a staged part of his test, to see what he'd do in an accident and emergency vehicle situation. It was real life however, he stayed calm, navigated the police cars and passed with flying colors!!

Jimmy, we are so proud of you ! You worked hard, persevered and did it!

His 1st outing driving alone?  GameStop to put money down on a new game...typical kid.

XOXOX Love you Jimmy!!
Filling out the paperwork for his license

He did it!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Labor Day and Back to School .... AHHHHHHH

Seriously, did we have a summer? How can it be school already?! Tracy and I are already having serious summer regrets of what we didnt do... but, we did end the summer with a bang.  Camp McGregor with Doug, Jennifer, James, Sam, Sean and Bella (yes, random white girl - aka: friend of Kays so that she didnt feel out numbered by boys, not that thats ever stopped Kay before ... just saying')

Camp McGregor is a property owned by Tracy's new work (Mount Olivet Rolling Acres) and is a huge piece of property in McGregor (2 1/2 hours north) that has 3 cabins, a lodge, a pontoon, a fishing boat, 2 paddle boats, 3 canoes, and every kind of sport imaginable (football, volleyball, soccer, pingpong, horseshoes, fuse ball, etc...)  We had so much fun!

It was also wild rice days in town so we were able to see the local fare and have some really incredible people watching including a parade that strongly featured the republican party (support mining, support forestry, support concealed weapons - the kids were in a bit of shock).

The only down side (for the kids) was no cell connectivity and no wifi. The adults, however, were in heaven!

The weather was gorgeous, the food yummy and the company chill and relaxed. A perfect pre-school retreat.

Then....dum dum DUM!..... the 1st day of school.  Billy started Jr High, Jimmy started High School and Kay is ruling the roost as a Freshman at the Jr High.

Everyone has friends in their classes, someone to eat lunch with and ... so far ... seems to like their teachers.

Jimmy is going to have a tough schedule.  AP US History (A-PUSH) and Pre Calc. But, he also have gimme classes like band and gym so ... on the all it evens out.

Kay is bummed she didnt get Jimmys math teacher from last year but is pretty excited and determined to start the year off right, getting up, getting dressed and being ready more than 5 minutes before the bus arrives. Its an adjustment for all  of us.

Billy said school was "nice".  Enough said.

Of course, they were chatty chatty chatty the 1st night and then ... reality crashed in and they have been crabby days 2, 3 and 4.

Its  hard to adjust to a new school, new schedule, new teachers, new/old friends and actual responsibility again.  So is the ways of the world.

Here's the highlights...

Tom waited all day for his turkey leg at Wild Rice Days

Kay planned a taste test with miracle berries. You suck on them for 20 minutes and they make everything taste sweet. She had everything from vinegar to hot sauce to lemons. Billy had a stomach ache for 2 days

TONS of VHS movies to choose from - we went with Ferris, classic

Hours of prep and entertainment

No one was safe

Everyone was a good sport

LOVE the pontoon - the had so much fun jumping off and doing flips

The crew

The moon

1st day of school smiles, yes, he did wear shoes

The sophomore!

These signs welcomed the kids to school, Tracy got seriously choked up.

Our favorite


xoxo Hopkins


Alright Billy!

The most important exercise of the day, who's got who in class....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sweet 16!! Happy Birthday Jimmy !

Its good to know that some things never change.  Jimmy is the same happy, outgoing, inquisitive, competitive, talkative and funny kid at 16 that he was at 16 months.  And, he is still naked boy. I swear that kid would be naked 100% of the time if allowed. He's been that way since he came home to be a part of our forever family and each day when he walks in, takes off his shirt and shoes and proceeds to relax. 
Jimmy didnt have many requests for his "big day" but it WAS a big day.
1st up - the braces came off!! He has a new, braces free smile and is loving how it feels to eat without food getting stuck in your teeth. He also got a big bag of chewy candy and popcorn from the orthodontist as he walked out. Not sure our dentist is happy about that...
Then, it was off to football practice where - drum roll - the local news was there to highlight the Hopkins2017 team.  They had a nice 3 minute clip on the nightly news where Jimmy (& his abs) are prominently featured 2/3 of the way through.  
He needed to get in some parking practice as his test is next Tuesday so Tom took him to the local church parking lot to practice parallel parking and the T back up parking. Let's just say we need to go out a few more times.... 
Next up was his favorite dinner (Tom's homemade orange chicken with mondu, rice and Asian green beans) and dessert - ice cream sandwiches (super random but really easy!!)
Finally - presents.  He had only a few (but expensive) requests so while it was a short present opening, it was filled with excitement. He got exactly what he wanted and I think he was shocked.
We asked the kids their favorite Jimmy memories from last year and they included: he's nicer to us now, he's maturing and growing up and ... he's sharing way more about his life.  Its fun to be (back) a part of his life (In our limited experience, ages 13-15 tend to be break away years that are HIGHLY focused on friends with distain for family. Feelin' it quite a bit with Kay right now but that's another blog ....)
In terms of his goals for the next year - football football football  - we tried to add grades, friends and music but ... not sure he's all the way signed up for that yet:)
Jimmy, we love you and are SO thankful for who you are and the adult you are turning into.  We are eternally grateful to your birth parents for their unbelievable decisions and to your foster family for their unbelievable care. Not to mention the social workers, lawyers, advocates, teachers, coaches, etc that helped us on the path to finding you and helped you find a strong path. 
XOXO - Mom and Dad
A birthday candle ice cream sandwich

Making a wish

Lets hope the wish comes true!

Billy (standing on a chair) with Jimmy and the card he made Jimmy

Jimmys Abs

His present from Grandma and Grandpa - he LOVES it!

His present from Billy and Kay - again  he loves it, let hope he actually wears it

Opening his "big" present from Mom and Dad, he could hardly believe it and when nuts with giving out hugs

Tracy trying to take advantage of the feel good moment and actually be allowed a kiss on the check (not to be ...)

A Beats Noise Canceling Headphone - nirvana for a drummer, teen and music guru

Too excited I think he slept with them on and they are competing with his helmet for a place on his pillow (yes, he sleeps with his football helmet)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

KCC-9th Annual

The greatest week of all ...  Korean Culture Camp !! 5 days of all things Korean, food, taekwando, drumming, dance, self esteem...320 kids, 225 volunteers  means Tom and his kitchen crew cooked home made, from scratch Korean food for 545 people everyday!

This was our 9th year of attending and sadly we had to fly the missing man formation (or in this case woman) because of Kay's gymnastics schedule she could not make the camp :(, that did not mean she missed out on the food!

Jimmy was supposed to be a teen helper in the First grade however when we got to camp the first graders he had last year voted him onto the second grade island and he had all the same kids again this year! He loved it and came home with stories about how big they are getting, how fun it is to see them grow up and how much better behaved they are now that they are a little older. He still looks like Elf with the elves and he's pretty darn cute.

Billy was in his final year as a camper and sadly we will have to deal with that next year, however since Tom is in the kitchen the kids will be able to be teen helpers!  He's really excited to help with taekwondo next year. Let's hope he gets lucky with his teen helper camp placement.

The camp is really about the food here is this years menu:

Monday: Oi Bokgeum & Mandarin Salad
Tuesday: Chicken Wings & Korean Potatoes
Wednesday : Bulgogi & Radish Salad
Thursday: Jahb Chae & Mandarin Salad
Friday; Chicken Bulgogi & Mandu

Everyday we also serve rice, carrots, fruit, Kimchee, cookies along with water and lemonade. Its a blast to get together with the kitchen crew and hammer out the food the look on the kids faces makes all of it worthwhile!

The end of the day is a snack bar full of crazy Korean Snack and miscellaneous food items all for a $1 or 2.

We have life long friends at camp .., Leona, Tom, Ann, ShinBee, Noah, Siri, Becky, Sue, Lucas, Jane, Lucas, the list goes on and on.  Plus every year we recruit new friends to come to camp like Grayce, Beth, Jennifer, Andreas, Gabe, Claire ... Not to mention the new friends we make at camp every year ... Wendy, KimSu, Dave, Julie ...

Camp is a really special place with special kids and people.  We are so blessed that we are part of this legacy that celebrates our kids and their culture & heritage.

Thank you to EVERYONE that makes it possible!!

Monday, July 31, 2017

The official party of the 14 yr old girl

Holy shit. 14 yr old girls are a lot of work.

Kay's been planning her party for  weeks and with each passing hour it got bigger and bolder (and you have seen Kay's parties on this site before, they are EVENTS!)

This year was no exception. It was a luau, movie theme and it came with the typical negotiations about budget, how many people she could invite, sleep over etiquette, etc.   After a fair amount of planning, excitement, meltdowns and finally, execution, the day was upon us.

Tom took prep duty and spent time with Kay on her shopping list, budget and shopping.  They are pretty good deal finders and she managed to get everything she needed (somewhat) within her budget.  It also included supervision of cupcake making (3 different kinds of mini cupcakes - red velvet with mini marshmallows with yellow/white frosting - pineapple upside down, sea salt caramel with mini pretzel garnish)

Then Tracy has execution, basically being Kay's lackey for 36 hours last weekend.

There were 12 girls invited, but only 8 were able to attend.  Here is a break down of the activities....

10am: start setting up tables, kitchen prep, everything laid out, etc.

11am: wake up and feed Kay (she ate a whole mini cupcake and announced she was ready to go..

11:30-1:00: more set up, table decorating, balloon blow up, Popcorn box creation, movie screen set up, coolers out, decorations/signs in place

1:00: actually feed Kay

1:30-3:00: organize food, get games staged, get showered/changed

3:00... guests start arriving...

Kay had 9 activities planned and each activity was to be revealed by popping a balloon with the appropriate # written on the outside, inside was confetti and a clue for the next activity.  I think we'll be finding confetti for years in the house.

The rest of the event is best told in pictures....

The table is set!

The movie is ready to go!

The girls had dinner choices

and more choices

Kays creation

for scale

gifts and cupcake stand

Activity 1 - making lei's

Activity 2 - limbo

Impromptu activity - swimming in Tim & Patricks pool, they are saints and life savers - it bought Wendy and I time to make the girls dinner (to order)

Activity 3 - Dinner

Activity 4 - twister with shaving cream

Activity 4+ - shaving cream fight

Activity 5 - photo booth

THANK YOU WENDY for helping!

Activity 6 - presents and cupcakes

Impromptu activity - hair braiding, french and dutch

Activity 7 - homemade ice cream sundaes

Activity 8 - Pie Face

Activity 9 - the movie Moana

Finally inside for the sleep over

For the record, they did not sleep. At all. They made coffee at 1:30am, I heard them talking to boys on the phone at 4:30am, they went and watched the sunrise at 6:00am, woke up their friend at 7:00am, watched 2 movies (Split and The Shallows) and ate a breakfast of nutella pancake fruit kabobs (yes, all that on one kabob stick) with bacon and fruit.

Then, it was off to the gym for some open gymnastics time.

I picked her back up at 1:00 and she couldn't stop talking about how much fun it was and when can she do it again.  Then she was home and in bed, asleep by 1:30pm.  She woke up at 10pm Sunday night starving.

This is the start of a very very long week....