Thursday, July 31, 2008

India Two Years-In Retrospective

It is hard to believe that two short years ago the Loudamericans boarded a plane from Minneapolis to Bangalore

The 5 of us were nervous , scared and wondered for most of the journey "what we were thinking?!"

The country of India, it's people and ever changing Political climate has provided us a life changing and enriching experience. I could go on about a great many things however our avid readers know all of that.

It has been great watching our kids grow and meet new people and how they deal with problems of daily life here.
For instance:
~ When we first arrived all we heard was "LOOK A COW" "did you see that cow?" and now cows have little or no draw on the daily ride to and from school.
~ The kids would also break down in hysterics every night as the power went out. "Help the powers out!!" and now they just say : "S*@t there went the power".
~ "Mom, what is Mutton?" has been replaced with, "please pass the mutton", "Can someone please pass the curd", "can you put chocolate in my chocolate milk?" "Do we have any pomegranate juice or did Raj make any of that yummy mango smoothie drink". (This usually came from Wade as he was dreaming up some new martini recipe.)
~ Jimmy calls his lunch box a "tiffin", they sit "properly" in school and are not phased when people switch between English, Hindi, Tamil and Kanada.

The new friends that we have made as we all forged a bond through the learning curve of being ex-pates has been a blessing. This is a true description of god put people into your life for a reason. There are to many to mention them all so if I forget please excuse me. The MILLERS!, Bradley-Goads, Steinhoff-Fuchs,Tait's,Webb's,Shays,Wilson's, Herkelman's,the Target ex-pat community, Ajay and Angelica and of course our families back home we say thank you.

Tracy has risen from Senior Manager to Director of Business Services.
Tom has gone from an unemployed stay at home Dad to being enrolled in The University of Phoenix on-line program stay at home Dad.

Jimmy has climbed the educational ladder from Nursery to First Standard reaching his first goal " Being a school ager". He has also reached his goal of playing the drums and takes lessons once a week. The drum teacher actual begs us to let Jimmy continue his lessons stating" He is the only one in the class who knows what I am talking about" God help us!

Kay (besides painting up a storm & eating strange foods) has applied and has been accepted into the new CIA/FBI children's program and we only see her at night. Her role model is Colonel Flag. She still wants to be a face painter. Not a bad occupation in India.

Billy, who has lived in India longer than anywhere else, in the world now rides his bike with wild abandon. He talks up a blue streak and has civilisation saving light sabre battles with Jimmy.
Not to mention, he is a grand theft auto theif. Keep your hot wheels under lock and key.

Yeah the kids are growing up.

We have travelled to many places these past two years and for that we are blessed. We came back from Minnesota this past June and ran into an unexpected wave of homesickness. It was hard coming back and realizing not only have our kids grown up but all the kids we know have changed, including the adult kids.

We now only have about 6 months to go and we will be heading back to the US and will experience the home sickness again of missing all our friends from India.
But, what a ride! How lucky are we:) ??!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

BNL and my driver

So, while Jimmy's Hindi is clicking, our driver, Raju's English is clicking. Sort of...
When he 1st started to drive for us in April all questions and statements were answered with "Yes Ma'am".

Raju, do you know where the pharmacy is - Yes Ma'am
Raju, are you coming tomorrow or Sunday - Yes Ma'am
Raju, where do you take the car when you leave at night, to your house or the office - Yes Ma'am

You get the picture.

So, he is learning English and what scares me is I think he's learning from us and the kids. While he did inform me that he's going to start taking classes twice a week, his English is getting better however, there is still a communication barrier. For instance:

Last night, I had to work late and on the way home was trying to get into the Friday night spirit by listening to BareNakedLadies (BNL) Gordon album. They crack me up. They are the only band that can pull off using words like chloresteral and Pavlov's dog in lyrics. They also rhymed genius with Venus. Gotta love them. So, we are listening to "This is me in grade 9 baby" and I am trying to explain to Raju who these guys are, why I love them and what this particular song is about.

T-This band...4 guys... songs? ... about when they were in level 9

R - Level 9?! They are good!"

T - No, they are not in level 9 now...they are my age (not quite sure of that but we are going for it) this song...this is about when they were in level 9

R - Ah cha (Hindi for ok, not sure if he's getting this)

T - The 1st words - 1st day of school and I'm already failing ..

R - (He starts laughing, ok he gets that...)

The song goes on...How do I explain binders, high waters, Stairway to Heaven, pleather pants, etc.. I give up.

But, the next song really makes me think... "Lying in bed like Brian Wilson dead"... How would I explain this... you see, Brian Wilson had OCD, what's OCD?, well its a condition where you do the same thing over and over and cant stop yourself ... anyway, he's lying in bed, you see Brian lied in bed for years, why? why would Brian or why would the BNL's? I'm not sure, ok, moving on...

Another song ..."You can be my Yoko Ono"... Again, where to start, this is getting hard...
Yoko was the lover of one of the Beatles, you know the Beatles, Love Love me Do. And the band is rumored to have broken up because she didnt get along with the other band members...why would they break up over a woman who wasnt even married to one of them at the time? Not sure, but that's not really the point, the point is ... He loves this woman enough to let her take him away from music, got it? right.

I stop trying and just start enjoying my CD. Raju can see this and later says to Tom "Ma'am very happy tonight listening to music"

On the other hand, maybe we are closer to communicating than I thought. At the end of all of it, he comes up with a statement that supports a theory that I've been harboring my whole life. Famous people are short. That's it, he says ..."Ma'am - all little people- movies, singers, dancers ...all little" and then he laughs.

We are getting there...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It clicked

Jimmy speaks Hindi. Something clicked in his brain this week and he is now conversing in two languages. Just what we need. He is already a chatter box in English and yesterday spent 30 min's kabitzing with Raj and Raju in Hindi. Tom stood there with his mouth hanging open. Now, Raj did inform us that it wasnt pure Hindi, he was using Hindi, Tamil and Kanada words interchangably, but that they were all being used appropriately. I dont know if that scares me more or less. God knows he didnt get this skill from me. English is my 2nd lanuage, I swear.

Kids are amazing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Random thoughts and posts

Wow, after our flurry of posts, we find that we havent posted in a week! You'd think it was dull and boring around here... Well, it is!! All our semi permanent friends are "home" for the summer, we havent had any visitors at work and none of our permanent friends have visitors either. So, that leaves us, just us. The 5 of us. No parties, no drama, no events, ... you get the picture.

So, you'd probably say, "sounds wonderful!! Some peace and quiet" Not so, as you can see from our former 200 blogs, we've become quite the adreniline addicts:)

What have we been busy doing? Planning parties, events, holidays but not drama (who can plan drama in any case??).

Instead of recapping what's happening, we thought we'd give you a heads up on what's coming up...
~ Jimmy has his 1st set of "official" exams next week, can you believe it?! 1st grade! Math Monday, Hindi Tuesday, English Wednesday, Environmental Studies Thursday and Spelling Friday. Whew!
~ Aunt Sue, God bless her soul, is coming to visit (1st repeat visitor!!!) so we have been industriously planning a 4 day adult only get away, a birthday party for her and Jimmy AND a 5 day trip to the lower himalaya's while she's here.
~ One of my coworkers is "going back" in Sept and wants a State Fair themed going away party. Enough said.

On top of that, I've had random thoughts about swimming. As background, last year was my year to try out yoga and running. Thank God I had Angela to see me through the year. I hate both activities, but due to her peer pressure, I did give it the old college try. Speaking of...I decided that this year is the "year of the fish". I decided to get back into swimming. Keep in mind, while I still consider myself a "swimmer" (after 10 years of competitive swimming ages 8-18), I actually havent swum on a regular basisi in 22 years. (you do the math). Yikes. Its hard. And Tiring. And somewhat Boring. And reaking havoc on my skin. But... I am doing it. I am out there 4-5 times a week at 8:00am suit, cap, googles, kickboard? in our beautiful outdoor pool. The reason that I say "kickboard?" is that for how gorgeous, wealthy and turned out our clubhouse is, it seems that there is only 1 kickboard in the whole place. One. One Thousand members and ONE kickboard. And... someone stole it last week. So, each day, I'd walk down, the people would nod, say "Good morning Ma'am" hand me my towel and kick board and I'd be off. Now... I still get the "Good morning Ma'am" and towel , but no kickboard. I asked why..."Its already at the pool Ma'am" ok.. I walk out to the pool. I am the ONLY breathing soul (note: the life guards here are scarce and I have bets that even if they WERE at the pool, they dont know how to swim as they all wear track clothes and Nikes) AND, there is no kick board to be found. This goes on a day or two... I ask again, and again. Then...finally a different answer... "Ma'am - Ray has the kickboard in his locker and he's on holiday" (Ray is the swim instructor). Ok, I'll buy it... Let's see how long Ray is on holiday... Any takers???

Ok, final random thought...check out this blog on traffic signs. Gotta love it.
Other news worthy road signs
~If ants can follow a queque why cant you?
~Speed thrills but also kills
~Drink and Drive, and you Die

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy 5th Birthday Kay

It is with great pleasure we announce the 5th birthday of Baby Kay, Kay Kay or the Pook-a-rook - yes our little girl has reached the half decade plateau.

She has done quite a lot in this half decade probably more than most folks do in a lifetime. The girl is full blown all girl all the time. From Dora to Barbies to Little Mermaid to Cinderella Kay painting her nails changing her clothes, Kay is there. Not to mention her passion for painting and really any other liquid color medium to express herself.

The day started with Kay popping out of bed and greating the day with a smile. She came home from school and was mad about having to take a bath until Raj whispered something to her and off she went and came back down stairs in this and announced " Lets Party" and I like these new shoes.

It was with all this in mind we planned her Dora/Barbie/cupcakes with a face painter and arts and crafts station Birthday party. Now it is hard to find 5 year old girls in Palm Meadows let alone girls at all so Kay to "round" things out invited some 0f the boys too. The girl brigade consisted of Kay, Grace and Elise plus a couple of Moms. The boys we good sports and donned the face paint and actually participated in the arts and crafts fairly well.

Now as many of you know has has some what of a strange taste in food. Rather then submit the guests to fish eyes and bone marrow we talked Kay into a somewhat regular meal of butter noodles, hot dogs, green beans and fruit. Well Kay had a busy day and we think only ate chocolate, the chocolate she was to share with her class. There is a fabulous tradition her that when it is your birthday that you bring treats to share with the class, very nice. Kay sometimes forgets the share part. Anyway at one point during dinner she was shovelling butter noodles into her mouth with two forks. Very nice.

Then untrue to form Kay torn into her presents. She is usually the shy type of gift opener savoring the packaging and the thought that went into each gift, not tonight. She was using her hands, teeth and any other tool she could find to rip the gifts open, so unladylike. During the party Kay received a phone call from her friend Caden T Miller whom has moved back to the US but you can tell from this conversation he still has a chance!

The cupcakes were a big hit and the party was a smashing success. On a side note knowing this this is about Kay and her birthday I would be doing you the reader a dis-service if I did not mention the surprise showing of KISS, well not Gene Simmons et.all but rather a Korean, Cambodian and American version of the 70's icons, the picture explains it. (Watch out, Jimmy might be in a band, but all his friends are going to ask about Kay....)

The night finally drew to an end and Kay was all wrapped up in her blanket and asked, Mommy and Daddy "how long will I be the Pook-a-rook"? Your whole life honey, why? "Because I like being the only Pook-a-rook and mostly I Yove you".

We love you,to Pook and Happy Birthday.
(PS> Jimmy googled rock bands online and found some old 1973 Kiss live concert video. He is hooked. His comment ... wow, are they famous? They are GOOD! I... want to rock and roll all night... and party every day...)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Back to School

Amidst all the other changes and turmoil going on the kids have returned to school. The Academic Year 2008-2009 began with the usual confusion associated with going to school here.

Jimmy is now in First Standard, comparable to first grade. He is studying Math, Environmental Studies, Reading, Writing and Hindi. So far his Math and English are receiving high marks as is EMS and reading. It is the Hindi that is causing trouble. Not so much trouble with Jimmy as it is with Mom and Dad. You see it seems the Hindi Ma'am has not grasped the concept that Dad is looking after the kids while Mom is earning the bacon. So each night a seething note comes home in the diary telling Mom what Hindi needs to been and each morning Dad goes to school to ask " Where are the homework books?" "Jimmy can not do the homework listed in the diary if the books are not there!" Response: "Please tell Madam that he must do his work without fail" Back and forth ... wash, rinse repeat...Get the picture. Not to mention, Hindi ma'am is now only speaking Hindi in class and the homework (when it does come home with books) is written 1/2 in English, 1/2 in Hindi. Should be a fun year.

Kay has climbed the educational ladder and reached, Nursery, more specifically, Nursery B (in India Nursery is akin to Kindergarten of which they have 2 levels, lower kindergarten-lkg and upper kindergarten-ukg. At Gopalan these are know as Nursery and Prep - totally clear, right?!). She has been excelling in coloring, painting and doing her numbers. Tracy and I were discussing the length of Kay's school uniform (it barely covers her bum) and I was tasked to find out if all the kids uniform was as well revealing as Kay's. It turns out they are not. So as you can see by the photo we will have to "let the hem out" Kay is unaware of this difference and continues to get dirty before she even leaves the house.

Billy has obtained the level of Playgroup II. Which academically as far as we can tell means no more naps & an extra snack. Besides that he continues to color with his hands play with cars and not eat lunch. Developmentally I am more concerned with the no naps vs no lunch. He is now in school from 8:30-2:30 as are his brother and sister. This has been making for some uneventful going to bed evenings but now having said that I may have just cursed us.

There are exactly 1,134 school holidays this year along with half that many Teacher appreciation days which as you all know means vacation blogs from the loudamericans.

Respectfully submitted,

Douglas C. Neidermeyer
Thayer '08

Tom and the kids are famous!!

A journalist came out to the house and interviewed a number of stay at home dads (go figure 3 of the 4 have wifes at Target...coincidence? I think not....) Here it is....

Monday, July 07, 2008

Billy's 3rd Gotcha Day

That's right Billy Balu has been home 3 whole years. Amazing.

For those of you not aware of Gotcha Day. Its a term used to signify the day that a child joined your family. In and of itself, the term Gotcha Day is not without contention. Some feel a more appropriate term is Arrival Day or Family Day as Gotcha feels a bit like catching a fish, not bringing home a child. But, its catchy, people remember it and at least for this part of being adoptive family, its not a battle I am going to fight. I will continue to fight the questions like: are they real siblings - yes, just watch them fight; are they related-yes, now they are. As well as, I'll continue to fight for adoption leave and assistance. I'll also advocate to anyone who will listen how great it is to parent, regardless of if they are biological or adopted. But, for some reason the term Gotcha Day has stuck with our family and I am not fighting that battle right now.

So, 3 years ago on Juy 5th, Tom and I sat waiting in a hot car while Billy's foster mom cried heartbreaking tears and handed him over to us. We traveled through Japan and on to MN. We had a rollercoaster journey with Billy eating one hour, crying one hour and then sleeping one hour, only to be repeated like wash rinse repeat until we were home (how many time do you wash, rinse, repeat in any case?! Future blog I guess). A FABULOUS airline attendent named Mike even walked BIlly around for an hour of the crying phase. Mike was great because he looked just like Billy, only 5' 11", 190lbs and Chinese. Very handsome, but then I might be biased:)

We arrived in MN to a hearty welcome from Billy and Kay. They couldnt wait to meet him, kiss him, hug him and promptly dropped him on his head. Just like any sibling welcoming home their little brother:)

We celebrated this year with chocolate chocolate cake with sprinkles and fireworks (left over from Diwahli and in celebration of the 4th of July a day late). He got to play with his favorite friends (Noah, Roshen and Owen) and watched the perennial favorite Tom and Jerry.

He has now lived in India longer than Korea or the US. Strange that at just 3 1/2 he's lived in 3 countries and visited countless others.

We are so glad Billy is a part of our family, how lucky are we?!!!

We love you Billy Balu!! And, we thank God everyday that your birth mommy and foster mommy loved you enough to let you have a forever family and become a Murphy.

Mommy, Daddy, Jimmy and Kay

Saturday, July 05, 2008

200 posts and 30 days

Wow, I was just reviewing our blog and realized that the Fishing blog was our 200th blog. 200 blogs in 2 years is about a blog every 3-4 days. Not bad for parents of 3. Let's see if we can get another 100 in before we leave and make it an even 300 in under 3 years.

(I just like this picture because its one of the few where Billy is actually smiling)

The 30 days home were amazing. Who knew you could squeeze 2 yrs of socializing in 30 days. Betty Ford, here we come!!

We had visitors (THANK YOU Mom & Dad, Sue and Jan & Jet) Its was so nice of you to come see us. The kids loved their time with you (at the park, at Target, eating Korean food, the lemonade stand and the splash park).

We had time with our family (Murphy's weekend, Memorial Day with Tracy's folks, a full week with Aunt Sue, Brigid & Dennis's wedding reception, swinging by to see Auntie Lynn, Dan, Sarah, Lola and Astrid, hanging out at Dan and Lisa's). It was awesome to reconnect with the cousins and realize that 2 years and 1/2 world doesnt really make any difference. We can all still just be ourselves and love each other.

Tom and I got to connect not only with our girl/guy friends (MS150, Sex in the City, Fishing Trip, Gretchen's graduation party, back deck time with Jim, date night with Mary/Terry and also Angela/Wade, great food and wine with Des/Greg) but loved the time we go to spend their kids. Jimmy and Kay keep asking why they cant play with Hayden, Lesia, Finn, Riley, Isiah, Henry, the Trimplets, Anders, Bjorn, Shin Bee, all the girl boat friendsetc... As Jimmy said "I like my friends in MN and India. But when I am in India, I miss my MN friends and when I am in MN I miss my India friends. Its hard". Billy dreams about Caden. I think that says it all.

Our neighbors rock. We got to solve the worlds problems with Tim/Patrick & Craig/Kristen a number of times on our back deck over a glass of wine. All I have to say is "I'm sorry our yard is an eye sore right now. I promise we'll get it back in shape when we are home" Also thanks to them for suggesting a remodeler and then spending an entire evening with us planning out what we should do on our kitchen remodel, even picking out hard wood floors and visualizing a new piano window:) (Call out to Lisa on this one too:) )

Finally, how could we have made it home without all the extra help we got with the house, the flooding, food, mail, car, etc...All the little things that let us just slip back into our lives effortlessly. Sandy/Leona for doing the dirty work on our basement flood. Pat/Tom B for the roofing help. Pat for guarding our wine:) Jim for having the forethought to have a meal ready when our plane landed. TOO thoughtful. Wendy for making sure we had clean sheets and food in the fridge (and now for handling our mail, no small feat it turns out) as well as ordering all the food for our party. Angela for making sure we had plenty of "Miller time" & fantastic food, both with kids, without kids , over lunch and over coffee. (A special BIG thank you to Grandma Jennifer and Grandpa Tom for babysitting:) My parents, Tom's parents and Sue for watching the kids when we were running around trying to get 2 years worth of banking, doctors appointments, house maintenence and tax stuff done in 4 weeks. Todd and Davin for letting us use their car, very brave of you given we have 3 kids!!

We were amazed at how much has changed and how much as stayed the same. Hwy 100 by 394 is totally tore up but Lion and Tiger park are exactly the way the kids remember it. All the kids have grown, but they still have the same sweet (and energetic) personalities. Our friends/family might have lost weight, gotten a new hair color, quit smoking (GO JIM) or found a new love, but they are still easy to talk to, understand us and ready to help at a simple phone call.
A big thank you to Greg and Des for making time for us and helping get us to the airport. Keeping us up to date on all the cool things happening around town and tempting us with an invitation for an awesome music related cruise next February...we will see!

We realize how lucky and blessed we are to have all these amazing people in our lives and how much we miss you every day that we are here.
Then, I realize how lucky we are here too. We have a great group of families the kids hang with every day both as a part of the Target family and Palm Meadows family. We have great friends that were willing to drop everything to say "goodbye" to Francis & the Vanderpools and welcome Carol and Gerald home (Petra, we are waiting for you with a big glass of champange!) Raj and Raju made sure the house was clean (Kay walked through the house saying "its gorgeous, just gorgeous, Raj did such a good job") and the car in perfect shape. Alex and Stacy for stocking our fridge with all the essentials, milk , curd, eggs,bread .

So, we are back. We are in the midst of planning Billy's Gotcha Day, Kay's birthday and as many more adventures and vacations as we can fit in before we go:)

Stay posted. We promise to keep the blog up to date and cant wait until we see you all again!!!

Love, Peace, Happiness and may you know how truly blessed you are (& then pay if forward:) )

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fishing Fever

We could not travel all the way back to Minnesota without going on the Annual father Son fishing trip. For the past 4 years or my buddies and their Sons have gone to lake Vermilion for a week long Father Son fishing and bonding event. This is the first year that Jimmy has been old enough to go and he was all smiles!

We started out early Saturday morning to stop by Brigid and Dennis's wedding reception. On the way we had McDonald's for breakfast which Jimmy gave the thumbs down except for the hash browns. we visited with the new Bride and Groom along with Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Kay and finally we set off to go " Up North".

Jimmy and I had about a 5 hour trip in front of us which gave us plenty of time to talk fishing strategy and plan where to hang the trophy mount we were going to catch. Then for the first time in his life Jimmy went to McDonald's again for lunch making it twice in one day," Wow Dad I cannot believe it, this is awesome".

We finally reached Tower and the camp. Carl and the boys, Johnny,Timmy and Charlie we waiting for us and we got our gear unloaded and had time to relax before we headed out. The first night was miserable as we only caught two fish. We had an early dinner and were in bed by 10:00 as both father and son were tired.

6:00 am came early and we were up and ready to go, that is Carl and I. We headed out to fish the surrounding bays as the kids were still asleep and we did not want to get out of sight of the cabin. It was Fathers Day and I was extremely happy to be out fishing and for having Jimmy finally make a trip. Carl and I caught several fish that morning and around 9:00 headed in to wake and feed the kids and us.

After breakfast it was off tho the races. Carl, Timmy,Jimmy myself and Charlie headed out in search of the elusive walleye and elusive it was, however we caught several nice small mouth, perch and the occasion MR. Toothy ( northern pike). Overall not a bad morning catch and a nice bunch of fish for the Father Son fish fry scheduled for later in the evening. Of course no fishing trip would be complete without the driving of the boat, constantly.

That afternoon the rains came it was cold. Jimmy and I donned all the clothes we brought and headed out with Tom Pearson for the early evening catch. We had some luck catching a few small walleye and then it hit. Jimmy was minding his own business when all of a sudden "Dad I got one." Ten strenuous minutes and several keep the rod tip up's, in came the biggest fish of his life. Yes a 22" Walleye, awesome! On that note we packed it in and headed back to camp to dry off and of course boast.

Dinner was awesome we had a great bonfire and the Dads had some bonding time and the kids did the dishes and then watched a movie. It was a short trip as the next morning Jimmy and had to get back to pack and catch a plane back to India. Having a couple of days hanging out with friends and having your son along on the firsttrrip was great. Not to mention the 22"walleye and outfishing the rest was too cool for school!

Catching up with The Hodaddy, TTT,Kriger, Rabs and Jumping Joe along with their boys was great and Jimmy and I are ready to return next year and teach them a thing or two about fishing again!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MS 150 !!! (June 6-8)

Well, we MADE IT!!!

The ride wasn’t as hard as I expected but the 1st day was harder than the 2nd. Weird. We camped in Proctor (outside Duluth) on Friday night after a fantastic mexican feast. For the 1st time in memory, there wasn’t any frost or snow on our tent in the morning, yippee!!! We were on our bikes by 7am and headed into the wind ALL DAY...

Day 1 of the ride is on all on the gorgeous Munger Trail (old railway) and its just gorgeous pine forests, marshes and rivers. It really felt like being "home" with all the great up north scenary. We finished by 1pm and had visitors for the afternoon. Tom, Sue, the kids and Barb stopped by to bring food, drink and entertainment for the afternoon. Jimmy got a full fledged Darth Vadar costume (thanks Aunt Sue) and proceeded to walk around the camp ground "killing" people with this light sabar, it was pretty funny. Kay was dressed as Snow White (again, thanks Aunt Sue) and I think some of the riders thought it might be Halloween. Billy attacked every dog he saw with hugs and kisses. All in a all a nice family afternoon. Wendy and I could barely stay awake until 9pm when we both drifted off into an exhausted sleep.

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early and on our bikes by 6:45am. The day was PERFECT for biking, no sun, no wind and 60 degrees. We cruised!! We made record time all day and felt great! We even had one stretch where we were doing 21 miles/hr UP HILL!! That was too fun. We got to Blaine by about 12:15 and had time for a quick massage before we headed home. Kate and Laurie greeted us at the finish line (as is tradition) and Tom loaded up the car with our bikes and bags.

It was a great weekend.

Overall, there were 3,000 bikers, 1,000 volunteers and $2.7 million raised for MS. I cant think of a better way to spend 2 days:)

Love to you all! Heath, peace and happiness too!
I hope you all know how blessed and loved you really are,

Park Rapids and the Murphys

Very soon after our successful arrival in MPLS, we were packing up again to head "up north". The Murphy kids (aka Tom's brothers and sisters) have been planning this weekend for 5 years. We wanted to celebrate Jerry and Kay's (Tom's Mom and Dad) 50th wedding anniversary in style. Well....Murphy style. So, that means ... fishing, swimming, card playing, BBQ'ing and all around kabitzing. It was GREAT fun!!

We all gathered at a really cool resort in northern MN (Park Rapids). Each family got its own cabin and were "in charge" of a meal. This place was awesome, it sits on a pennisula in a great clear, clean fishing lake. There were 8+ docks for the kids to fish from, an inground pool, a game room, playground, bonfire, movie night and a snack (aka candy) bar that sold candy breath spray. (yes, this was the hit of the weekend for the kids. breath spray that is actually candy. yuck).

Tracy brought her bike up as she needed to get ready for the MS150 (next blog) and managed to get a ride in each day on the fabulously straight, clean, smooth, rolling, forest filled county roads. A road bikers dream!

The kids had swimsuits and life preservers and spent as much time as they could getting soaking wet and then drying off again, just to do it all over. Even though the weather didnt cooperate (cool ,rainy) the kids didnt care. What does it matter if you are standing in the rain with blue lips or swimming in an ice cold lake? Either way you are having fun with your cousins, right?!

Tom spent hours chatting up with his siblings, throwing a line for crappy and preparing us a fabulous shrimp boil.

All the Murphys were there (Lexi and Michaela were missed) and we were able to get another Murphy family photo which includes most of the grandkids, all the siblings and most importantly, Jerry and Kay.

What a great start to the summer and to our time home. Being surrounded by family, food, and love.

(Postscript: 1 week after our time at Park Rapids, a tornado went through. The bait shop we frequented is no longer there and we havent gotten word on the resort. We may have been the last guests standing, so to speak. Unbelievable).