Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

The 2 days leading up to and the 2 days after Christmas were filled with amazing friends, family, food and snow. It literally snowed for 4 days straight. It was thick heavy wet snow. Perfect for sledding and snow men, but killer on the back and neck (shoveling). Tom worked off his weight in cookies/sweets simply by trying to keep our drive way clear!

We hosted Tom's family for Christmas Eve. While the whole clan was not able to make it (see above snow issues) we did have a houseful and were thrilled to resurrect our appetizers with soup/salad tradition. The cousins exchanged names and Michaela was a right bossy Santa Claus (gotta love that in a girl). The kids were all really good about waiting and being excited about each other gifts. The grown ups did a book exchange and I just started reading my "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". Tom got a cookbook (go figure) and has been reading that front to back as well.
Nothing say's Merry Christmas like fireworks!

Christmas morning brought a nice "visit" with the kids in my bed while we wait for Tom to get done shoveling and for Billy to wake up for Santa presents. He was WAY good to us this year. Tom got a new leather coat, the boys skate boards, Kay Rollerblades and we ALL got ice skates. We are excited to get going on all our new activities! (now the snow just needs to cooperate a melt a bit) Jimmy also got a new drum set, Kay a balance beam and Billy a Leapster. They haven't stopped playing with their new toys yet! It really was a magical year and magical ages for Christmas. Grandpa made breakfast and we hung out in our pj's until it was time to go to my friend Michelle's and eat more. She has a traditional party with homemade Tom & Jerry;'s. YUM! The kids chased each other around with the newest hottest toys (aka nerf guns) and the girls did makeup.

Saturday was more snow, lunch with Uncle Don's friend Joanne and a crazy crazy party at our friends the Willis's. Again, the nerf guns were a hit and the girls were busy doing gymnastics all over the house. The grownups had every kind of wine, beer, booze and shot available. Tom and I were one of the first to leave (its safer that way:L))

Sunday was a super relaxing day with the Gottsackers, sledding, food, makeup, the movie UP and just hanging out. not a bad ending to our week:)

Now, I'm back at work, Tom's trying to get the kid s into a schedule for the last week of vacation and we are set to watch the Vikings on Monday night football. :0

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the Season!!

As if the LoudAmericans weren't busy during the other 48 weeks of the year, but the holiday season sends us into overdrive. We have definitely groups of friends/family that we include in our traditional "holiday good cheer" each year. Here's the updates so far...

THANK YOU - Kay's 1st grade class is tracking the Gingerbread Man across the world as he travels to spread sugar and good cheer - Thank you to EVERYONE from aournd the world that spotted him and emailed Kay's class. There are some pretty amazing sightings, check them out!

Gated Community Glee Club - we got together if our favorite neighborhood families for a night of Mexican food and a sing along. You'd think that we'd be singing Christmas carols, but no... not this group. Our songs of choice? Show Tunes! Yep ... Fame, 9 to 5, Sound of Music, etc. Tim was on piano, Niel on guitar and I was on tambourine. It was a blast and afterwards Jimmy's comment was "wow, Tim's really good, he's better than I thought on the piano!".

Happy Hour Group - yep, that's what they are called. Its a group of friends that have known each other for 19+ years. We all worked together (at Target) right out of college when happy hours were plentiful and frequent. They have since morphed into bi-annual appetizer-fests at our house with dogs, kids, etc. We are all still great friends; as can be attested by the fact that we all are currently sporting the same hair cut:)

I Nonni & Greg/Des - By FAR my favorite restaurant with favorite friends. We brought the kids & Nikki over to their house and they all had a blast on their respective play dates. Dogs, kids and the grown ups too! 12 different Italian dishes with 2 fantastic reds. Yummmmmm

CCP - (Cousins Christmas Party) - My favorite Murphy family tradition. The standing invite list is Tom's 32 1st cousins and their partners/spouses. No kids, No "grown ups"... Games, food and drinks. This years theme was $10,000 Pyramid, chili, bonfire, margaritas and talk about our kids. It was our 1st time attending in 3 years and I have to admit its the Christmas event I missed most when we were gone.

Lazy Sunday - The Murphy's/Millers re instituted our lazy Sunday afternoon traditions in Bangalore with 3 People magazines, a holiday movie, martini's, sandwiches and soup. It felt great to just relax with our "other" family. The only difference? the kids played in the snow instead of the pool and Ang & I coveted head oils.

VanMeters/ornament making - Another yearly tradition, getting our families together for good food and a little holiday spirit. This year the event was ornament making and bake your own pizza. Good easy, relaxing, fun Monday night. They are heading on a beach vacation in 2 days so they were in pre-vacation mode already (not as relaxing for them as it sounds, packing and preparing where still in their plans, but it was great to get some alone time with them before the holidays)

Jim Fellows Steak Dinner - Jim Fellows if one of our "chosen" family and he came over for a low key steak dinner with his dog Kodi. He was sporting a bit of a cold but it was great to just relax, chat and watch the kids antics. He gave Tom a wine making kit (the gift that keeps giving) and a deadline that the 1st "good" bottle of wine needs to be ready for his birthday in March. The pressure is on!

Jimmy & Skateboard camp - Since school is out, we have Kay & Bill signed up for open gym in the mornings. Its at the grade school and includes EVERYTHING they have for gym class ... scooters, jump ropes, gymnastic matts, balls, etc. They have built forts and basically run wild for 3 hrs each day. I LOVE open gym. Jimmy has been going to skateboard camp and is too cool for school. He is learning to "drop in" and comes home dirty, sweaty and happy. I joined them for lunch today and they had Van Halen blaring on the speakers and they all were eating corn dogs. Its good to be a boy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Billy is now 5

Yep just ask Bill and he will tell ya, and anything else you may or may not want to know. Billy has now approaching the status of having lived in Minnesota as long as he lived in India, the difference of course is he did the India 2 and a half years all in a row.

Bill has come a long way since we set foot back in the good old USof A, and he even can speak English, pretty good. When we woke up the morning we left India Bill was the first kid awake because he tought we were going on vacation. For the first seveal weeks he kept wondering why we keep coming back to this house and "when are we going home"?. Bill also was missing rice and dal and his two personal helpers Raj and Florence. Bill had a hard time trying to adapt to no calling calling him sir!

Bill learned to ride his bike, he loves to go sleding and he and Nikki are two kindered souls. Bill spent the summer 'wimming', wanting to take 'leading' lessons and had a ball learning how to tease Jimmy and Kay. Ol' Bill (as he is know around these parts) is the last of the Murphy's with a birthday in each year and feels like royalty because of it. He had a big celebration at the airport museum in Bangalore for his 4th birtday and nothing says birthday party USA style better that CHUCK E. CHEESE'S. Bill and several of his friends hit Chuck E's like no ones business.

Bill received a crown and the other kids sang 'all hail the king', kind of remeniceant of being called 'Sir". The best part for Bill was he did not have a big scrap on his nose like he did when he turned 4, ouch!

The other kids almost had him convinced that he would go to kindergarten the day after he turned 5. Luckily we nipped that one in the bud, but I do think he's ready - although I am not sure Mrs Houston and Meadowbrook are!
Bill has become quite the philosopher in his old age. On the morning of his 5th b-day we asked Bill did he feel any different that when he was 4, to which he replied, no, I feel the same, and he was somewhat disapointed by the revelation. Later in the day after he had opened all his presents he commented that .."now I feel like I am 5". Bill and Mommy were talking on his birthday and Billy wanted to know "why did you chose me?", a profound question for a 5 year old auto-mechanic want to be. The answer is simple - he was perfect for our family. The bigger question is - why did he choose us?

Bill loves his cars and trucks so much it took 30 minutes of discussion trying to decided between a Lighting McQueen cake versus a monster truck cake, the monster truck won out. Bill dove into the cake with gusto which made Mom and Dad both proud and reliefed as the Lighting McQueen cake incident at his 3rd birthday (as it has come to be called), had us worried about therapy and cakes but Bill seems to have gotton over that.

Billy is a very funning and for the most part good kid. He is a quick learner and pointed out that the reason they call jellyfish jellyfish is because they are made from jelly! This coming from the same kid that tolds why they call spongebob squarepants spongebob square pants.

So, here's to another fun, adventurous, loving, crazy, loud year with our dear Billy Balou.

We love you Billy Balou!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ok, where were we...???

We left off at Kay's gotcha day and Grandma & Grandpa's arrival. Things really took off from there:)

We took the kids to go see "Up". If you havent seen it, its a great movie. Now, we are all running around yelling "squirrel" and talking about the "cone of shame". The kids laughed through the whole thing and Billy announced - real loud - in the middle of the movie "oh look, they are old and still in love". He's my little romeo.

Tammy, Jeff and the kids arrived late on Wednesday night from Michigan via Green Bay. They cant stop talking about the Packer Hall of Fame and now we have the itch to go too! The kids were quickly squirrled away to bed but of course the adults sat up to chat (and have a glass of wine). (They have 3 kids - Georgia 6 Joey 5 Herbie 2 - needless to say, the girls spent all weekend dressing up, dancing, coloring, etc. The boys spent all weekend wrestling, football, terrorizing the dog... who says boys & girls are different?!)

Thursday morning we went to Wendy/AnneMeik's for brunch to meet AnneMeik's Mom (Marie) and see their photos of Amsterdam. It was a nice quiet way to start the day. Egg bake, pumpkin muffins, coffee, tea, kids, photos, it was all really nice to be able to have my biological family spend some time with people from my chosen family. The kids played running races down the hill and left many colored pictures as presents.

We decided to smoke a turkey which meant it went on the smoker at 9am and we ate at 7pm. It was stuffed with pears and probably the best turkey Tom has ever done. We served it with potatoes, green beans, 7 layer salad, gobi manchuri, beet root and rolls. So, a little tradition from here and India:) The rest of the day was filled with football, football and more football. The boys are obsessed and we now have firm rivalaries established. (Unfortunately Jim F was sick otherwise we'd have had our extended bio/chosen family together for this event too)

Friday was -girls day out (lunch and a bit of shopping) which meant the boys went where??? you guessed it - to a sports bar to have lunch and watch the football game. We also rallied a mean crock pot of chalupa's (my favorite) and a visit to the Holidazzle Parade. (The Holidazzle is a parade of lights that happens every Thurs - Sun between Thanksgiving and New Years). The kids went NUTS! There was music and lights and Bullseye the Target dog and hot chocolate and Santa and I was reminded of the scene in "A Christmas Story". They talked non-stop, sang along and waved until their arms fell off.

Saturday was my parents 45th Wedding Anniversary so we had big plans... more football, food and playing:) We took the kids to open gym at school (where they played football) and when that ended, the weather cooperated enough to play at the park for another 2 hours (football again). We did a surf & turf dinner (steak & salmon) and toasted to the fact that NONE of would have been here or together if not for them.

Sunday was bitter sweet as Tammy & gang headed out for their long drive home. Mom & Dad left Monday morning early.

So, while we missed Sue, Julie, Ced and Solomon, it was great to get 'some' of us together. The kids acted like it was a big 4 day sleep over and even the adults got to relax a little. We ate great food, but, most importantly got to create some sweet memories of all of us together.
Isnt that what Thanksgiving is all about - celebrating & being thankful for all the love/family/friends in your life? :) (oh yeah...and football.....)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Santa and Kay's Gotcha Day (sorry the photos or out of order, I cant figure it out....)

We are diving deep into the Holiday's this year and nothing better than a trip to Macy's to see the Day in a Life of an Elf, finishing with a moment on the lap of the Father Christmas (or known to kids throughtout the world as Santa). No last name needed, red coat, white beard and the ability to make kids dreams come true, Ah youth!

This year we headed out early mainly because we had spent too much time last weekend in the house and needed a break. Macy's was surprisingly not crowded and we were able to get through the display without waiting. The kids seem to like it, the animation was cool and you realise how busy an elf is. Up at 5 breakfast at 6 snack at 7, 8, 9, 10 and lunch at 11 followed by a nap, more snacks and then dinner and bed, not sure how or when they make the toys but as the song goes, "I make toy's but I have aspirations, girls and boys before you wish for what you wish for there's a list for, naughty or nice consider the price for an elf!" (yes, Kay dressed herself that day - moon boots, brown polka dot dress and pink leopard tights. nice)
They each sat on this lap and they want (in order) a skateboard, rollerblades and a skateboard (do you see a pattern?) Then, we were off to write it down in a post card to mail to the North Pole (in case Santa is forgetful) and dinner.

Kay's gotcha day was Tuesday of this week (she came home to be a Murphy 6 years ago Tuesday) but due to our busy Tuesday schedule (gymnastics, basketball and Grandma & Grandpas plane landing) we went out to dinner on Sunday night instead. To.......Mirror of Korea! Yum!! They kids all ordered their favorites without even brousing the menu and Kay made me promise I'd get her a little bit of everything. They (once again) ate like we havent fed them in 6 years. There wasnt a morsel left on the table and if I didnt watch it, Kay would have eaten my finger.
Then we headed home and watched the coming home video of Kay. She was WAY too cute, and chubby and it was great to see Seoul, her foster parents and all our Australian friends (at least on video).
On Kays ACTUAL gotcha day, aside from all the sporting activities, it was more movies of Kay as a baby and cupcakes with Grandma and Grandpa.
It was a really fun start to the holiday week!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A House Divided - aka Jimmy's new obsession

Ok, before I launch into my blog about Jimmy's new obsession. Here is a quick update on the kids week with Sue while we were in Mexico.

Billy "Mommy, I miss you and it makes my tummy feel funny"
Kay got a 100% on her 1st ever spelling test
Jimmy "Do you think Mommy & Daddy are having as much fun as we are Sue?"

I think that says it all...

So, as with the North & South Koreans, West & East Germany, Pakistan and India....The LoudAmericans are also a house divided. As good Minnesoteans & Wisconsonites, its the age old rivarly of the Vikings and the Packers. The boys have decided to be staunch Vikings fans, Kay and Nikki are even-ing the sides by declaring themselves Packer fans. Its a mess, a riot and very loud.
The 1st Packer/Viking game brought Jimmy yelling at the TV EVERY time the VIkings touched the ball. This lead Kay to yell at the TV EVERY time Kay touched the ball. Of course, Nikki didnt want to be left out so... every time one of the kids yelled, she coursed through the house at top speed. Not a relaxing way to watch the game but pretty funny. As everyone knows, the Vikings won and Grandpa Jim now owes Tom & Jimmy a cheeseburger.
Weeks went past and Jimmy dutifully studied all he could on football. I come home from work 4-5 days a week to find him watching football, by himself, talking to the ref's and cheering for which ever team happens to be playing. I have no idea how he decides who he's going to root for but he told me today that his favorite college teams are North Carolina, Central Michigan, Florida, Gophers, Badgers .... His 2nd grade class plays touch football every day at recess. You could call it an obsession. (an ironic obsession since neither Tom or I follow any organized sport, and our TV watching time totals about 7 min's a week)
So, the next Packer/Vikings game comes along and I decide to up the ante. A bet between Mommy & son. The wager? If the Vikings win, I'll buy Jimmy a Favre Vikings jersey. If the Packers win, he has to wear a Favre PACKERS jersey to school all day. Needless to say, the bet was on.... As the game was during our flight to Mexico, I was unable to watch my bet go south. No worries, Jimmy called the MINUTE we got into our house in Mexico screaming, "they won they won ... when are you going to buy me my jersey!?!" Then, he proceeded to give me a play by play of the game. (dont ask me how he figured out to call Mexico, I'm not sure I want to know). I guess in hindsight its a good thing he won the bet otherwise he'd be this kid....
I came good on my bet and as much as it killed me, Jimmy is the proud owner of Favre Vikings jersey. He wore it 3 days in a row and I had to peal it off him to put it in the wash yesterday.
Today we had tickets to the Gopher game- last game of the season in the "bank" (the new U stadium) They were tickets through work and we made it a mommy son game. It was SUPER fun. The Gophers won and Jimmy (along with his posse of 10 yr old boys) watched, cheered, discussed and boo'ed the game, the players and the refs. Fun was had by all.
I earned a TON of Mother of the Year points this week:)


Like an old shirt the boat people reconnected in beautiful Mexico for a week of bonding, guacamole and sun.

This does not suck 4 began early Sunday morning with our 5:05 departure from Minneapolis to Puerto Vallarta Mexico. The Murphy's, Milbrath's, Petersens and the Fosters all arrived safe and sound and the party began. We had each submitted a 7 song play list for the evening , Ben created a play list and we had cocktails and reminisced about trips gone by and had a blast.
We stayed at a beautiful home that is part of an exclusive resort group that the Petersen's are members of. The place had 4 huge bedrooms, a living room, movie/TV room, kitchen and it's own pool, along with daily maid service and breakfast, pachcha!

Monday was Day of the Dead, a celebration of life so to speak in Mexico. We all hung around the pool, read books, napped, read more books and waited until 3:00 when the fresh daily dose of guacamole arrived. After about day 4 we put a stop to the guac as we had more than enough! We had our own cook come in two different nights and we had two Mexican Fiesta's that were out of this world. We had Mahi Mahi and this new fish called grasshopper, really it was red snapper but after a few glasses of wine the hearing gets a little fuzzy?

The group had a blast reconnecting, sharing life stories and forgetting for a few days that we all had kids, jobs and we concentrated on being on vacation. Tracy and I managed to get a work out in each day and speaking of work outs as any of you know from following this blog there was a competition between the guys and the girls as to which team could amass the most miles, the girls won, way to go!

We went to the Four Seasons Hotel for cocktails, appy's and the sunset which was beautiful. Then to really signify that we were on vacation, we had a party within the party. Mr. Foster had a birthday and nothing says happy birthday like a sombrero and tequila! Happy 40 something Terry.

Five days sitting around the beach , the pool, our pool finally got the best of Tracy, Terry , Marry , and myself so we got a cab into town and rented a sailboat to sail around the bay. It was awesome and of course we had to drag Foster back to the shore.

All good things had to come to an end and we all said our goodbyes with a plan of a return to the boat in February 2011!

The Zack Brown band had the song of the trip that went something like this' I had my toes in the water ass in the sand not a worry and a world of cold beer in my hand life is good today, life is good today"

Thanks to Sue for watching the kids and to the boat people for just being themselves.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

Jimmy's "prize" at the halloween party

Ready to go trick or treating!

Jimmy's class party

Kays class party

Mr Davis as the tooth fairy

If you need to imagine the energy and excitement level around here, just imagine...

Halloween parties at school & church, Sue's in town, we are leaving for vacation AND everyone gets to get jazzed up on candy for 1 night of the year. YEAH!!!

The kids finally landed on their halloween costumes - Jimmy is the scary guy from Scream, Kay is a witch/vampire and Billy a red (led) Power Ranger (Langer) (remember he cant say his r's - he says l's instead, its sort of a reverse asian thing). To be honest, the only one who had a problem with what she was going to be was Kay. Jimmy found the Scream mask at a garage sale 6 weeks ago and hasnt taken it off since. Billy walked into Target, found the 1st Power Langers costume and was done. Kay on the other hand, has a bit of Grandma Bill in her. We shopped for her costume for almost 3 hours. Including 2 trips to Target and 1 trip to a Halloween store. She "just cant decide". I dont know if its that they all looked good or if none of them were what she wanted. I finally convinced her that she'd make a killer vampire witch and promised to do her makeup separately and FINALLY we were done.

They all had parties at school and while the school has a no treats policy, that didnt stop the mayhem. Jimmy's teacher (Mr Davis) went as the tooth fairy and I have to admit it was a work of art. Sue got to join in the fun and so kicked off our holiday weekend.

The party at church included bringing along Ben C (cousin Ben) and an effort to get everyone out of the house so Tom could finish his last assignment for school before we jet off. There were games, crafts, treats and more mayhem. The boys planted themselves in the haunted house and "worked" the whole time. They scared everyone that came through and thought it was hysterical.

Finally the cue de gras...trick or treating!!! It was awesome. Loads of candy and super fun to see all our friends dressed up and "out" for the night. There was even a gorilla on the loose that was stealing kids candy (only to give it back a block later).

Lucky Sue, the kids are exhausted, have bags full of candy and we are out of commission for 7 days. Good luck! (and thank you !!!)

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homesick for Bangalore

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while will remember a blog I wrote about 2 years ago about homesickness. I compared it to the flu. While you think homesickness will be more like an allergy (sort of a constant irritant but something you can live with) the reality is that its like the flu. It hits hard, unexpected, takes you out for a few days and leaves you going...'wow, what was that?!"

I had that experience this week, but instead of missing Minneapolis, I am missing Bangalore.
What brought this on? I'm not sure ... I think it was spurred by 2 things.

One, I am reading "I am a Stranger Here Myself" by Bill Bryson. Its an hysterical account of his move back to the US after 20 years in Britain. I cant even begin to describe how accurately he describes american life. Not in a degrading or complaining sort of way, but in a way that makes you realize how lucky (and "falsely" entitled) we truly are. If you have ever spent more than 3 weeks out of the US, read it. Its a good ego deflator.

Then, I had an incredibly vivid dream in which I was having to say goodbye to all my girlfriends in Bangalore. I was SO sad, my heart hurt and I am sure I was sobbing in my sleep. Its bad enough to have to have had to say goodbye once and know that while I'll keep this group close to my heart, we'll never physically all be close again (or even on the same continent at the same time, again). Too sad. This got me thinking of all the things I miss. (besides Radha, Stuti, Carol, Angie, Francis, Petra, Stacy, Allison, Angelica, Jessica)

~ Vivid, crazy, detailed, psychidelic dreams (see above) - there is something about living in a totally foreign experience where you are out of your comfort zone everyday that amps up your dream meter. My dreams here are nice, but they are more the modest cozy suburban middle class dreams of hot dish and snow pants.

~ The stars - I was walking Nikki last night and realized I miss looking up at the stars from the villa and seeing a million bright little dots and the totally disorienting sense of not recognizing a single constallation. Talk about unnerving. Its amazing how reliable/safe it is to look up and see the northern star and big/little dippers. It grounds you. (not to mention that with the glow from Mpls, you really cant see many stars)

~ The colors - I now live in the world of black, grey and brown attire. I walk through the halls of Target and its a sea of conservativeness. No oranges or turquoise, no red, yellow, blue or gold. No shiny sparkly shirts. No beaded flip flop (chappels). No big dangly earrings and tons of bracelets (bangles) and rings on every finger. Stepping out here is dark blue, burgandy and MAYBE red (if you are wearing team colors that day)

~ The food - Its cheap, fresh, offers a ton of variety of fruits/veggies (that actually taste like something other than the hothouse they were grown in) and spices that would set your hair on fire. You can go to ANY buffet for lunch, eat for less than $7 and gorge yourself on 17 different dishes that dont all taste like they were made in the same pot with the same spoon. (Indian food here is NOT my favorite)

~ The adventure - While our day to day lives could be as routine as they are here, there was a sense of unpredictability just around every corner that added a spring to your step. Along our many drives around the city, we encountered.... a woman hurling her feces at a bus, a goat being decapitated for a ceremony, beggers that were missing teeth, fingers, etc (many children), donkeys riding in ricksaws, camels pulling carts on the highway, an elephant lumbering up to a temple for a puja, etc etc. Now, our trip to Duluth last weekend was fun, the trees gorgeous and the predictability of gas stations, modern comforts soothing; it didnt quite have the same sense of adventure we had come to enjoy.

~ The coffee/tea - yes, I even miss that stupid Coffee Day machine in RJU. I miss that I had to walk 2 flights of stairs to get to the machine that made a decent cup. I miss the tablespoon of jaggery (sugar) that you had to add to make it drinkable. I even miss the fact that 1 cup was all you needed (literally, more than that you had to take anphetimines to come down). I miss the chai at the jewerly stores. It was so amazing. I have a craving to go jewerly shopping just to drink the tea.

So, while I have been missing my friends, the food, the experience, I just got socked in the stomach by homesickness. I'll get over it. I have so much here that I love (people food experience) but I also know that homesickness is like the flu; you never know when it'll hit and no one is immune.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kay's sings backup & Jimmy brings it to ya!

So our friend Will Hale has created this new awesome family musical experience. He is playing at the Cedar here in Minnespolis and having kids of all ages join him in a rock concert, family style. We were asked to help with the event and the kids decided they would do back up, well only Kay actually had the courage at the end of the day, but the rehearsals were great.

Kay, as you all know, really has no fears and when she jumps in & hangs on because ....she is going for it. She climbed on stage looked at Will and said "hit it" and that was how it is done. She was up there singing away to "Don't tell me it's easy growing up when your falling down" and she had a ball.

We needed to get one of those old fashioned long cane hook things they used in Vaudville acts to drag her off stage, not because she was no good, just the opposite and I think that Will was getting a little nervous sharing the stage with a 6 year old back up singer with an attitude.

Here is the you tube link: (keep in mind that Jimmy was our videographer)

Jimmy in the mean time has begun to branch out of his shell and statred to sing accoustic versions of his favorite you tube songs. He recently had become obseesed with The Blues Brothers , Soul Man, and really there is not much more that I can say than watch this:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Seriously blog negligent and unworthy

Ok, you are all probably convinced that we have fallen off the face of the earth. Well, we have, in a way. Our blog world at least.

Tom and I started a fitness challenge in an effort to get into shape for our upcoming week long (kid free) adventure to Puerto Vallarta (yeah! can you tell we are excited?). We are doing it with the 3 couples that we'll be vacationing with and its boys against girls. You can already predict the outcome, right? We are in an all out fitness WAR! Dont ever call this group uncompetitive.

The goal is to log as many aerobic miles as you can each week. This has come at the price of sleep, meaningful conversations with my spouse and updates to the blog (we are trying to not let it affect school, work or the kids, but even those are getting pulled into the fray.)

What does this mean? Here's an email exerpt from Tom to the group trying to rally/inspire his team to "do more!"

"The truth of the matter is that Tracy and I try to work out for around two hours a day, some days we do some days we cant. The issue is weekends. If we can get a workout on either or both days that is somewhat of a bonus. We use the chart to figure out our numbers. We have goal charts for the kids and us and we make a family event around marking the charts and who accomplished what goals.

Before we started this Tracy and I were doing about 40-45 miles per week.
This would include 30-35 workout miles plus the "gimme" 10.5 for daily activities (breathing, chasing kids, etc). Since we started the program we have changed our behaviors (which gains us 5 miles per week in bonus miles - stuff like: salads for lunch, dinner before 7pm & limited drinking - thats the hardest one), some weeks we do better than others and have added an extra day or two to our workout schedule. Which means we now workout 5-7 days/week versus 4-6.

We average 6-8 miles per day. It is not easy to do and I am not sure that we could sustain this pace for an extended period of time however we committed to 9 weeks and so here we are.

I have found that this "competition" has motivated me to up my personal goals. I now find myself making time for an extra workout versus watching TV or something else. I would like to figure out a way to continue as the challenge part helps me stay motivated

Plus its been fun to check with our team mates and see how they are doing and rub it in when we (girls) win. We have 2 weeks of score posting to go and right now its girls 4 weeks, boys 3 weeks. The girls need to clinch 1 of the upcoming weeks to get the gold.

We'll let you know how we do.

In the meantime, off to the club!!

Friday, October 09, 2009

The view from here

It has be quite some time since I have had the energy or the time for that matter to log into the old blog and post some random or not so random thoughts. So much so that my birthday came and went, my wife posted some reflective and deep thoughts and still no input from me.

I have been trying to figure out the difference from being in India compared to being back in the US and quite honestly it is hard to compare or contrast for that matter so I have stopped. I can say that I am happy to be back home but miss India and the people terribly.

I have started to branch put of my normal book reading and started reading books about people and their stories and find that it is fascinating to read something other than a mystery or spy story. I have found that there is a common denominator, which to some extent I always new was present, which is tragedy. It is in itself is no fun but the results are often times so much greater that the tragedy seems worthwhile. I hope that does not make me sound like I am rooting for tragedy, I am merely saying that reading or for that matter seeing things with both eyes open gives one a better or broader perspective.

I look back over the last year and see the growth I and my family have made and the fact that as hard as I try the kids are growing up. I know they are not even in double digits yet but they are three of the coolest people I know, not to mention Tracy! To have celebrated yet another birthday and the mile stone of 11 years married adds to the joy of the past year. I look forward now more than ever to just hang out at home, play with the kids and learn about the universe as it told bu a four year old using the current trend toy as the center, Yikes!

There is a surreal feeling of watching your child see an arts and craft show on TV and then go gather all the needed equiptment and re-create the craft that they just watched. Kind of cool. The kids are the center of your universe and until you have them you would never know.

The moment Bruce made the cover of AARP, was another time to think about music and the impact it has on people and well me. I am about as tone deaf as one can be and I am the poster boy for ' He could noy sing his way out of a paper bag', all true.That does not mean I can not listen to my kids sign give Nikki a Steak and not be pround of the way Kay hammers on the guitar, Jimmy lay's down the beat on the drums and Old Bill eases a lazy melody out of the piano. Who knows what musical talent lurks behind the ears and eyes of the three youngest loudamericans.

So as I now enter into the last year of my 5th decade I am looking around at all my blessings and with at some times tears of contentment, cannot imagine how lucky I am. To have family and all of the healthy, spending time with them and friends and the recent memory of how well the new era of Vikings football has taken hold, make me appreciate all the good things we have.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That doesnt make me a shallow person ... does it?

Quick - name that song/quote (no fair Wendy as you hooked me on to him...)

My life has been focused lately around so many every day activities that it has me wondering if I have lost all capacity for critical self reflection and if I am becoming a shallow person. What's driving this? A couple unrelated and minor situations that stick out and are causing me to wonder if I am a shallow person...

~ article/editorial about moving from early adulthood into middle age and how you seem to lose interest (or maybe you dont have time) in navel gazing & self absorbtion (I mean reflection)
~ the Beatles song "Let it Be"
~ watching my kids dance, sing, play & with total abandon

I remember being VERY passionate about a variety of subjects in high school, college and my 20's. I could argue ad naseum about politics, world events, religion, human rights, anything, you name it. I had an opinion. When did I stop caring/arguing? (now some of you will say I havent, but keep reading)...

Really, now I find these discussion really base and silly and not worth my time. I'd much rather talk about my kids or your really cool vacation, or if Brad and Angelina have really broke up (again). Really. I am becoming a People magazine addict. I love spy novels and have given up ever making it through Ayn Rand (and then having a deep conversation about the symbolism in the book). I am happy to chat about good food, where did you get that cute outfit, how is your family doing and which hair color would look best with my eyebrows. Some of you will think this is totally shallow and you may be right. But, here's where I am coming from (see triangulation above...)

Per the editorial, I think I spent MUCH of my earlier adulthood figuring out who I was, talking about it, testing it out, feeling its limits, getting comfortable in my skin. I think I am "there" now. I know who I am, what I stand for and what I want. I dont need to debate it anymore. I dont need to convince anyone else. I am heading down that path and pretty darn happy about it. (and I invite you all along for the ride!)

The Beatles song "Let it Be" is SUCH a mantra for my life right now - it strikes me as extremely relevant and spiritual in 2 ways. You can interpret it as "Let it Be!" like "let is go" "drop it" "give it up" "give!" (when talking to the dog) - you know, "get over yourself" OR, it can open up a universe of possibilties that you never thought existed like "let it BE", "create your own reality" "power of positive thinking" "ask and you shall recieve" "cocreate your own consciousness"- do you feel the power in that?! In both? Let it go and let it come. Let it BE!

Finally, my kids are totally themselves, all the time. They dance when they feel like it, they sing (probalby off key but how would I know) they cry and laugh and talk and giggle and wiggle and cuddle and hug and love ... all when they feel like it and in fact THE INSTANT they feel like it. They dont spend timing wondering and thinking and arguing and reflecting. They dont try to change other people to fit their needs. They express them (often very loudy) and react accordingly. I dont think of them as shallow, just really really connected.

So, no, I dont think I am shallow. And, no, I havent stopped caring about things that matter. I still want cancer/disease to 'go away', hunger to be non-existent, every child to have a loving/safe home, every person to know their personal worth and value AND to look good in my swimsuit for vacation. But, I'm not going to argue/philosophize/dissect it anymore. I am going to do what I can to change it in my world, with the people I touch and insure that my kids/friends/family know that they are loved & supported. I wont do it perfectly and I'll screw up some days and sometimes I'll need others to remind me that I am who I am. But ... that doesnt make me a shallow person, does it?! :)

Call me a slow learner, but wouldnt this have been great to know 25 years ago? Think of all the back issues of People magazine that I could have read in all that spare time:)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shhh...its a secret...

Ok, I am banking on the fact that Tom is WAY too busy with school work to check out the blog this week. So, keep this quiet until Thursday:)

Thursday 9/24 will be Tom's 1st annual 49th birthday.

Please send him emails, give him a call and wish him a happy day and a fantastic year.

We have a quiet night planned to celebrate with just the kids on Thursday and then dinner out with Wade/Angela on Friday. Wade and Tom share a birthday (with a few years difference).

Then he's having some buddies over for steak on Saturday.

All in all, should be a fun week.

But, until Thursday, keep this between us:)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nothing much to report..

Its that time of year when you are so busy you cant see straight, but when people ask you "what have you been up to?" you give them a really dull look..."uh...nothing". How can that be? We fall into bed each night exhausted and we have nothing to report for it.

Its back to school, the kids are staring to ramp up with activities (gymnastics, drum lessons, sunday school, tennis, etc)

The weather has been gorgeous, we finally got summer in MN; so we've been swimming, biking, climbing trees, walking Nikki, grilling out, etc.

Mary Pear Tree in the front yard is giving off pears so juicy and sweet they make your teeth hurt, so we have been busy delivering those to anyone in the neighborhood that will take them.. we have smoked a turkey stuffed with pears, had pears in our salad, grilled them with balsamic and our neighbor made the best pear crunch. Now our apple tree is about to "go" too and we have thousands of VERY tart apples ready for pie, crumble, waldorf salad, etc. We are even considering giving pear wine a try.

Tom and I are waged in a battle of the fittest. Literally. The group we vacation with has set out a health challenge. Who can get MOST healthy before our non-kid vacation to Mexico in November. Its based on goals and miles and it guys vs girls. So, everytime Tom has a salad for lunch, I have to too. Every time I take Nikki for a walk, he sneaks in some heavy duty yard work. Our house has not looked so good all summer, Nikki's in great shaped and I do have to admit, we are going through veggies like crazy. All for 7 guilt free days in November. (oh, and feeling better about ourselves too, thats right...)

Jimmy lost another tooth, Kay has a casting call with Target for one of their ads and Billy started preschool where he is the token male. (He has it good). Tom continues to get 'A's in class and I am working my fingers to the bone.

But, we are happy, healthy, relaxing, enjoying the weather, visiting with friends and even reading a few good books.

We had family movie night last night and enjoyed Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Its got a great message, I reccomend it.

In proof reading the above, we sound like the Waltons.

Good night John Boy.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Back to School

It is with SWEET sorrow that the 104 days of summer vacation have come to and, but the Loudamericans can say that we did it all!!

The final weekend of Summer was filled with activities and a visit from aunt Sue and we celebrated her birthday with cake, ice-cream and flowers!! Happy Birthday Sue!!

Sue spent the weekend playing with the kids, building forts and most importantly she babysat them while Tracy and I went out to dinner!! Thanks Again Sue.

Jimmy was to excited to sleep and was up bright and early for the first day of school. His second grade teacher is Mr. Davis and Jimmy is in hog heaven. He has a couple of kids from last year in his class and is ready to hit the ground running.

Kay is moved into Jimmy's old class and her first grade teacher is the same as Jimmy's, Mrs. VanBatavia and we are all please as pie. Kay was well has some friends from last year in her class and she is digging her new pack pack!

Look for weekly updates, antidotes and pictures from this years educational story book, yikes!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jimmy Turns 8

August 22nd was finally here, Jimmy's birthday. He has been counting the months, weeks, days and minutes until the Holy Grail of days has arrived.

Jimmy was going back and forth on how to celebrate - from a sleepover to the zoo and finally Mommy made the choice for him, GRANDSLAM! It offers a little piece of heaven right here on earth for 8 year old boys. The place has mini golf, bumper cars, batting cages and laser tag. There are even video games. When we walked in Jimmy's friend Sam turned to him and said "Jimmy ...this place is a dream come true!"

The place has a system that works great. They give you one token for each kid for the batting cage and 8 tokens for video games and unlimited bumper cars, laser tag and mini golf and finally a large pizza and two pitcher of soda. No fuss no mess - the perfect place for the boys to burn off some energy.

Jimmy had a blast with his classmates and they all had a great time with the different events. Some loved the laser tag while other liked the bumper cars. Of course we had to drag Billy out of the bumper cars kicking and screaming. Kay even took a round in the batting cage where the pitches were coming at her 40 miles per hour. She missed the first couple but she just may have made better contact than the boys!

The laser tag was like suiting up to go to war. Each kid had a vest with a shot counter and a laser gun and the whole thing glowed in the dark. The room was a maze of different floors and hiding places and the entire place was dark and only lit with black lights, kind of freaky, spooky and a total rush. The kids came out screaming and laughing and cover in sweat, to sum it up awesome.

It was back home after for more fun and t-shirt making. Jimmy gave each of his buddies a white t-shirt and some fabric paint and they all made cool t-shirts from the day. Finally everyone headed home and Jimmy looked at us and said " Mom and Dad that was awesome, I love you and I have to go to bed." He was wiped out for two days but had a great birthday.

He got lots of presents and Jimmy (and Mom and Dad) say thanks you to everyone that sent birthday wises his way. Jimmy really has been using the amplifier we got him for his electric guitar, I mean using it alot and it appears to date it only has one level of volume, LOUD.

He did make a comment a few days later "its a good thing its not your birthday everyday or you'd be too tired all the time".


Sunday, August 16, 2009

PSA- Cutting Oniond without tears

Many of you may know that Kay is a great help in the kitchen. Her current skill is to help Daddy cut vegetables. She can cut, chop and even Julienne any vegetable. She has shied away from onions until today when she came up with a plan all on her own.

For all of you out there that dread having to cut onions. The stinging of the eyes, the loss of vision and the continued irritant this white and often useful vegetable creates, Kay has developed a solution.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Korean Culture Camp

Last week was an incredible week for the kids and for us as well. The Korean Culture camp is a 33 Year old program and has campers from across the US and Europe as well. It was the first year for the Loudamericans and the Van Meters and a second term for the Buckley's and the Waldon/ Werner's. This camp is even starting to have campers whose parents were campers. Too cool.

The camp was spread over the Minnehaha High School campus and the place was packed with around 300 campers and a whopping 250 volunteers. Tom was in the Kitchen 4 out of the 5 days.

The camp offered many different Korean focused classes from music, dance, Tae Kwon Do and self esteem (Jimmy's favorite). It is about the whole adoption process and how everyone is unique and special. Jimmy came home day one and said " This Korean Culture Camp is awesome, it is full of people just like me, Korean Americans. There are barely any American Americans.". It was enough to bring tears to your eyes. Kay and Billy as well found a place full of people like them and they all had a blast.

The kids got to have real Korean treats which was interesting because they have not really had them before but they really like them, go figure. At one point the camp was handing out blow pops you know those suckers that have gum in the middle. When it came time for the kids to get theirs, they ALL wanted the sour apple, a Korean favorite I suppose. I mentioned it to the self esteem instructor and he said..."yeah, me too but now they are all gone, look at all the Korean kids, we need better inventory management".

Each day we asked the kids "what was your favorite part". Everyday...the same answer... LUNCH!! The kids would all come through the lunch line like they had never eaten before. The rice, bugolgi, chop chay, kim chee, mondu, chicken it was a varietal smorgasbord of delicacies available everyday for LUNCH, man am I hungry.

The week ended with a performance on Saturday that included many of the things the kids learned over the week. Jimmy learned Tae Kwon Do and broke his first board. The crowd went nuts! Kay was in the dancing and signing portion of the program and was super cute.

There were several quotes and moments of intense joy and sadness however the one that I think sticks out the most was an interchange between Joey and Jimmy.:

Jimmy: Joey do you like Korean Camp?

Joey: Yeah it is a blast!

Jimmy: Me too I wish we could have Korean Camp everyday!

Joey: Me too, but these people all have real jobs:(

We are looking forward to camp next August!! In the meantime it is off to Mirror of Korea to get our food fix.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hard Rock Metal Fused with Dance

The kids had Marin over the other day to babysit while Dad was at the Library doing some school research. Marin is our neighbor and go to girl when we need a sitter and she is a great artist and the kids really dig her.

The kids created t-shirts which was a great idea and they have sparked a continuing rock and roll concert since.

Jimmy is becoming quite the music aficionado and has recently chosen the Band Green Day as his new affliction and as you can see by the t-shirt he creates quite the rad band.

Kay and Billy have been the groupies and have a kind of hands on thing going with the t-shirts and band.

The band itself is what they in the music industry would call emerging. The sound is rather that of a banshee running for it's life but in some ways it is consistent. The drum is the main feature with several loud pounding solos per song and many time back to back solos. The main vocals are handled by Kay in a Janis Joplin/Slam dance/Kiss/retro kind of way. She also handles the guitar backup which is quite the sight as the guitar is bigger than she is.

Old Bill as he is referred to by his band mates, is the background glue kind of musician. He handles the keyboards and light vocals while sometimes using the keyboard like a synthesiser or some other kind of late 70's acid based/meth type of sounds.

The group has yet to develop a name however they have penned several songs including but not limited to :

I wanna Rock

I wanna Rock the House

I wanna rock all Night

Give Nikki a Steak

Animals are true ( They do not drink alcohaol)

Jimmy was at McPhail Center for the arts for an intake interview and saw their poster for the battle of the bands and wants to enter. He was told he had to be 12 to which he responded 'what's up with that" Now he wants to have Billy be the judge and have Jimmy and Kay versus Mommy and Daddy, Yikes. If anyone wants to enter the battle let Jimmy know.
As his interviewer asked him, Jimmy, can I ask you a couple of questions?" Jimmy's response was and I kid you not " Sure, what have you got"

The group may be featured on utube so stay tuned!