Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A few observations

We have now come to the end of our first month in Toronto and I have noticed a few difference and similarities to both Bangalore and Minnesota.

Unlike in Minnesota, where to make conversation people talk about the weather, here people ask you how much are you paying for your house/ Do you like it? Is it new?  They are also VERY into politics, particularly American politics. I feel very under educated and need to start boning up on our nightly news!

Similar to Bangalore people do not know how to drive, really. They have a high occupancy lane here, HOV, or Sane lane as many know these lane by, however it is the right hand lane! Seriously and there are to be 3 plus people in the vehicle, not 2, and people just drive in the lane anyway " pretending" to have to make a right hand turn. Also similar to Bangalore the vehicle do not come equipped with turn signals.

Similar to Minnesota the cable/Internet/cell phone customer service is non-existent. For instance we have Rogers as our provider and when we set up the account they used Tom's Middle name as his first name so the account is listed as Francis Murphy. When we tried to get some "issues" resolved they would not help me because the name on the account did not match the name I gave them citing " It would be irresponsible for me to talk to you about an account which such a name discrepancy"?

The kids have finally started to meet some of our neighbors. Unlike both Minnesota and Bangalore it seems that once school is over ( June 29th) most Torontotonians hit the road for extended summer vacations and return home late in July, which just so happens to correspond when we are heading back home for a 10 vacation, planning! We had a couple of boys over yesterday, Marco and AJ, and Kay was so excited she decided to teach them how to make pretzels, I was unaware she even knew herself! Apparently she has been watching some show and practicing on her EZ bake ovens in her room, assuming that's not a fire hazard. Let's just say we have been here for a month and somehow have gone through 5 pounds of flour? In her spare time she has also figured out home to make homemade icecream ( see below). As Carl says "she has the strongest survival gene I've ever seen". In contrast, Jimmy asked us the otehr day where we keep the forks. Really..... how sad is that?!

Toronto is an over the top diverse city that offers an never ending list of fun and adventurous things to do. We have been enjoying the city, the differences and the similarities! The subway station is about 4 blocks from our house and for the past 2 Saturday's we have biked up to the station, got on board the subway and headed out to explore. We went to the Historic Toronto Island, which is a 15 minute Ferry Boat ride from the mainland and then swam, saw the Festival of India ( go figure) and then out to dinner. Tom was soooo looking forward to trying the house speciality, a waffle chicken sandwich, but as luck would have it they ran out! (like Bangalore:))

This past weekend we took the subway to meet some one of Tracy's co-workers who was visiting as well as Tracy's boss, his wife and their two kids. The restaurant we met them at is an incredible Japanese place and the food was crazy good. The kids had a blast as did the adults, then back on the subway home. We are going to need to get some lights for our bikes as the kids (and us) are really liking this new routine! Sunday was also great as we decided to have a lazy day and the kids stayed in their PJ's for the whole day. Then, to top it off ,we have the Friendly Greek, which is right up the street, deliver our dinner, too good!

We are getting ready for our trip back to Korean Culture Camp to get Nikki, see some family and friends and the kids are beside themselves...
More to come

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Kay!! Wow, 9 years old:)

Kay turned 9 on Tuesday and boy, did she do it right:)!!  In addition to the Science Center outing last weekend, on Tuesday we did our celebration of Kay. 

She went to Gymnastics camp all day, which included swimming, crafts and yes, even gymnastics:)

We had dinner at a local Korean restaurant (1of about 1,000:)) and Kay opened her presents from the boys and Nikki.  Tom and I were only 2 of 3 Caucasians in the place and that was a good sign.  We ordered WAY too much food and managed to eat through most of it.  Kay and Billy gave it a thumbs up. Jimmy was unwilling to commit due to his loyalty to Mrs Choi and Mirror of Korea in St Paul. But, he did concede that the mandu was wonderful and ate his weight in bul go gi (marinated beef). He was a little disappointed in the chap jae (glass noodles, he thought they were too skinny) and the fact that they didn't have any kim bop (sushi roll).  But, after dinner, we saved the day. There was a Korean grocery store which carried kim bop and melon bars (a rare Korean Camp delicacy.

After stuffing ourselves, it was back home for more presents and cake.  Kay got everything she asked for and then some!  A Baby Alive (the kids spent the rest of the night feeding her, making her pee and then laughing hysterically when she did - good fun), a cheese slicer (she wanted one "just like Grandmas"), a Slushy Magic (a "as seen on TV' item that makes slushys out of cold water and "magic" cubes), two new bikini's, a new summer outfit, and some body spray.  Whew, its hard to be a 9 year old girl that loves make up, clothes and cooking.

In fact, she had so much fun with her day, we never got to the cake. She had so much fun, she fell right of the cliff and into a huge tantrum at 9:00pm.  She was so over stimulated and worn out that she had a mini break down, stomped off to bed and promptly fell asleep.

Luckily, sleeps cures all and we had breakfast and kim bop for breakfast the next morning. Let me tell, it was a REALLY good cake (nothing like cake and coffee for breakfast:))

Her birthday celebrations will continue later this month with a Roller Garden rollerskating party with her friends in MPLS when we are back for Korean Camp.  Lucky girl:)

Kay -we love you! We love your passion, energy, creativity, independence, busy-ness, humor, talents and even your tantrum's. We love everything about you!! Have a wonderful 9th year pook-a-rook:)              

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weekend Update - Science Center and Honda Indy race

We had an eventful weekend:) With tomorrow being Kay's birthday, we told her she got to pick our Saturday activity, so we were off to the Science Center. Its a really cool, interactive Science Museum. They currently have a Circus exhibit and a Sports exhibit. On top of that, there is a cool Mindworks, Rainforest, Space and "crafts" area. They were in HEAVEN!  We actually joined with a family membership and now can go anytime we like. I foresee many cold winter days at this place. The kids loved the Sports portion, they could race a cheetah, jump and land like a cat and see how fast they could throw a pitch (Jimmy 43 mph, Kay 23 mph). 

Sunday was the Honda Indy race. Tracy got 2 tickets from work and invited Billy to join her (see previous blog:)) She is taking each of the kids on a "date" day for some bonding time. It was the perfect venue for Billy. There was a Hot Wheels booth, tons of cars to see, a fly over by the navy, fireworks and TONS of army vehicles to climb on. What more could a 7 yr old boy want?!  We went with a coworker and his 7 yr old. so... as they say - 2 7 yr olds are better than 1!  The boys loved hanging out together and are now fast friends. By the end of the day, there were plans for future play dates and Hot Wheels races. Billy and Tracy took the subway and street car to get to/from the race...., we are starting to feel very urban!

We also had our 1st dinner party! (go figure) we had 2 other families over who are also moving up here to work.  One was on their house hunting trip and the other is currently living in a hotel, moving into their house this Wednesday. It was fun to share stories/advice on moving and good for the kids to have other kids to play with. Again, the kids were all fast friends and Jimmy even jumped in one of the cars and wanted to go home with them. He "negotiated" 3 dinner playdates at their house once they move in. Good news, they really wont be living too far from us and while she and Tracy are in the same building, they aren't part of the same team. They even suggested babysitting "swapping" so that we can have date nights. They've got friend potential written all over them:)

The kids start day camps this week so be on the look out for a blog later this week on their adventures!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Billy Balou, we love you...Happy Gotcha Day

Yes, its true, 7 years ago today, Billy came home and completed our family.  We traveled from Seoul to Mpls excited to introduce him to the rest of his family and most importantly Kay and Jimmy. Upon arrival, they showered him with love, hugs, kisses and he promptly fell off the couch and landed on his head.

No worries, in true Billy fashion, he bounced back and merged into the LoudAmerican craziness.

As you have seen from older posts, Billy is our engineer and absent minded professor. He loves learning how things work and is constantly asking "How does the brake work?" "Why do you need to put gas in the car?" "How does this door handle work?"  Almost all his inquires (when we actually know the answer) are met with "Well, that makes sense.".  He is a wonderful, loving friend and gives hugs and is generous with sharing his toys and "stuff".  He's a BIG cuddlier and loves to read in bed every night before we tuck him in.  He can play with Lego's, by himself, for hours, but then is the 1st one "in" for any game of tag or chase.  He's a natural swimmer and we think he'd make a great soccer player. He loves everyone in his class or team but does have a hard time remembering peoples names or labels for "things".  Frequently, when asked what he had for lunch/dinner, he'll reply "I cant remember, but I liked it". His # 1 request on birthdays?  "Make me what I like".  He is going to be a Lego engineer when he grows up.  Tracy is taking him to the Toronto Indy race on Sunday and we are both worried that we wont be able to get him to leave as he next best love is cars. (Really anything with a motor).

He's also our animal whisperer, he can calm down any dog/cat within minutes and has them literally eating out of his hand or sleeping on his lap.  We attribute it to his zen/Buddha like nature.  He is currently missing Nikki terribly and all the dogs on the block are on alert for a small 7 year with extra love to give.

We are SO thankful to his birth mother (and father) for making the adoption choice which allowed Billy to be part of our family forever. I just hope that someday they'll get a chance to meet him and see what a wonderful, kind, smart, loving human being they created.  We are also truly blessed to have had the most wonderful foster family for Billy before he came home from Korea, they gave him unconditional love and peace in his 1st 7 months of life. I also think they gave him a great foundation of fun and humor.  Finally, all the social workers in Korea and MPLS were really our nurses and midwifes, they are amazing people who get to experience the miracle & heartbreak of adoption on a daily basis. Please send all your love, peace and good karma to these folks for without them, there wouldn't be a Billy Balou:)   

Billy Balou, we love you!            

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Transition to CA ...'eh!

So the transition to Canada has been with fits and starts and its ups and downs.  We had a wonderful last week in MPLS where we tried to cram 50 lbs of sh_t in a 5 lb bag and I'd say we did a pretty good job!

The movers came and packed us up. Literally, if you stood still, you'd get wrapped in paper and put in a box. The dog was a bit more than freaked out but managed to love up the packing crew so she got lots of extra attention that day. Packers are an interesting folk, many tattoos, lots of course language and really nice Jordan sneakers. Plus, they were all Dads so we got some extra sympathy with the kids. Sue came into to town to help and THANK  GOD! she was able to distract them (the kids) with activities and such.

We managed to see all our friends, eat at all our favorite spots (one last time), and see Jimmy's baseball team make it into the playoffs.  We even "crashed" the Golden Valley Street dance and made it our own. If you ever get to hear Ladies of the '80's, you NEED to go. It was a gas.

What wasn't a gas was living in a hotel room in downtown MPLS with 3 kids and a dog. I have to admit, the dog did better than the kids. Thankfully the hotel had breakfast each morning and 3 TVs. We were bad parents and broke all our own rules on TV time, but you do what you gotta do.

The flight to Toronto was nice and uneventful until we landed. It seems they had a big storm blow through and many flights were stuck on the tarmac waiting for their gates. This means...LONG lines at customs AND immigration, which we had to go through to get the kids their visitor visas. 50 Min's and 1 crabby customs official (who was trying hard not to be crabby but not doing a very good job) and we were off to our next hotel room. Keep in mind, now its 10:30pm and we haven't eaten dinner yet. You can see where this is going. We managed to get checked in and find a sports bar for dinner. It was 1am when we got back to the room. Enough said.

We needed to be at customs at 8am the next morning to clear our truck o stuff through. Easy enough on its own, but we were sharing some truck space with a coworker of mine. They forgot to mention the "no alcohol on your shipment" clause and the drivers spent the rest of the day digging through the truck to find the contraband for customs officials. Luckily, we weren't necessary and were able to head out and finish our chores - registering the kids for school, grocery shopping and a drivers licence for Tracy.  We even managed a swim in the hotel pool with the kids.

Tuesday our truck arrived at our house before we did, but no worries. Remember the packers? There is a sister team on the "other side" that unpacks. They were SUPER nice and we were done the same day (ie: all the boxes were off the truck, beds set up and furniture put together, the rest was up to us). We were finally able to sleep in our own beds and cook our own food. Heaven!

As we were unpacking, its was hysterical what we found.....As highlights...
~ a wet dish towel from the kitchen
~ a Tupperware container, with holes poked in it containing dirt grass and caterpillars
~ Tom's misplaced sunglasses (thank God, he was a mess!)
All wrapped in paper, neatly tucked into a box and part of "Kay's stuff". Note my aforementioned packers commentary.

Wed & Thurs Tracy had to go to work so Tom finished up errands and packing. Friday Tracy took the kids on errands and to work in order to give Tom a break. While they were initially hesitant to go to work, they quickly met Catherin and Jamie (The senior buyer of toys) and were entertained with all the newest toys. They LOVE my office (actually they love Jamie, but whats the diff?!)

Sat & Sun we tried to find kids and fun for them. We went to an outdoor pool, a Canada day celebration, a neighborhood picnic and the movie The Hunger Games.  We are a bit starved for other kids but they are hanging in there pretty good.

Tom got signed up for a club and Tracy managed a bike ride or 2. We also finished unpacking and hanging photos. Its starting to feel like home.

Now, we just need to meet some friends. We have 2 good leads from the picnic and some potential at work. Once the kids get into their summer camps and then finally, when school starts, we are hoping to collect more.

The kids miss Nikki (bringing her back with us next month) and their friends. BUT...we figured out how to Face Time and Kay got her 1st pen pal letter. Exciting stuff!

In the meantime, we are adjusting to crazy traffic (not quite Indian-esqe but lets just say lots of Indians live here) , cool restaurants (the kids love Swiss Chalet and Tim Hortons donuts) , expensive prices (milk = 5.00/gallon and eggs = 3.50/dozen), convenience of walking/biking everywhere (school 2 blocks away and subway 5 blocks away) and the gorgeous weather (so far):)

Our new furniture!

The dining room set looks amazing!

The music "room", boy is it loud! 

The guest room is ready for guests!

Jimmy in his element, 50" screen tv and video games

So, more to come, lots of love and keep sending us vibes of peace in the process.    


Monday, July 02, 2012

Rock On!!

Last year, you might remember, Young James participated in rock band camp. It was such a hit, we signed up again. What a fun week!  Jimmy met 15 other kids that are as into music as he is. They got together everyday for 5 hours and practiced, picked songs, learned to play as a group, set up and took down "the stage" and overall had a great time.  He was in a band with 3 other kids (boys) and they named themselves My Grandma Fell Off the Roof. When asked "whats up with the name?" we havent been able to get a straight answer. In fact, that seems to be a theme with Rock Band Camp, we cant get him to open up at all about it. How is it? Fine. Do you like the other kids? Yes. Are you having fun? Yes. What songs are you doing? Not telling, you'll have to wait for the surprise.

He kept his secrets all week and we came together on Friday night at The Eagles Club in South Minneapolis. Unlike last year, this is a real bar with a real stage. His 1st gig in a dive bar, we were so proud!  His band was up 1st and once again, Jimmy shocked us. They launched into 21 Guns" by Green Day with Jimmy as lead singer. They rocked it!  The next song up?  Hard Days Night by the Beatles and the finale was Black Submarine by The Black Keys. Honestly, their last song was really really good. Ryan (his band instructor this winter and for camp) was lead singer on the last 2 songs and Jimmy was the showman. Big white sunglasses, spinning his sticks, introducing the band, etc. He really is ham and was having a great time.

The Millers, Grandma & Grandpa Murphy and Wendy& Annemiek were in the house and everyone was amazed by all the kids talent and passion. What a fun way to spend a Friday night, live local music:)

See the links below for the replay performance. You can say you "knew him when". Thanks to West Bank School of  Music for their program, attitude, teaching and overall coolness factor.