Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vacation - FINALLY!

We have been in desperate need of a vacation - all of us. Between Tom's school (which he loves but is 10-15 hours of week on top of all the kids activities), the kids activities (gymnastics, basketball, piano, sax, drums, Tae Kwon Do, field trips, homework ...) and work work work work - we needed some down time. Interestingly enough, the kids didn't want to go. They didn't want to miss school, or track try outs or the Easter bunny or the million other reasons they had leading up to vacation - they were taking complaining to the next level. We had to remind them that not want to go on vacation was a major 1st world problem and that they'd get over it. We opted for a mindless sun and surf, all you can eat direct, flight to Cancun. Not glamorous or adventurous but easy with something for everyone AND far enough away that our cell phones wouldn't work (well they would but not without exorbitant costs associated). It was awesome, when we landed it was raining but by the time we got to our hotel and unpacked, the sun was out and stayed out for 6 straight days. The kids were in the ocean 5 minutes after we got there and proceeded to drop into vacation mode. All complaints were behind us about going on vacation. Now the complaints started about not wanting to leave the resort (another 1st world problem). Vacation also started with a fair bit of drama when Jimmy dropped our brand new Go Pro (water proof video camera) in the ocean and it was lost forever. I'm sure someone 3 miles down the beach will find it, plug it into their computer and get a great lesson on the lives of the LoudAmericans (Kays gymnastics tournament, Jimmy playing street hockey with Nikki, etc) Oh well, Jimmy felt terrible but...we weren't going to let it ruin vacation. Our days basically followed the same routine. Tracy worked out while Tom/kids slept in, we rallied for breakfast around 10:30 and then either started at the pool and then moved to the beach or started at the beach and moved to the pool. They drank orange soda for breakfast and ate like never feed them. Lunch was poolside around 3 and then more of the 4 s's - sun, surf, sand, swimming. We'd get back to the room around 4:30 a get cleaned up/veg for a few hours before dinner at 7:30. Post dinner, the resorts nightly "show" (these are hysterical by the way - lots of talent but very very cheesy). then, back to the room, catch the latest Disney movie on TV and fall asleep exhausted. We did manage to change the routine a bit with mini golf, sailing, kayaking, rock climbing & zip lining (kay of course) and a trip to Wet and Wild. Tracy read 3 books including a 1000 page tome by Stephen Speilberg (11/22/63 - super interesting read) and Tom was in heaven with his 4 murder mysteries. The resort was uber kid friendly and Billy managed to eat spaghetti and meatballs for dinner 6 days in a row. The kids got sunburned for the 1st time ever. Day 1 they were refusing to sit still to put on sunscreen and since they don't normally burn in Mn or Ca, they went off confident that we were crazy. The next few days proved that even Koreans get sunburned and was a good lesson that they should trust us when we tell them that sunscreen is good for you. They are all brown nuts now. Kay's back is the color of mahogany! on day 6, we were ready to come home. There is only so much soda, beach, swimming and resort musicals that a person can take. TOTALLY 1st world problems but we were ready for our own beds, we missed Nikki and wanted to cook our own food. The flight home was uneventful even though it was delayed by 2 hours (the Cancun airport is really nice now). Tracy went back to work and the kids back to school with only minor complaints on all fronts. Tom's still got a few weeks of a break before his school starts up again (this time, cheese and bread class) and so he's busy will all the spring activiites, yard clean up, field trips and 5th grade graduation planning). This weekend was 2 days of football camp, TKD, gymnastics, a Bar Mitvah party and a 40th birthday party - we're BACK......:) (Note: Yes, Jimmy is that big - we think he's pushing 5'9" (if he'd stand up straight) is wearing size 10 1/2 shoe and 130lbs - we are going to need a 2nd job just to feed him. Thank god for all inclusive buffets:)) Vacation rocks, so does coming home:)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A return to the Podium and a Special Surprise that worked!

 The second of 5 competitive gymnastics meets for Kay occurred this past Friday and she was very nervous and in true Kay form completely focused on the event. She was also pleased she was able to skip school for the day however in her school journal she did make a notation for the
following Monday " Remember to ask Ms. Chung what I missed on Friday"

In her previous meet she ran into some difficulties with the bar and the beams and she spent the last couple of weeks working to overcome them. Just to explain to anyone who is seeing this for the first time and I am sorry for the avid followers if this is repetitive.... There are 4 events in each of the meets, the uneven bars, the balance beam, the vault and the floor routine. This was the first meet that Kay was the only member of her gymnastics academy that was in attendance for the age 10 level 3 competition. It was apparent after the first hour or so she was missing her teammates as the coach had only one athlete to keep focused on the competition and Kay sat down for maybe 10 minutes the whole morning. Back hand spring, back walk over, practice your beam routine, back hand spring, back walk over, practice you floor routine, back hand get the picture.

First up for Kay was the bars, in the previous meet she was penalized because she had to let go in order to compete the routine which was unfair (she was too short to do what they wanted her to do but they wouldnt lower the bar) but she learned from that event and this time around hit a 9.325 which was awesome. She followed that with a beam routine where she nailed her back walk over, was tad shaky and received a 9.3. Floor was next in which she was awesome. I think a picture say's a 1000 words. The vault was last where she hit a 9.25, her best vault ever. There is an app that is available that tracks the athletes and scores the standings and at the time of publishing this we have not figured out how to use it so we were unsure where she was in the standings with around 100 or competitors.

The podium is set up with the top 9 places receiving and award or medal and the categories are set so that each of the athletes is recognized for the events and then an overall championed is chosen. The girls spend several hours working on their routines and many more practicing for when the announcer says " Athletes can you please present", it looks like this.

Kay came in 5th place on the vault which is the first time she has won an medal in vault and the proceeded to walk away with first on bars, beam and floor and then taking home the overall champion award as well. She was all smiles and happy and her coach was very proud of her, not mention Mom and Dad were super proud as well. Kay wanted to go to a special lunch. And.. on the way to lunch all the working out, practicing back walk overs, floor and beam routine got to her so a little nap was required.
Way to go Kay we are all proud of your commitment and love of gymnastics!!!

The kids have this built in response mechanism that whenever we tell them ' hey we have a surprise for you' they hound us for details on what it is therefore ruining the surprise before it even starts, well not this time. The main reason was we didn't tell them there was a surprise family function until we were in the car on the way to the surprise. Back in December we saw a Groupon for Harlem Globetrotters tickets and thought that would be a blast, but the event was on April 13th so we just decided to wait.
The kids were all surprised and had a blast. Tracy has wanted to see the Globetrotters since she was a kid and it was well worth it. They are funny, crazy, crowd invoking and downright silly, good clean family fun. In a surprise turn of events they even won the game!!! It was a blast and we are all happy we went, next up Cancun...more to come...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy 12th Gotcha Day Jimmy & Hayden

This week was Jimmy's 12th Gotcha Day, the day he came home from Korea to be a part of our family. As with tradition, the gotcha day kid gets to pick dessert and we regale them with stories of their adoption journey, our visit to Korea and what they were like as babies. We also share our favorite part of them.

So, Jimmy woke and requested not dessert, but Tim Hortons honey glazed donuts. 6 of them.  His start to the day? 4 donuts, 2 egg sandwiches, hashbrowns and OJ. Breakfast of champions. At this rate, we are going to need to get a 2nd job. He currently stands 5'8", weighs 130lbs and wears a size 10 mens shoe. He has been and continues to be a big kid!

At dinner (roast chicken - another favorite) it was time for  the stories. It was fun to remember the 1st time we saw him (on his foster mothers back as we were racing up the stairs to get ready - we were running late - go figure). How we were blessed to meet not only his foster family but also his birth mother.  We have a video (in Korean) of her talking with him and he's smiling away. We've never had it translated and told him we'd watch it with him if he'd like and hire a translator - or he could watch it on his own with a translator. His response?  Huh. Well...we offered!

As we went around and talked about our favorite parts of Jimmy (his kindness, his laugh, his determination, his sharing/playing with Billy) it reminded us how much he is still the same talkative, happy, outgoing kid that he was as a baby.

We talked about how we met Jeff/Karen and then traveled to Korea with them to meet our boys. They met Hayden 20 min after we met Jimmy and we traveled home together. Jimmy eating and talking, Hayden sleeping.  They are such important parts of our memories of that 1st and amazing adventure.

Jimmy - we love you. We also love all the people that cared for you SO much that they nurtured and loved you only to turn you over (forever) to people they didn't know from 1/2 way around the world; starting with your birth mother/father but that also includes the doctors, nurses, social workers and your foster family.  If that's not love, I don't know what is....         

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Baking Arts, Kay and a shot at Spring

The learning goes on, Tom has just completed the first in a series of Baking Arts Classes, that frankly were a lot harder than he thought.

Chef Pat Rock was the guide through this field of flour, salt, eggs, and when challenged to create a chocolate butter cream there where 3 pounds of butter involved - yes three!!

The Monday night madness began with a basic pie dough and the creation of an awesome apple pie, followed by tea biscuits and bran muffins, piping skills (which Kay has already mastered), custards, soft rolls, crème puffs, (again a Kay staple) cookies, black forest cake, fresh fruit flans, Swiss chocolate rolls, and ...the best for last Strawberry Shortcake.... What we could pry out of Kay's hand we were able to send to work with Tracy, give to the neighbors and gladly share with friends as this was not a calorie/fat free course! This is the first class where all the work was done in pairs and it was a sad day when 9 weeks into the course his partner broke her ankle and was as they say, chopped (no pun intended) Heather was really depressed and even more so when Tom would send her pictures during class of what she missed, what are friends for!?! Super fun, stressful and he learned a ton.

Kay meanwhile was off on her on independent learning program and was ready to compete for top baker! After showing the Chef and the rest of the class Kay's handiwork she has been invited down to George Brown next semester to meet some of the Baking Arts instructors, here we go....
Kay is the first person in the family to go through a passport change while we have been in Canada. The process which is handled completely online, that is until you get an appointment that both parents and the ward, have to attended, we are glad to say it was a success, well except the picture in which she refused to smile...

Tracy continues to work hard and impress us with her ability to go from work mode to Mom mode and as Billy says 'she is very nice, gives me food and shelter and lets me sleep inside', if that's not love what is!?! She is now deep into training for one of her passions, the MS150, it was 18 years ago her uncle Alan, her inspiration, lost his battle with MS. She is up at 6:00 everyday walking Nikki and back on the bike after work to train. She is an example to all of us in what determination, self assurance and goal setting is all about! So you may ask yourself 'what does Tracy do in her off time?' the answer : Toronto Girls Roller Derby, what else! Plus the Roller Girl share another passion with Tracy, equality... which is evident by their flag!!

Billy and his classmate, once again, the top fundraisers for the school this event, Dance Fever! The Cameroon Grade Three's raised over $1400 for the school earning them a pizza lunch, extended recess and the bragging rights for another year! He is also signed up for another year of his beloved, Taekwondo and his goal (after achieving the rank of Black Belt 6th class) is to help teach other kids the sport. I asked the up and coming Taekwondo Master if he would ever want to open his own Dojo, deep thought, wheels turning and the he replied " I don't think so do you how much that would cost? Just think of how much the electric bill would be?!".Thats our little engineer!..

Jimmy has a part time job tutoring one of the neighbors in reading. It seems his ear for music, and thus sounds, has given him the ability to help kids pronounce words properly and he his doing a great job. He takes it very serious, comes home right after school three days a week and works for an half hour or so and he is getting paid which has brought on a whole new concept of saving, spending and money management. He also has taken it upon himself to more proactive in his homework and school work and his recent accomplishment of making the Honor Roll is a result of his goal planning and handwork. He also won the English Award, and taking a line from his Godfather, uncle Jim, we said "way to go Jimmy, now say something in English for us, " Jim Fellows is not funny..."..
More to come...