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 spring...you 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...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jim and Jen Fellows, Spring Break Camp and St. Patrick's Day OH and a Gymnastics Meet

Last weekend was a super special time around the Loudamericans as our friends, God Parent, Wedding Singer and World Famous Lasagna maker Jim Fellows was in the house WOOT WOOT.
This is Jim's first trip to visit us on one of our " overseas" assignments and he even brought his lovely bride of one year Mrs.'s Jennifer Fellows!!!

The kids were just finishing up Spring Break camps when they arrived early Thursday afternoon. Jim is a huge fan of BBQ, well less the sauce but that's a whole different story, so he requested smoked brisket. Tom fired up the smoker and delivered an awesome meal. We spent Thursday night catching up telling stories and basically feeling the love of Jim & Jen. On a side note: Jim is the only person the kids refer to by first and last name, it has never been Uncle Jim, Godfather, always" Hi Jim Fellows", not sure why but they just do, so by the e3nd of their stay Jen was also calling Jim, Jim Fellows, cute :).

Friday the kids were off to the last day of camp, Tracy to work, Jim & Jen to Niagara Falls and Tom to get ready for the St. Patrick's Day Party which was later that night!!
Jimmy was partaking in another sports camp this time the Elite Basketball Camp, one week of drills conditioning and battling amongst the other :campers" for best team in camp. He, as always, was 110% in and even though he had to miss one of the afternoon games to get his football equipment (more on that later) his team won 'best in camp' 6 games to 1, way to go Jimmy!
Kay was involved in several different cooking camps this break as she has been to so many it was a stretch to find the camps she has not done. This Spring was mainly centered around candy and sweets, go figure. She did make 2 cameo appearances at the renowned Chef Upstairs where there was a collective sigh from the group when she arrived on Chopped day to defend her title.
Billy spent the week at... you guessed it Taekwondo camp... where he honed his skills, went to the science museum and basically had an all around awesome time.

Tracy, Jim& Jen arrived back home in time to help Tom put the finishing touches on the house and then the neighbors, classmates, work friends and general rif-raft descended. The St. Pat's concept is not that big here in Canada but the crowd was into it. Green face painting, drinking beer from a boot, and having a grand old time! Jim & Jen were our Grand Marshals and had a blast. We had to call it quits at 1:00am because...enough is enough!

Saturday was tour Toronto day and after breakfast off we went. Kensingston Market, for those of you who have been here and or follow the blog, know it is one of our favorite places. The shops, street vendors and food make it a real Toronto landmark. We headed off to The Path, for our first time, which is an underground shopping mall, it goes for several miles under ground is connected to the subway, walkways and  allows one to enjoy the shopping experience without having to go outside!
Jim and Jen were introduced to Roots, fell in love and bought a nice set of work clothes for Jen (aka sweats:)). They then took us out to dinner at yet another of our favorite places, Jack Astor's! Once home, Jim set about making the aforementioned World Famous Lasagna for Sunday nights dinner. Tom was the sou-chef and the two of them were up until 1:00am when Jim declared "you know Tom there are only 2 options for the extra sauce, freeze it our eat it", but really there was only one, so they ate the  sauce and drank all the milk in the house, super fun.

Sunday was brunch day and Kay's first gymnastics meet of the year. She was a bit nervous coming off the year she had last year but Kay is Kay and determination is one of her genetic building blocks.
I am not going to go into all the details suffice it to say Kay was robbed of her first place overall title. He coach was super upset and vowed that it will never happen again. She was spot on for the most part, and true to form after the drama on the uneven bars and beam, she nailed the floor, period.
Kay finished 4th overall, received her first ever gold Medal for her performance on the floor. There were several teams there, around 10 all with multiple (10+) team members, Kay and 2 other girls were there representing Discovery and those three girls owned the podium and came away with the best overall team, very proud!

Sunday night we had the best dinner (of course) when Jim makes Lasagna it is expected. Tradition around here is that at dinner we talk about the best part of our day/week and it was unanimous that having Jim & Jen here was the best. There was a time when we would joke " Who the hell is Jim Fellows". I can say Jim is a fantastic Godfather and role model for our kids, he is a great and caring Husband who has an equally wonderful wife, Jim is a Step father and takes the role very serious, he cares about people, loves his Catholic religion and all it stands for and he and Jen are our family and friends, we love you and we are blessed that you were here.!

Monday was off to the airport but not with out one last stop at Tim Horton's......
more to come

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tae Kown Do - Billys on fire!

Billy is killing it in Tae Kwon Do lately. He just tested for Blue Belt and we very cute/nervous. You could see the relief when he passed with all A's and 1 A+ on form. He is thrilled to be a blue belt and is now 1/2 way to black belt. We'd like to make it before we leave Canada as it would be nice to stay in this dojo until the esteemed black belt but we shall see:)

This weekend was his 1st competition of spring. The tournament was in Kitchener (about 90 min away) and we were on deck to check in at 8am on Saturday. Given Toronto traffic, the start of spring break and the fact that Mike, Frankie, Grace and Lucy live near Kitchener, we made a weekend of it.  Tom headed over with the kids int he afternoon and they swam in the pool. We then met the crew for dinner at an Irish Pub (or figure) and got caught up. The girls were enthralled with teh VERY cute drummer in the band saying he looked like Justin Timberlake. I thought he looked more like Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter) but what do I know. Jimmy was not impressed with the drummer skills, but it was fun to see a live band perform in an Irish Pub.  Billy was begging to go back to the hotel (should have been my 1st clue) and so we called it a night and watched Diners Drive Ins and Dives in the hotel while Kay ate Ben & Jerrys. Sounds like the good life, eh? :)

The next morning, as we were getting ready, Billy started to complain about his throat. We figured it was just sleeping in a dry/hot hotel, so we pumped him up and set off.

In the tournament, Billy did amazing, taking bronze in pomsae (patterns) and silver in sparring. The sparring is nerve racking as a parent. The kids are trying to kick each other to get points and each match is 90 seconds. Its elimination rounds until you have a winner.  Billy seems to have a strategy of ...let the other guy get way ahead then come back. Not good for Mom and Dad's heart and not endorsed by his coaches. In round 1, it ended in a tie.  Sudden death is the name of the game, they put another 90 seconds on the clock and the 1st to get a point wins. Thank GOD Billy got the 1st point 15 seconds into the round.  Billy 4-3. Then, onto round 2, again, he's behind, comes back and wins 4-3 again - he has now secured a bronze.  Round 3, for the gold. He's behind, he's ahead and then the other kids makes a MAJOR play. Billy holds him off and its tied. 4-4.  5 seconds left . The other kid comes in and nails a kick. Billy is silver at 4-5.  Afterwards Billy said, "I should have just slid back and let it go into overtime" when I ask why he didnt, he said "I just thought of it now!"     We are really proud of him though and he said "I'm proud of myself because I did my best".

Now its Sunday morning, the boys are still asleep (its 12:30) and Billy got up, complained of a headache and fell back to sleep on the couch. He's got a 101.8 temp and a sore throat. Poor guy. He's a champion that one...

Luckily its a lazy day and next week is spring break, he's got plenty of time to recover.

Proud of you Billy!!  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

You are my favorite

I've found myself thinking, almost on a daily basis "man, I love that kid"! I could be thinking about any of my 3 kids when I have this thought and its such a happy, loving space to be in. It also got me thinking about how each of them is so different. We see all those comedies on TV that joke about "you are my favorite" (think Good Luck Charlie for Disney fans) but in the world of parenting, its taboo to say you love 1 kid more than another or that 1 is your favorite. The reality is, I dont love all my kids the same. There I said it. Call child protection and start investing in their therapy! But, here's my counter, how COULD I love them all the same? They are 3 VERY different unique individuals. It would be WHOLLY unfair to them if I loved them all the same, that wouldnt celebrate who THEY are. AND...not loving them the same doesnt mean that I dont love them with the same depth of feeling of intesity. Thats one thing I can say, I love them each so intensely it hurts sometimes (which doesnt always lend to good parenting either:) - think helicopter parenting) So, this is an ode to my kids - You are EACH my favorite (and yes that IS possible:)) Jimmy - you are so incredility smart, talented, engaged, passionate and WAY more socially mature at 12 than I could have even hoped to be at 24. You are thoughtful with your friends, kind, funny, observant, persistent and dedicated. Whether is piano, drums, saxophone, football, basketball, baseball, mathletes, etc.. you give it 110% EVERY time. You try to be better every day and are generous with your friends. You "get" my humor and we have fabulous discussions on "new" music. I love the goals you set for yourself (honor roll, debate club, college) and if you were an IPO, I'd put ALL my money on you. Kay - you are who I wish I could be - strong, fierce, undetered, enthusiastic, unapologetic, confident, creative and courageous. I have never met someone who is more authentically themselves EVERY minute of EVERY day. You never compromise or apologize for who you are and that's the bravest thing any of us could hope to be. You have it all totally figured out. Your passion around cooking and gymanstics isnt just for "hobby" its who you are. Every move you make is a gymanstics celebration of your body and every thought you have is "how can I make ..." whehter its desserts, a science experiement of ghost mashed potatos and meatloaf tombstones (last nights dinner). You have strong opinions and arent afraid to express them. You go girl!! There are many strong women out there who would love to live as you do:) Billy - you make us feel so loved. You are kind, gentle, affectionate, thoughtful, observant, caring and live in the moment. You LOVE being you and LOVE being 9. You take every minute as it comes and dont wish for the future. Your quiet confidence and love of everyone (people and animals) makes you a very calming, loving presence to be around. You freely tell us (Daddy and I) how much you love us, multiple times a day. Your passion to "figure things out" comes out in your Lego creations, the quesitons you ask at school and at home (how does the brake work, what makes a door knob turn, etc). Your brillant at problem solving and will be a great engineer (or whatever YOU want to be) someday. But, most importantly, I KNOW you'll be a loving boyfriend, husband and father. Its the greatest honor to know that you love Daddy and I almost as much as you love Nikki (who you love more than anything or anyone in the whole world.) So...how in the world could I love you each the same?! That would be a terrible mistake. So, I'm going to love you differently - celebrating who you ! Man, I love that kid....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Out into the Polar vortex we go....

Seems that January was full of hibernation so February (as they say around here) is time for rejuvenation, get out there, start a snowball fight, make a snow angel, go ice fishing and wear your toque proudly....

Lake Simcoe is about and hour and half (give or take depending on traffic) north and east of us. Tracy and her co-worker Randy decided it was time for us to hook up and do some fishing. So we headed out last weekend to a cozy cottage on Lake Simcoe in search of the elusive Lake Simcoe perch.
Randy, his wife Kelly and there daughter Erin have ALL the gear and have been going after the Perch fairly religiously all winter, so armed with GPS co-ordinates, Minnows, ice house , heater, a sled to pull it all and Kay we were in great shape.

We arrived on Friday night and proceeded to plan our attack for the next day, have dinner and watch a few movies. The Olympics held our attention for a while however Princess Bride is a ways a crowd pleaser. Tracy's awesome family favorite, Challupas is as well. So after a great meal and a bunch of old fish stories we called it a night.

Saturday morning Randy and Kellie headed out to get a spot and the kids (of course) slept in. The fish were not being cooperative and the day was more towards enjoying the cabin and lunch! Saturday afternoon we went on the road in search of the fish, and it was slow going. The car got stuck a time or two, we finally made it to a point on the lake where we could walk and set up camp. The fishing was slow but we managed to catch a half a dozen fish, and more importantly we had fun and didn't fall through the ice.  well except Remington, their little dog so is exactly the size of an ice hole. He was fun but very shivery. Nikki spent the entire afternoon running after the wind and was exhausted. Saturday night we had another awesome meal of Kellie's homemade chicken chili, more movies (Gremlins), Apples to Apples board game and laughs.

Sunday morning Tom and Randy headed out early to the " hot spot" according to Randy " We always catch fish there" and true to the prediction we did. Between about 8:30 and noon we caught over 100 fish and we kept 36 of them for the upcoming Sunday night all you can eat perch fry!!! While the MEN were out fishing, the rest of the crew headed into town to check out the thrift store (yes, you can all start singing Mackelmores Thrift Store now - we did:)) We came away with treasures - Balderdash, a spring form pan and a crayola coloring kit. Another one of Kays passions ignited. That afternoon, the boys, that is Jimmy and Billy, decided they were not going fishing so they stayed back with Tracy to snowboard, sled, take Nikki for a walk on the lake and get some outdoor exercise. The rest of us headed back to the "hot spot" where we continued catching fish, Kay was red hot, Erin was as well and we definitely had a blast!

Sunday night we had a feast, no other way to put it. All you can eat fresh perch in a panko batter, southern style fried okra, hush puppies, fried potatoes' with mushrooms, buttermilk coleslaw, homemade tarter sauce and a few cold beers, wow what a meal!

Monday, being family day here in the Great White North, we all were able to sleep in and have a relaxing morning before heading back to the big city. Nikki has a new friend and play mate, Remington, aka: Remi. The two of them are about as opposite as you can get but as they say, opposites attract. The video below shows you what the two of them did all weekend, super cute.
A big THANKS, to Randi, Kellie and Erin for inviting us for a super fun time. We plan to go after these perch again and we will differently be heading to Lake Simcoe this summer as it is full of giant Small Mouth...more to come