Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Gotcha Day Kay!!

Yesterday was the 12th Gotcha Day for Kay/us.  12 years ago, we traveled to Korea to bring back our fierce, fun, generous, funny, active, talented, outspoken daughter.

We celebrated with molten lava cake, macaroons and every shared their favorite thing about Kay.

Billy - that she plays with me when she has friends over. Its really fun.

Jimmy - that she makes food for my friends and I

Tom - that she is ALL IN on anything she does: playing, cooking, gymnastics, friends, gifts, Christmas, parties....

Tracy - that she is a fierce and determined athlete that is always trying to get better plus she's brave and fearless

Nikki - that she drops food accidently when cooking

Thought we'd share some Gotcha Day posts of day's gone by and say a big THANK YOU and WE LOVE YOU to all the people that made Kay ... Kay.

Her birth parents - that's for making the ultimate self sacrifice, we definitely are the benefactors of your love for Kay

Her foster parents - for your awesome sense of humor and such visible love for Kay - taking care of her until we were able to

Her social workers both in the US and Korea - for being vigilant in finding kids their forever family and home

Our friends and family - that's for being their for us and for Kay, when she was a tiny pudgy 4 month old baby all the way to a green haired pre-teen.

Most of all ... we love YOU KAY!!!! XXX OOOOO

Monday, November 23, 2015

Heidel House girls weekend

Since Wade had a deer hunting weekend a few weeks back and Tom had a pheasant hunting weekend scheduled (which was unfortunately canceled but then rescheduled for the day after Thanksgiving), Angela and I decided a bit of a girls weekend was in store.

We were originally planning to meet our long lost friend Radha in California but ... work schedules, airline flight times and the time zone difference got in our way.  So, we had to settle for 2nd best, just the 2 of us in Wisconsin.

It was a perfectly relaxing weekend.

Angela worked Friday morning and I took my time getting up, getting the kids ready for school, walking the dog, etc. We headed out a bit after lunch for Green Lake Wi, home of Heidel House and a small town spa weekend that included wine, people magazines and the great outdoors.

The drive was easy and uneventful and it is interesting how you can tell you are in Wisconsin almost immediately, there is something different about their small towns. Not sure if its the Leinenkugels signs, the friday night fish fry advertising or just the amount of packer gear you see people wearing but I immediately felt at home.

Green Lake is a gorgeous area, its  huge lake with really prosperous summer homes and a friendly walkable small town.  In fact, we struggled to figure out the main industry and where all the $$ was coming from.  We thinks its Chicago mob money. Seriously, some of the houses qualify as manisions, every 3rd house is for sale and it looked like the town was only 1/2 occupied.

Heidel House is a long standing Wisconsin establishment, its got a resort will all the amenities, including a state of the art spa (which was - again - packed ...odd).  In fact, my mom has a cook book from here that probably is almost as old as I am.  The lake is gorgeous, the rooms, comfortable and the staff awesome.

Of course, the 1st thing on our agenda was fish fry and we hit Nortons, the best supper club in town. Nothing like a good supper club overlooking the lake on a Friday night. The Heidel House had a shuttle we could schedule so we didn't even need to drive!  Dinner was fab and then it was back to the hotel for a movie. Our 1st thoughts were Sixteen Candles, Heathers or Say Anything but of course, I forgot to pack them. Ang had other ideas and wanted to see Amy. I was game. That is, until...we realized we were drinking red wine and watching a documentary about a bulimic alcoholic drug addict. Sort of took all the fun of drinking red wine out of it. In actuality, it is a really good movie about Amy Winehouse, but it does make you realize just how little (no) support she had for her personal wellbeing, everyone was out to make money off of her. Including her family. super sad.

Saturday we were determined to have a more upbeat day/night. We spent the day walking around Green Lake, checking out the artisian market, the big houses and lake front.  I found Tom/I retirement plan - a liquor store/bait shop with a 24/7 bait vending machine in front of it in case you cant be bothered to come to work because you are out fishing.     Lunch was beer cheese soup and bloody mary with a beer chaser and then it was off to the spa. We had the full treatment and the steam room/ salt water hot tub were glorious!

but ... this was all leading up to the BIG plans....  Deer Widow's Bingo at the town hall 6:30-8:30pm  Yep, we bought our 6 cards and we were all in. In fact, Ang also played $20 of 50/50. we got our sutter home red wine and miller lite and settled in for a big night of winnings with ~ 50 of the locals. Shockingly, we didn't win a damn thing. not even the raffle ticket wine they were handing out. Again, I think it was rigged. It was fun though and the highlight was group of kids (sisters) that came dressed as a hunting widow, deer and hunter. Very cute.

We then hit up the other supper club in town for the soup/salad bar and cheese curds (remember this is Wisconsin) and had a really fun chat with Carol, our waitress. We were in for dinner at 8:30 and I think she was disappointed because they were getting ready to close up. Then, to ruin all her fun, another couple came in as we were finishing at 9:15. Poor Carol. At least she had the 5 regulars at the bar to keep her company.  (you know its a good restaurant when you ask for a red wine and they don't even ask you what kind because they only have 1 kind)   

We headed back to the hotel determined to watch something more upbeat but got sidetracked by the fancy piano bar in the lobby that served chocolate-tini's and had a live pianist. He was really good and the crowd was very appreciative. He even did Charlie Browns Christmas to get us all in the holiday mood.

We packed it up , called it a night and were up bright and early the next day for a quick pre-drive workout.  I made it home in time to see the Pack whoop the Vikings and drive Jimmy more than a little crazy.

All in all, the perfectly timed get away with my bestie.

Thanks Ang! (and thanks Tom/Wade for letting us go!!!)                   

The Winners

Damn cards

Sunday, November 15, 2015

crazy weekend

This weekend was a variation of the same ... we hosted a party, Kay had a sleep over, Billy had TKD,  Jimmy hung out with his friends and Tom was on TV... wait - what?!.

The difference?

PARTY  - yes, we normally DO have people over for dinner but this was different and special.  We had a going away party for our friend Pam. We lived with her in India and she was part of the US team that supported Canada. She is the ONLY known person to attend our St Patricks Day party in 3 different countries. Unfortunately, as part of Canada, she was laid off and her last week was in October. That didn't stop her, she took a 2 week road trip to the east coast of Canada, 3 week vacation in Bali, sold her house and is moving "south" to be closer to her family as she job hunts.  Her 1st choices are Charleston, Atlanta and Raleigh.   It was a fun mix of people and Tracy's goal was to get rid of all the booze that was left at the house from Michael/Brians going away. It (amost) worked.  We got rid of vodka, rum, scotch, goldslager, crème de casis, triple sec, kahula, vermouth, 1 bottle of crème de menthe (we still have 1 left) and some cherry flavored Italian liquor. we ar eleft with only 6 bottles, 1/3 of mango rum (super good with tonic and lime) crème de menthe, vermouth, picso, scotch and something I have no idea what it is... success!

Wait, Tom, on TV?!  Yes!! He and Jim were on Kare11. Jim was promoting Itty Bitty Soul for Nat'l Adoption month and fro every book he sells, he's giving a dollar to Gift of Adoption. Enter Tom. Tom is on the board for Gift of Adoption so ... they were jointly interviewed by Rena. Check it out. They were awesome and Tom is damn cute if I say so myself....

Ok, Kay's 'sleep over' - it was actually a Hunger Games competition at a local nature preserve. They had the reckoning at   6:05pm, were placed into teams and had challenges on the hour that night and the next morning, including a middle of the night surprise challenge. The team with the most points would be announced at the victory lunch. Breakfast was  in a backpack at the cornucopia and the girls had a BLAST!     Challenges included archery (Kay rocked it) starting a fire (which you then had to use those skills to light the stove in your cabin, no electricity, no heat) shelter building (Kay's specialty) ropes/knot tying, cooking with edible bugs and plants, navigation and a relay race.  Seriously kick ass weekend for Kay and her chaperone said Kay was the natural leader, calm, level headed, smart, logical and focused. There was even a costume competition at the end and Kay did everyones makeup. Thats our Kay!

Billy and TKD - Normally he has practice but this was the 1st weekend that the demo team actually got to go out and demo!  They were the 1/2 time show at the regional wrestling 'tournament'. If you are envisioning low grade, WWE, fake wrestling, then yep- you are visualizing correctly. Think of this as the minor league with everyone gunning for the big time. The kids (& some parents) were in a bit of awe (scared?) by the actual show but our kids stole the whole event with their TKD demonstrate.  They were proud, had fun and were great. Wish I had a video to post, once we get our hand on one we'll share.   
Jimmy really did have a normal weekend.  He bypassed a sleep over with his besties on Friday night  because he wanted to get his homework done Sat morning. SO THAT .. he could watch the golpher and Vikings games without guilt or pressure of homework. He cheered himself horse and had a great time hanging with his peeps
Plus, added bonus, I got 2 - yes 2 - bike rides in on my cruiser bike. Who knew that it'd be 60 degrees in November. It was lovely
We are exhausted.   Again....
Life is good. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Weekend update

Another crazy busy but fun weekend for the LoudAmericans...

1st up - date night at the Adoption Option Gala.  Adoption Option Council of MN (AOCM) is a non profit who's goal is to educate on modern adoption. Tracy joined the board in June, just in time for all the craziness of gala planning.  While AOCM is 32 years old, this is only the 2nd gala. We are growing so fast in our support of education that we need more funds than the seed money the 4 founding mothers left us. It was nerve wracking coming into the event. The venue holds 250 and with 1 week to go, we only had 125 people signed up.  It was also deer opener this weekend and it put a MAJOR crimp in our plans.  But, in the end we had 200+ people, the room was packed and all but 1 of the auction items sold. I consider that a success!! Also, our very best friends joined us. It was so great to share some thing that means so much to us with the people we love like family. They bid like crazy, all went home with something .... Plus, they are dang cute...

Kay had a sleep over birthday party and was off to cheer on her team at a gymnastics tournament in Roseville.  She's level 7 and these are the level 6 girls she practices with 4 days a week. Its super fun to see them support each other but I imagine she's going to be a tired mess by the time she gets home tonight.  She did do her homework though so .. who am I to stop her?!

Billy had TKD practice. They are doing the 1/2 time show at an upcoming high school (Hopkins) hockey game and are going to be on TV so ... the pressure is on to look good!  Saturday afternoon 3 hour practices from here on out!  This was followed by a late afternoon playdate at Owen's that turned into dinner and ghost in the grave yard until 9:30pm.

Jimmy had his 1st basketball tournament in Chaska. They won their 1st game (Sat night 6:30) handily against Wayzata 64-21.  Jimmy had a 3 point shot and a lay up plus 3 fouls. We celebrated with burgers at JJ's and watching the Gopher game until we were too depressed to watch any more.  Sunday morning brought a tough tight win at 9:10 am - they won my 1 pt and did not look good.  Seth got an elbow to the face and a bloody nose and another of our kids is out is an ice pack on his knee. This on top of 1 player having to sit out due to a broken finger from Monday's practice.  Part of the issue was they had 0 warm up time and got on the court cold. 
By their 11:30 game, they were warmed up, looking good but ... damn, just couldn't pull out a win. It was back and forth the whole game.  Mid way through the game, our player and a competitive player knocked heads and split our players head wide open.

Blood everywhere and he's off to get stiches. (Yes, basketball is a combat sport) So, now we are down to only 7 kids, only giving us 2 to sub in.  They are getting tired and starting to foul. By the end of the 2nd 1/2 every one the kids was at the max # of fouls which means, any additional fouls are automatic free throws by the other team.

AND ...they were good at free  throws. As we tell Jimmy, free throws wins games and the other team did win by 10. Bummer because we could have won if we even had just 1 more kid to sub in and give the kids a break.  Oh well, 4:30 game up next!  This was the final game for 3rd place and bragging rights. It was against Benilde (Tom's alma mater) and we had 6 kids to their 10 due to injuries.  They played their hearts out and pulled out a victory 57-53. It was a bit nerve racking as the ump seemed to have it in for Hopkins but ... fouls were going both ways. It was a really physical game. In fact, as we always say ... free throws win games and in this case that's definitely true, we won on our free throw ability - yes!!
 injured team (knee, broken finger, stiches) 

On top of all this, Lucy (Wendy and AM's collie) spent the night with us. Wendy surprised AM with a trip to Bemidji to see Prairie Home Companion. They said it was a great, fast trip.   Lucy is a doll and Billy (aka the dog whisperer) was in heaven. Actually they were all in heaven.

My kids and dog have it MADE!!! I want to be them...     

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Happy Hadaween!! (as Jimmy used to say...)

Of course, Jimmy is way too cool for Halloween but, he managed to have a great night and be totally enthralled with the Gopher game. He spent all day trying to convince us to pay $50/ticket so that he could go to the game, with a friend and without adult supervision. We were actually considering it if he could have found tickets for closer to $20 but alas, no dice. Turned out that was a smart move. He had his posse over for pizza and the game. Of course, even though most of them were on Jimmys football team, their attention span for actually watching the game is about 0.  They all left at the half to move the party to Miles house (including a sleep over). Jimmy hung back to watch the game with us and it was fun to have him all to ourselves. Bummer on the final few plays though. Tough loss.

Billy and Kay, however, were all in.  Kay was a turquoise unicorn and Billy the grim reaper. The both hit the same pre-trick or treating pizza party and then headed out and in their separate ways to get the goods.

Kay went around with Cameron (who later stayed for a sleep over) and Billy with Cole.

It was the 1st year we didn't need to supervise (ie walk around)  the kids so we built a bon fire, poured a glass of wine, had a bowl of homemade squash soup in a bread bowl and watched game. Kevin and Henry came over and brough s'more stuff and it was a really relaxing and fun night.

Happy Hadoween!!!

Oh and Jim went as a turquoise unicorn too and then went to yoga....

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Football banquet and TKD tournament

This last weekend, Jimmy passed from football into basketball, a truer change of seasons than the changes of leaves or the 1st signs of fall. BUT ...before you can do that, you need to celebrate the season.  The 8th grade Hopkins football team had their team party and it was hysterical. In true banquet form there was food, cake and speeches. The captains did a great job of honoring the  coaches and Jimmy was the emcee (you can see where this is going).  Each captain talked about one of the coaches.  It was hard to pick who to talk about because they are all amazing dads/coaches. 

John has been coaching for 8 years and this will be his last year since been is off to high school football next year. John is calm, fun and a great teacher.  He's been such a great influence on Jimmy and he/Ben are the reason Jimmy LOVES football and the Vikings (they introduced Jimmy to the sport when he was 7 and we had just returned from India).
Jim has also coached many of these year and lets just say - he's passionate. He does tend to be the coach that has "words" with the referees and will go down in infamy for actually getting kicked out of a game this year (which the boys used heartily in their roast speech).

Doug has been there through thick and thin as well coaching along with Jon, Jim, Dave and Bob. James, Doug's son was also on everyone of Jimmy's team and would always look to Jimmy for the score, or to find out if we were on offense or defense :).  Doug was mild mannered however he was always aware where the refs made a mistake and quick to let he boys know that we can only control what we can control and the ref's are not one of those things.

Bob was a new coach for Jimmy this year but he's also been coaching for years and years, his oldest in on the high school team.  Jimmy chose to honor Bob and had the crowd in hysterics.  He said "I relate to Bob player to coach, Asian to Asian and football fan to football fan. I admire that he always goes for it, whether 4th and 1 or 4th and 1,000.  He's the best Asian coach named Bob that I know"

The coaches also each said something about the boys and of course John covered Jimmy.  "Passionate, intense, impactful, supportive of his team mates and a beast on the field" Jimmy basically glowed the whole time.

We are so lucky that Jimmy has had great teams and great coaches, regardless of their win records. Cant wait for 9th grade football next year!!

Billy had his 1st TKD tournament this weekend as a newly minted red belt. He competed in sparring and pomsea (patterns) and took 2nd and 3rd respectively.  Not bad considering he's only been a red belt about 2 weeks!

But...the best part of the whole day was ... Billy got to coach Ace in his sparring.  As background, when 2 competitors are from the same organization (WTA in this case), their head coaches aren't allowed to coach them during their sparring event. This responsibility then falls to the highest ranked belt in each studio. This tournament, that was Billy. It was so damn cute.  AND .. he really does know what he's doing.  The coaches sit on a chair during the event and shout instructions to the sparer. There are 2 one minute rounds with a 1 minute break in between.    Billy was shouting great advice and during the 1 minute break said ... ok Ace, here's what you have to do, we have to change it up. He's expecting you to come out with the same kicks you've been doing, let's go for something different". Then he proceeded to break down what he thought Ace needed to differently to win.  With a hearty back slap and encouragement, Ace was back in the ring and won his match! This meant he was off to compete for 1st and Billy had another coaching opportunity. He came in 2nd overall. Billy's  coaches said he really knows what he's doing and made a great coach.  When I asked Billy how he liked his 1st coaching experience, he corrected me "it was actually my 2nd coaching experience mom - Ace had 2 matches today ..." I stand corrected

The kid sure does love TKD and has great coaches and besties. We are so lucky are kids are active and supported in what they love.
 Ace Esa and Billy - best TKD friends, fierce competitors and all around great kids

Billy coaching Ace on his sparring as his coach looks on (Mr Lemon in the blue )

 Bronze for pomsea

 Silver in sparring

Sunday, October 25, 2015

MEA - hurray for a long weekend in the woods

One of the wonderful things about the Minnesota school system is MEA. Is a long 4 day weekend in October where the teachers have conferences but the kids/parents are free of school, homework and sports. Its good timing since the 1st 6 weeks of school are intense with getting back into a schedule, re-learning to learn and making new friends. Everyone needs a break. 
This year we headed up to the Gunflint Trail - Bearskin Lodge.   I was tempted to have this post ONLY be pictures because the are so amazing and really tell the story but ... figured you need a bit of a backdrop.
We coordinated our trip with the Pettersetters.  Krisin is Tracy's good dog walking friend, Anders is Jimmys best friend, Tom/Craig are mellow hang out breathren and Kay/Bill/Bjorn are die hard Hunger Games fans .. .not the movie, mind you, but the neighborhood hide/seek, nerf, survival game they created.   Bjorn also brought along his friend Brandon and we let Kay bring her gymnastics friend Nora - figured she shouldn't be out numbered by boys but ...that's really never stopped her.
Its a 5+ hour drive and we arrived in time for lunch in Grand Marais, the last stop before no gas, internet, wifi, cell service or groceries.  Lunch was a diner affair followed by the worlds best donuts - yep, that the name of the shop and they are that good.  Kay/Nora proceeded to do handsprings, ariels and flips down the street, we should have put out a hat for $$$.  And, it was a precursor for the majority of their activity the rest of the weekend. 
The lodge itself as nice and casual. about a mile from the boundary waters and 3 from Canada. We felt right at home.  It was Very north woods with a dock for each cabin, canoes, fireplaces, a fire pit and hiking trails right out our front door.  We hiked everyday, canoed and even tried to catch some fish on the pontoon. It was COLD!  On our best/longest hike, we were basically hiking through a dusting of snow the whole way. The views - lakes, streams, cliffs, forest - we amazing and we never ran into other people.  Hmmm...wonder that's because we had 4 adults and 7 kids, we were not a quiet bunch.
At night we had potluck dinners followed by a fire, card games (solitaire, exploding kittens, 31 and UNO) as well as dice games (Yatzee and Farkle). 
It was an incredibly relaxing and fun weekend.  make you want to move up there permanently.... 
 The lodge

 Our 1st hike of the weekend

 overlook on lake

 the boundary waters

 Even Jimmy enjoyed hiking and went with us every day

 Our lake view from our lodge dock

 Our floating dock

 Kay and Nora

 At Gunflint lodge, the start of our 2nd hike

 Hmmm ... I'm sure I could do that too

  The snow on our hike

  On a ledge at the top of a cliff - makes me nervous

 and nervouser 

 Having too much fun

 Serious contemplation


 Happy Kids

 Why not? Cant you do this?

 Even more nervous at the VERY top of the hike - yes those are tops or trees at her feet

 finally, someone playing it safe

 by a pokeman rock