Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Since we no longer send out Christmas cards, we thought we'd share photos we had taken this summer. They turned out pretty cute:)

Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Festivities - part 2

As mentioned in the previous blog, we had a VERY gourmet dinner with Wendy & AM. They got dressed up and brought PJ's for lying around in later. We had a full combat game of UNO and Connect Four with the kids and watched the Packer game. After the kids went to bed, we almost got sucked into "The Birdcage", but thank god better sense prevailed and we were off to bed.
We had a really relaxing Monday morning with coffee/tea and pastries.

After another full day of lazing around and playing with all our new toys, we thought we'd better get the kids out of the house. So, off to the club for swimming, or so we thought..... Turns out, while the rest of the world was considering Monday a day off and extra weekend day, the club was back on their usual schedule. Meaning, adult swim only and basketball games in the gym. Total bummer! The kids did throw a few baskets but it was treacherous and we quickly left.

Luckily, we still had plans up our sleeves - dinner at Des & Gregs. They made homemade pizza and the adults got to catch up while the kids played video games and with makeup (guess which one played which:))

Tuesday was back to work for Mommy and the kids/Tom came down to see her office, meet her friends, have lunch and return all the Christmas presents that didnt fit to Target. It was a ZOO! The kids loved the office and after initial trepidation that the Indian buffet wouldnt measure up to their standards, ended up eating 2 plate fulls each (Jimmy only gave it a 3 of 5 stars but Billy kept saying "ohhhh...this is good"). It was fun to show them where I work, of course everyone on the floor knew they were in the building, they are LOUD!.

The rest of the week is full of playdates, dinners, basketball camp, work and getting ready for vacation. We'll post 1-2 more blogs before the end of the year.

Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays! We sure are:)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas! Here's a chronical of our holiday to date (3:05pm cstL:))

This is not in chronological order, but no worries, we'll get it all in! We were able to talk on the phone with Tammy and her family as well as Tracy's parents. They are ALL good and having a nice peaceful Christmas. Cant wait until we can all be together for the holidays again (maybe Christmas 2012 is the year!)

Grandma Kay came over again for her annual cookie baking with the kids (well, really Kay, the boys love seeing Grandma but they arent going to be pastry chefs). Kay worked at it for 3 straight hours and made a huge mess. She was in heaven!

Tom with all his new presents, a camera, clothes, wine decantor, etc. Santa even brought him a Canada Olympic jersey and sunscreen (for our vacation to Mexico next week)

Santa also gave Tracy a Canada jersey and Tom REALLY surprised Tracy with a trainer for her bike and some new bling - a silver necklace from Shanes. She was VERY spoiled this Christmas.

Nikki even got great gifts, treats, chew bones and a chewable doggy card.

Grandma Bunny made Kay a Packer nightgown (perfect for the game tonight) and knitted her the cutest hot pink shrug. She is way too cute (both Grandma AND Kay)

Kay raked it in with crafts, an Easy Bake microwave with extra ingrediants from Santa, clothes a new swim suit and all the kids got goggles from Santa in their stocking (how did HE know we were going on vacation?!)

Billy posing in his new Ochocinco Patriots jersey (Thanks Santa) even more Hot Wheels and Legos, a new swimsuit and Leapster game. He said it was his "best Christmas EVER!". We heard from Julie that Solomon said the same thing, it must be a 7 yr old boy thing:)

Jimmy got his LONG awaited Ponder Jersey, Santa is amazing since these arent even sold in stores! He also got paperjams, new clothes, a swimsuit in Clemson colors, football gloves, tee stand and a foosball table. Everything a 10 yr old sports fanatic needs!

Here's the tree with ALL the gifts underneath (note our traditional Grinch on top)

After photo, Santa ate his cookies, drank his coffee and the reindeer ate the grapes (for blitzen) and carrots. He also left a really nice note for the kids and encouraged them to be good this year too.

The before stocking photo with the aforementioned treats laid out.
Note the traditional Christmas photo of Mavis. She still lives on in our hearts (and nightmares....)

Friday night was a family Christmas sleep over at the Millers with seafood cataplana, pizza, appetizers, a GREAT new drink called a Poinsetta (Thanks Gary!), flaming cheese (ooopa!) and chocotinis. The kids had a blast and woke up to have a gingerbread decorating contest. Once again, Kay was in heaven!
More to come.... Wendy and Annemiek are coming over in an hour. They have been craving a BIG traditional Christmas feast and Tom is only too happy to oblige. We are all going to cook together and so far, the menu features, scallop soup, traditional Dutch potatoes, roast brussel sprouts, beef tenderloin, hollandiase sauce, smoked salmon, salad and last but not least, pumpkin tiramisu. YUMMMM!!
Then, we have just about another full week of celebrating with friends - Des & Greg for pizza tomorrow, the Gated Community (our dear friends who we are lucky enough to be neighbors with - we are celebrating Niel's birthday!) and Christmas dinner next Friday with Jim and Jen.
we'll keep you appraised as we go:)
We are so thankful for all that we have - each other, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our school, our teachers, our church and all the people, all over the world that have helped us become who we are. We love you ALL!!! (a special call out to everyone we love in other countries, we wish we could be with ALL of you! Costa Rica, Korea, Canada, China, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands)
Merry Christmas EVERYONE!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekend Update (not the SNL version)

Here's our weekend update:0

Friday was an AWESOME night out with Wendy and AnneMiek. The kids had a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese and so we had a 3 hour time period where we could go to dinner and NOT get a sitter. Never happened before, we felt set free!! We went to a local place that has high brow food and low brow atmosphere and honestly, while the food was good, the company was better. I think the kids would give the same rating to Chuck E Cheese:)

Saturday brought homework and gymnastics follow by Billy's birthday party. He invited 10 friends to the nature center by our house. It was AWESOME! The naturalist took charge and all I had to do was sit back and watch. Billy got to pick which snake they were going to learn about and pet (fox snake in case you are interested). They went on a hike, spotted animal "sign" and even saw a horned owl (heard him too, calling back and forth to his friend).

There was Transformer themed cake (note to self, grey is not an appetizing color for frosting), presents and a combat version of Duck Duck Goose (ok ok, it was Duck Duck Grey Duck but I still haven't wrapped my head around this MN vernacular and the fact that my children actually play it that way!) Billy's friends must know him REALLY well, all but 1 gave him Lego's. We are swimming in Lego's. Billy is in heaven. OR, could it be....that all 7 yr old boys are easy, give them a pack of Lego's and they are happy for hours?

Dinner Saturday night was a Portuguese cataplana seafood feast with Michelle, Pete, Annette and Steve. Katy and Noah came as well (8 and 6 respectively) and had a blast. The girls made a gingerbread house totally on their own and it turned out great and the boys played Lego's (go figure) and Plants vs Aliens on the computer. The girls then put together a karaoke band and sang us 6 songs. (they named themselves Katy and Kay's Karaoke, but used the acronym - which I wont repeat here but I trust you'll figure it out). They were awesome and Jimmy closed the show with a borderline inappropriate rendition of "I'm so sexy" by FMAO. I was laughing to hard to stop him. I don't think he realized that not everyone wants to see a 10 year dancing shirtless.

Sunday was our 1st visit to Jen's house (Jim F's girlfriend) for a WAY over the top brunch and Vikings game. It was a gas and nice to have someone else do the cooking. The Vikings AND the Packers lost, so that was a bit depressing. Jimmy and Jim were insisting we call Grandpa Jim to rub in the Packers loss. I said "well the Vikings lost too" to which Jimmy said "yeah, but we are used to it". Too funny (and yes, all these Jim's are not coincidental -Jimmy is named after my Dad with a strong call out to Jim F, his godfather)

Back home for more homework, baths, pizza and The Smurfs movie.

Only 1 more week until school vacation and we ALL cant wait:) (oh yeah, and for Christmas too).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Billy!

Wow hard to believe Bill has turned 7. He is such a great little kid, loves Lego's, is doing great in school and is looking forward to his Birthday party. We had planned to have Bill's party on his birthday but the Nature Center decided to not open and we had to postpone the party until the 17th, but no matter we had a nice family birthday for Bill complete with ice cream.

Bill has been keeping track (for about the last 363 days) asking "when", "how long until", "how many days" ???? (you get the picture). So when he woke up on Sunday he was all smiles and stated " Today is MY birthday!"

We headed out to the Minnesota Historical Society with the Millers for an afternoon of 1968 and tornado reenactments (its a seriously well done museum and the kids loved it!) Topped off by ice cream! Then it was back home for his new favorite dinner Venison Stroganoff! ( Really he loves it).

Bill opened a few presents from family (putting together all the Legos in record time) , had his second favorite thing, Brownies, and was lucky enough to get to do his third favorite thing, sit on the heated floor with his Mom and catch up on the latest episodes of Glee!

When we asked him Monday about his birthday, he gave it 10 thumbs up:)

Bill we love you, we are blessed by you and are grateful you have chosen us as your forever family! A special call out and hug to Billy's birth parents and foster parents in Korea. We are forever grateful for your courage, love and selflessness in helping Billy become part of our family. You are amazing and he is awesome.

Happy 7th Bill!

More to come when the " real" party happens!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Loudamericans meet GameON!

Our friend and fellow adoption champion, Rod Simons, is the host of a regional sports talk show called GameOn!. This is an awesome show featuring local athletes from the professional teams, college teams and even local high school stars. The show has a family flair with sports insights and is a key contributor to the success of one of our favorite charities, Gift of Adoption.

It was at a local fundraiser that we bid for and "won" a live viewing of the show, the ability to meet and get pictures taken with the guests and a live on air interview with the up and coming broadcaster, Jimmy!

The show is taped at a local steak and sushi restaurant here in Minneapolis, Seven, and we arrived in style complete with valet parking. The guest list for tonight's show included none other than the rookie sensation for the Vikings, Tight End Kyle Rudolph, who in the last game made an amazing catch that Jimmy is still talking about. The other guest for the night is the current hockey coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Don Lucci. We did not know at the time that Kay is a big hockey fan and believes Coach Lucci walks on water. Bill was along for the food and to see if Kyle Rudolph was really as big as Jimmy said, and he was!

Rod is a gracious host and Jimmy did a great job, even predicating the Vikings would beat the Lions in the next game the score "By far". It was a fun night and a great time. Jimmy received a signed Football from Kyle, talked football and just like Ralphy in a Christmas Story he fell asleep with both hands on that football; dreaming of ...confusing the defense, opening up the running game and going deep at anytime!

Thanks Rod for helping make a dream come true!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Billy Loses His 6th Tooth

Billy, on the cusp of turning 7, doubles down and loses tooth number 6. In a remarkable turn of events this tooth actually was removed by the owner.

In a letter to the Tooth Fairly Billy recalls the event:

Dear Tooth fairy, from Billy,
this is my 6's tooth and I pulled my tooth by myself and my brother did not pulled it out this is me when I lost my tooth.( see pic). (remember, Jimmy knocked out his last 3 teeth, 2 on purpose and 1 on accident)

At the beginning of November Mrs. Vaughn asked the 1st grade class how many teeth did they think would be lost that month, to which everyone said 6 and Billy steadfastly said, 7. Which is why he was adamantly working his front loose tooth for 2 straight days from 11/28-29. He was also adamant that on November 30th at 4:17pm, when he lost his tooth, we had to document the loss as that tooth made it a total of 7 for the class! Coincidence ?! I think not!

Billy ran into school the next morning to share the news and let his teacher know he "won" the bet. But, in a striking turn of events, Max had done the same thing. Wiggled a tooth out at the last minute. Making it 8 teeth lost in November. No one "won" but I admire the 1st grade classes dedication to racking up the score board. Lets hope none of them become financial analysts on Wall Street.

Billy is now counting the days and minutes until his birthday (T minus 5 days) more to come on that next week!

Way to go Bill!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

It is that time of year where many of us load up the family van with half of what we own and trek across county to visit our families and friends and give thanks for all that we have, Thanksgiving!

This year the Loudamericans set out for what some people refer to as " Football Mecca", Green Bay. Our Aunt Sue lives there and she secured us a rental house complete with a hot tub and big screen TV. You see, only in Green Bay can you find homes that are equipped and rented for Packer games, really! The house was perfect and we arrive there Wednesday evening without any traffic problems or more importantly no meltdowns. Grandma and Grandpa, along with Tracy's sister Tammy and her husband Jeff and their kids, Georgia, Joey and Herbie greeted us with a warm welcome. The kids took one look around, shed their clothes, donned their swim suits and jumped into he hot tub, where I might add the would have stayed the entire weekend had we not pulled them out for dinner!

Thursday being Thanksgiving there are really only three things of importance, the meal, Football and dessert. We spent the day watching football and true to his word (because he lost a bet with his Aunt), Jimmy watched the entire Packer game with a cheese head hat, whilst he face and body where painted with various encouragement statements for the Detroit Lions (aka Packers stink, written backwards because he did it while looknnig in the mirror). He is the quintessential crazed fan, Rudy has nothing on Jimmy. The rest of the clan visited, Kay and Georgia created many different works of art while Billy and Herbie battled it out over race cars and Nintendo football.

For the first time I can remember, we purchased a full Thanksgiving meal that was basically a cook in the bag sort of affair. Target has the package deal, turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, walnut cranberry sauce and pie. I am here to say... it was easy, and very good. So it was fun to be able to just follow the directions and not worry about the meal. Because the Packer game was on and since they were playing in Detroit, they had to come back to Green Bay. So this lead to an outing to the airport to get a glimps of the players. This is a somewhat well kept secret and we got a piece of bum information and missed the opportunity, but not for lack of effort! (ie 2 trips to the airport with a van full of crazed fans - I mean kids)

Friday found us needing to get out of the house so in keeping with the theme, it was off to Lambeau Field and the Packer Hall of Fame. Curly and Vince greeted us as we went in and the tour was quite cool. However when you walk down the tunnel onto the field passing over some of the original bricks from the original Acme Packer Stadium, even Jimmy was in awe. I know a few adults that even got teary eyed.

Kay being a member of the Power Packers, received a free lunch coupon for her Birthday and was in heaven. Curly's, named after Curly Lambeau, is a sports bar/ family restaurant and lunch was awesome. Having be fortified we headed downstairs to the Hall of Fame. There is only one team that can pull this off and it is the Packers. The thing has everything from telegraphs and western union cables Vince Lombardi received to a place where kids can do the Lambeau Leap. There are highlights off every key game won or lost and each had one thing in common, screaming fans, unreal. We all enjoyed the entire day and it was really a blast. So what do you do as an encore to that?! Back home for more football on TV!

Saturday brought rain and cold weather. ESPN brought us the Michigan/ Ohio State game, the Wisconsin Badgers and who ever they played and round the evening out with the Clemson Tigers. In the midst we dragged the kids to the Y where we donated some can goods and were all able to work off the Thanksgiving Feast and the excess energy of sitting out our butts and watching football. Sammy's pizza, a must while in Green Bay was the Saturday Night Special and we thank Grandpa Jim for his generosity!

Sunday we packed up gave hugs and made plans for the next gathering. No trip over the holiday's is complete without running into traffic. We were making great time until right outside of Menominee, suffice it to say what should have taken an hour and a half took three. However in the midst of the delay we were treated to yet another brilliant insight from Billy. The entire way home he was relentlessly trying to figure out how many day until his birthday. He went at it from every angle and when he asked Tracy " Now what day is my birthday?" She replied December 10th Bill." He was quiet for a moment and then exclaimed " I get it your birthday is the same day you were born!" Enough said. Hes a genious.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and may your holiday's be full of happiness and good cheer!


The Loudamericans

Monday, November 21, 2011

Featured Alumni

Thought it would be fun to brag on my dad for a while:) He was recently featured in his college newsletter as Alumni Spotlight. The photos are great, wish I could figure out how to load them into here, but you'll have to do with the content... (He went to Carroll College in Waukesha Wi, they are the Pioneers)

Jim graduated from Carroll in 1964. During his time at Carroll, Jim was honoroed for his tremendous work ethic and leadership. He was named "Hinky Hero" as the outstanding male student athlete, sevred as "C" club president, and was team captain for men's basketball for two years. We are proud to have him as our Pioneer for life.

Why did you choose Carroll? I was from Wausau. That March (1960), we had won the State Basketball Championship (think Hoosiers!!). I then began looking for a Division III college that would provide and excellent education first and where I could play basketball and tennis. ...After making campus visits, Carroll won hands down over the others. An added bonus, Mancer Cyr and Chuck Wienkauf, both memebers of our state championship team, also made the decision to attend Carroll. The three of us chose Caroll in spite of knowing we would be spending our next four years in Waukesha. Waukesha High was undefeated when we beat them in the semi finals of the State Tournament. We knew we would be welcomed into the Carroll community, but we were not so sure of our reception into the Waukesha community.

What are your favorite memories of playing for Carroll? There are too many to list. However, here are a few: The great friendships I developed over four years with some very talented basketball palyers, many of whom are in the Carroll Hall of Fame. Being elected by my teammmate as captain in my junior and senior years. Being honored, in my senior year, by a faculty committee as outstanding scholar/athlete. Winning the College Conference of Illinois championship in two of the years I played.

Do you still keep in touch with former teammmates? Yes, with some, in particular, Bill and Karla Mullen and Mancer Cyr. Karla was my wife's college roommate and they were cheerleaders together. Bil and I went to work for the same company right out of Carroll and for the first few years of our married life, worked and lived close to each other in Chicago. .....

What are your other fond memories of Carroll? First and foremost, meeting my wife Denise (Bunny). We dated for two years and then married the summer we graduated. We have been happily married for 47 years.

What are you doing now? Living the good life. I retired in 1999 after 35 years with Wausau Insurance Companies. We live in the winter in the mountains of western South Carolina. We spend our summers on the shores of Lake Michigan just outside of Traverse City Michigan. We spend lots of time visiting our three daughters and our eight grandchildren. After retiring, I entered into somewhat of a second career. I became a volunteer firefighter with the local South Carolina fire department. I am entering my 10th year. While I am still fully certified, I no longer do interior fire attacks (my basketball days have finally caught up wtih my knees). However, there are enough other jobs on the fire ground to keep me busy.

So, that's my dad. He's an amazing athlete and a loyal and thoguhtful friend. And, a wonderful dad:)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Regular Stuff & Life

We realized that we haven't blogged since Halloween, how did that happen? Regular life got in the way I guess. What does regular life look like and what have we been up to? We'll start at the top...

Tom has been super busy with his United Way special project (figuring out how to market to for profit companies that have a community based focus - for example; Tom's shoes is a for profit company that donates 50% of their profits to the community) as well as getting more involved with his board work with Gift of Adoption. He is also tutoring 1st grade math on Wednesdays (counting backward and skip counting is harder than you'd think) and has been fighting off the leaves in our yard and all the fall house work that seems never ending. He also made a huge batch of wine that should be ready just in time for New Years:) Finally, he spent the day taking our good friends Radha and Krishna around the twin cities. They are moving here in February on a 2 year work assignment and he made daycare, school, townhouse, etc appointments for them so that they can get a lay of the land. Little do they know that we are angling for them to life swap with us when we move to Canada, so he was laying the ground work:)

Tracy is crazy busy at work and is SUPER thankful that Tom does the needful at home. We are on a full on sprint to opening our 1st stores in Canada and there will be no rest for the weary until 2013. She is also trying to do her share of cooking, homework with the kids while keeping up with the 3 mile daily walks that Nikki needs. She's asleep 30 seconds after her head hits the pillow every night. We did get a good 11/11/11 fix in last week. We watched Oceans 11 and toasted each other at 11:11:11pm. (11 is Angela's favorite/superstitious #, she only sets her alarm clock in numbers divisible by 11, so needless to say, it was a big night).

Jimmy has started basketball warm ups (drills, skills, etc) and is now playing in a band. They are playing lots of Bruno Mars and Foster the People. He seems to be having fun and the other kids don't seem to notice that he's 3-4 years younger than the other kids. He's still in piano and drum lessons and is obsessing about Christian Ponder. He's in a fantasy football league and has been picking the football picks in Tracy's weekly football pool at work. He may just win this week. I think he's grown again, he's skinny at 105 lbs, size 8 men's shoe and 5' 2". its crazy! He's also needs to read and write a book report on 20 books this year in order to 'win' a trip to Mall of America in May. He just finished his 10th book. Never say the kid cant be motivated by bribery.

Kay is in gymnastics, piano and girl scouts. The latest addition to her activities is cheer leading (god help us) and is selling candy bars to raise money for the group. Her goal is to sell enough to get a free set of pom poms. She can now do a front handspring and can play Ode to Joy on the piano. We are on night 7 of her sleeping the WHOLE night in her own room. I think this is the 1st time this has happened in 8 years. She came up with a motivation chart for herself and she's following it. If she does it 14 nights in a row, she earns a trip to the beauty salon. As she said yesterday "this systems working pretty well, don't you think?" We agree! Its amazing how much nicer we are when we've all had a good night sleep. She's pretty amazing.

Billy is in gymnastics and just finished a 3 week basketball warm up himself. Imagine 15 6 year old boys learning basketball basics. (think squirrels chasing a ball) He's also in a 4 week Lego class at school and declared "I'm never going win a prize". Thinking he was just being negative, we tried to talk to him about it. Then, we realized, he really is never going to win a prize since, to win a prize, you have to be the 1st one to listen and pick up. Not Billy's strong suit as he doesn't want the Lego fun to end. He's reading and is a math whiz. He cant wait to turn 7 (12/11) and we've been busy planning and re planning his birthday party (who to invite, where to go, what toys he wants) its pretty fun.

Nikki and Timmy are fine, lots of walks, treats and mauling by the kids.

Overall, regular life. Fun, hectic, crazy and full of everyday funny little adventures.

Here's a good example of a "normal" Friday night

"till our next big adventure...


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Happy Haddaween!

As Jimmy used to say "Happy Haddaween!" Last weekend was full on Halloween madness. It started Friday night when we took them to Target to pick out their costumes and buy candy. Word of warning - Friday night before Halloween is a little late to start getting ready. The good news? all costumes were 75% off, the bad news? we got what we got. In the long run, everyone was happy. Billy was a storm trooper, Kay a vampire and Jimmy, Stuy from The Family Guy.

Kay and Billy Treat or Treating with their BFF, Ella and Cole.

More Trick or Treating, they bagged about 10lbs of candy. Kay had to come home when she sprained her arm from carrying such a heavy bag. She hit the jack pot at 1 house when she rang the door bell, the Mom said "ok, we just decided, the next kid to ring the door bell gets all our candy - we are shutting down for the night". Then, she proceeded to dump a WHOLE bowl of candy into Kays bag

Eating along the route to keep energy up.

Billy - storm trooper

Jordan stopped by for some treats

Our pumpkins, the kids each designed their own, from left, Kay, Billy and below - Jimmy's


Trick or treating at the strip mall by our house on Sat afternoon. Another haul.

Carmen as a cowgirl and Kay

Kay - vampire, cat, witch - you decide

At the school fall festival - there was a costume parade, treats, games, fire trucks, and a pancake breakfast. I sugared start to the weekend.

Sean as Lugi - last year he was Mario. He cracks us up.

Jimmy and Kay

kay with her best vampire, devil impersonation

Billy ready to conquer the world

Jimmy is noticably missing. Now that he's 10, he's too cool for school and went trick or treating with his BFF Ben in Ben's neighborhood so we are woefully short photos of him. Next year...maybe....

Happy Haddaween!!!!