Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Jimmy! Double Digits

10 - Jimmy reaches his first decade, claims to have additional knowledge, listening capabilities and is ready for decade number 2, we shall see....

Play Ball! Yes, this years birthday "theme", which is another blog all in itself, was all about baseball. Jimmy invited 16 of his closest friends and relatives to join him at the diamond for a game of sand lot baseball. Mom and Dad, seeing the potential in the event, immediately hired an outside third party to be the umpire, as these things have a tendency to create disagreements, and contacted the city to secure Lions Park Field #1 for the big game.

Now for Jimmy this game was slightly bigger in his mind than the World Series and preparation began in earnest. Jimmy of course wanted to be the pitcher and throw 125 mile and hour fast balls, so every night we had to practice. He was so excited he could hardly focus on anything else, which is good his birthday is in the Summer. The day finally came and he was ready. The kids met at the ballpark, the umpire helped them choose sides and laid out the rules and with enough fanfare announced " Let's Play Ball", and play ball they did. It was a proud moment as a parent to watch the kids interact, and Jimmy made sure everyone got to play where they wanted, even if it meant that someone else would pitch. He made the kids who did not play baseball or were not at the level of the others feel wanted and part of the teams. The pitches to these kids were under hand or slower and it was a super fun time. There were several great plays and of course at one point the money spent on the umpire came through. It was a close play at second Preston was trying to turn a single into a double, Jimmy was catching and threw the ball to Parker at second base, the throw was a little off the mark. Parker leaped up to catch the ball, Preston was running to fast and slid off the base and Parker landed on Preston holding the ball, " You're out" was the call. The kids stormed the umpire, who was a couple of inches shorter than they were, and a discussion began, ceremoniously someone kicked sand, the umpire held his own, more pointing and explaining from the players until finally the umpire had enough and stated vary calmly " Do you know why I know he was out a second?" The kids replied " No", " Because I am the ump" was the reply, heads down the filed back to the dug out, " Batter Up!".

The pizza was delivered and the cupcakes eaten and it was back to the game. The kids played for almost two hours and the game ended on account of darkness. Then when Jimmy was not looking the kids grabbed the water jugs and dumped them over Jimmy's head, he was in heaven.

He was blessed with many great gifts, gift cards and cash, and was very thankful and even humble. We opened the gifts at home with Aunt Sue and had a perfect end to the perfect day, that however was not the end of Jimmy's celebration OH no..... Next up: Ball Boy at the Saints Game.

Jimmy invited his friend Jacob to be ball boy with him so on an extremely hot and muggy night off to the Saints Game we all headed the next night. Jim Fellows, Jimmy's God Father, and his girl friend, Jen meet us at the game. Jimmy and Jacob went into the tunnel, meet the other lucky kids who were ball boys/girls and bat boys/ girl and waited in the tunnel until it was time to take the field. There names were announced out onto the field they ran big smiles on their faces', priceless. They were lead to their posts, which for Jimmy and Jacob ,was a lawn chair, strategically placed in right field, where there was no chance of anyone actually hitting the ball. There they stayed through the entire game.

The Saint's were down 9 - 1 after two innings and it appeared we would be getting home earlier than we thought.... not even close. The boy's were cheering away from the lawn chairs, sweating up a storm, the Saints were battling away and after 8 innings the game was tied. Much to the happiness of the lawn chair cheering section, and as it was approaching 9:30, not so much to Mom and Dad. The hot dogs, gyro's and frozen strawberry lemonade helped in the battle against the heat and for the staying power of Thing 1 and Thing 2. Jim and Jen left after the 8th inning and Jimmy and Jacob poring water over their heads donned their rally caps and were back to cheering on the home town team. The crowd was thinning out after the 10th, the Saints got the opponents out 1,2,3 in the top of the 11th. The first batter hit a double followed buy the next batter hitting a walk off single, Saints win 10-9 in 11 hard fought innings. Jimmy and Jacob were ecstatic running all over the outfield screaming and dancing. Finally they calmed down, folded up their lawn chairs and we headed home, 10:30, so much for getting home early.! This was also Sue's birthday and we planned cake and ice cream however we had to postpone that for the next day, which began the third phase of Jimmy's birthday. Jimmy and Sue each got a ticket to the Twins game for the next night!.

The Twins have not been playing well but no matter to Jimmy, any chance to go to a professional game and he is in. We dropped them off at the game and took Thing 1 and 2 to see Cars 2, to give them some special time. Sue and Jimmy had a blast at the game however being 10, and running at full speed for three days has it's toll. The twins were down 5 to 1 after 7 innings and Jimmy was spent. He called for a pick up and we all got to have cake and special fruit kabob's Kay made for Sue's birthday.

It was a grand birthday celebration for Jimmy and Sue.

We love you both and wish everyone a great and Happy Birthday!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Great Outdoors

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods the ex-pat's and their kids choose to experience Interstate State Park, s scenic and quaint campground between Taylor's Fall and St. Croix on the Minnesota and Wisconsin borders.

4 adults and eight children descended on this quiet camp for only two nights on communing with nature and extended play dates for the kids, the objective to wear the kids out and give them a summer experience every child should share. The Thorne's, Larrie, Jess and their new dog Rex, the Miller's Wade, Cayden and Wyatt, the Heihn's, Alex, Preton and Ellise along with the Loudamericans less two (Tracy and Nikki), met Wednesday afternoon set up camp and the fun began.

The kids had a blast wondering around the campground, finding and fighting over sticks, playing baseball, dodge ball and killing mosquito's at will. The bugs were a bit aggressive. That evening the kids chowed on hot dogs, corn on the cob and sugar laced drinks. the adults on the other hand created an awesome salmon feast over the wood fire, it was inspiring. the kids were having so much fun the ranger only had to come three times to tell them to quiet down. State Parks have a couple of their rules backwards one being no alcohol is allowed, which we all know means ,do not get caught, however if they really wanted to enforce quiet hours from 10:00 Pm- 8:00 AM they would ban any sugar based children's refreshments.
Thursday was spent across the boarder in Wisconsin swimming in the swimming hole, Minnesota bans swimming because of veracious whirlpools, drop offs and man eating mosquitoes. We packed a picnic lunch, fishing polls, as boundary waters are fair game, swim toys and such and spent the whole day there. The fishing was tough, but we managed a blue gill, a fish landed is a fish landed, so we did not get skunked.

Thursday night was a bit more subdued we had KFC, smore's and a camp fire with lights out at 9:30. We packed up Friday morning and managed to hit the road back home. the group as usual got along great and we have planned a fall camping trip......

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Another childhood rite of passage - PASSED!

Billy is having an incredible summer and year when it comes to "ticking off" childhood rites of passage - learning to read, losing teeth and now, the monster of them all?! ..... NO TRAINING WHEELS:)
We have been trying to convince him, all summer, that he can do this ... ride a two-wheeler. To no avail. He believed that he could "go faster" with the training wheels on (and it IS all about speed, isn't it?!) Kay even joined forces with us...."if you THINK you can do it, you can DO it". Overall a great life philosophy but we ARE a bit concerned that its her philosophy already at an early age 8. She could get seriously hurt.

After all our biking in the Netherlands and being my navigator/turn signaler, he must have convinced himself to give it a go.
Sunday we grabbed his bike and headed out back to the secret spot (neighbors enclosed tennis court) for some lessons. He was FABULOUS! He was riding a two wheeler after the 1st 2 minutes. He learned to stop in the 1st 5 minutes, able to turn left in the 1st 10 min's. Turning right and starting without help were a bit of an issue, but he was HOOKED. He insisted on riding his bike all night and we had to drag him in at 8:30pm with promises of a bike ride on Monday.

Monday night, he's bugging me to go with him for HOURS...I finally acquiesce and we are off for a 20 min bike around the neighborhood. Now, he can start without help and is figuring out how to turn right. He even has visions of motocross and racing in his future. He "wishes he had a big bike and could go with me on really long rides. This is SO fun!". We stopped by all the neighbors houses to show off and I have to admit, he rides like a pro.

Ahhh...our little motor head.
You are awesome Billy!

Monday, August 08, 2011

KCC - otherwise known as the "best" week of the summer

Last week was, what is known around our house as...the BEST week of the summer. Korean Culture Camp.
The kids wait all year for camp, they count down and are in heaven all week. They were too excited to sleep on Sunday night and Jimmy even told us "I'd trade Christmas and my birthday if I could go to KCC ALL year long!"

What's all the excitement? KCC is a camp full of their friends and kids just like them. 97% of the kids are Korean, either adopted from Korea or children from parents who were adopted from Korea, so they have families that dont necessary look like them. They have 2 cultures and share a similar history. (The 3% of the kids that arent Korean? blondies that are their siblings:)).

This year, over 500 people were at camp, 350+ campers and 150+ helpers. This camp has been running for 30+ years and many of the kids that attend are 2nd generation. VERY cool.

They get to spend the week learning about Korean cooking, culture, language, Tae Kwon Do, dancing, food and what it means to be adopted. They even take self esteem class (Jimmy's favorite class) and play baseball at every "recess".

Lunch everyday is a hysterical event. Tom is 1 of the 2 main cooks and volunteers his time for the whole week. They go through an amazing amount of sugar, soy sauce, garlic and hot pepper. Tracy volunteers in the kitchen on Wednesday and its fun to see the kids come thorugh the line with Korean food stacked HIGH on their plate AND they come back for seconds. Easily, lunch is the favorite part of the day and thanks to the planning of the kitchen staff, all leftovers can be brought home by the kitchen volunteers. We now have a freezer full of spicy meat, yum!

Its also a great week to reconnect with the families that we met when we were going through the adptions of each of the kids. We see friends we only see 1 time/year and even have friends come in for their annual pilgrimage from NY. Its sort of like an annual reunion of your birthing class participants. The kids share an amazing connection as do the adults.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Netherlands - WOW!

We spent 10 days in the Netherlands and have totally fallen in love with it! Kay wants to live there when she grows up. The people, the flowers, the cheese, the chocolate, the biking, the name it, its a very cool place we had a WONDERFUL time.

We landed in Amsterdam and were met by Annemieks parents, Maria and Andre. They were EXTREMELY gracious hosts; showing us how to buy train tickets, reserved us and helped us pick up our bikes and basically insuring we got to the place we were staying safe and sound. This is a god send after 10+ hours of air travel with 3 kids!

We walked to a very yummy restaurant for dinner. Kay proceeded to fall asleep in her food and Billy was begging to go to bed. Needless to say, we were all exhausted but felt like we needed to stay up until at least the sunset. Well....That's not until 10:15pm. YIKES!

We made plans to meet Andre at the train station the next morning, he gave us a biking tour of the city, including important landmarks like the grocery store, the bus station, his apartment (where Annemiek and Wendy would be staying, his summer house, and Erick's home (where the reception would be). It was a great way to get a lay of the land. We biked all over, even taking a bike ferry from one side of the canal to the other. They treated us to a nice relaxing lunch of bread, cheese, fresh tomatoes, chocolate spread, apples, etc. Yum!

Bike Ferry

Andre and Maria at their summer home

We headed back to our place and noticed a WaterSport about 2 blocks from us. What is that?!

the kids were intrigued and so were we. It is a series of canals for swimming that have a zip line, rope bridge and rafts that you can "pole" around. The kids were hooked. We spent most of the evening playing in the water and getting our "thrills" on the zip line.

Kay and Jimmy doing Tarzan and Jane on the zip line

A crowd of kids patiently (not) waiting for their turn on the zip line

Jimmy having a gas on the zip line

It was nice to spend the 1st day close to "home". Home was a dormitory type townhouse that could be opened or closed with the adjacent unit. It was concert construction with tile floor, a propane stove, dorm fridge and NO decorations at all. It really reminded us of our place in India; basic but really all we needed. We even had a thatched roof! (which sounded cool in the rain). It is situated on a camp ground that had a HUGE green open space, trampoline, climbing pole and tons of kids and families. There were hiking cabins, RV's and tents. Like in the US, the campers were friendly and we soon had friends. Natalie and her son Louis are French and it was Natalie's 10th visit to Leiden and this camp ground. Louis (her son) was 7 and didn't speak a lick of English, didn't matter though, the kids were fast friends and played together 5 nights in a row. We had great conversation with Natalie on politics, education, family, etc.

Our place

Thursday we decided to get adventurous and took the train into Amsterdam. Leiden is about 30 miles south east of Amsterdam, and once you were at the train station, only about a 25 minute train ride. VERY easy and fun. Our main goal was the Amsterdam zoo and the Van Gogh museum. We were NOT disappointed.

The zoo is in the heart of the city and is how I imagine New York's zoo, the whole city has grown around it and its this beautiful old zoo. And....the best? They had 5 new babies born this spring! That seems amazing to me, you don't hear of that many new babies in 1 year. They had a baby elephant, gorilla, seal, giraffe and lion.

The baby elephant

We headed to the Van Gogh museum, I was a bit concerned about the kids interest, but they really got into it. The museum is cool in that it's set up by year, so as you walk through, you can really see how he grew and developed as an artist. What's even more amazing is that he didn't decide to become an artist until he was 29 and died at 37 (I think I have my ages right). When he died, he had left over 900 paintings and 1000+ sketches. That's just crazy! (pun intended).

We then started wandering around Amsterdam, its a really cool city. The kids had their 1st taste of gelato and they are hooked!

We got home late, but not too late for a glass of wine with Natalie and a jump on the tramp with Louis:)

Jimmy in front of the I Amsterdam sign:)

Interesting signs we saw during our walk

Friday we decided to try the bus system, bought ourselves a "busser" (family bus pass that lets you ride all day) and headed to Katwijk. Katwijk is a small sea side town. It sits on the North Sea and while the day wasn't very nice, Jimmy went straight into the water. (it was about 65 degrees and the rest of us had sweatshirts on). We meant to go to the Space Expo, but it closed at 5pm and we missed that small type (too much time on the beach)

Jimmy in his element

The beach board with all the conditions

Billy trying to stay warm but enthralled with the sand and shells

Kay cartwheeled through the Netherlands

Our 2nd taste of gelato:)

Since we missed the Space Expo timing, we headed back to Leiden and decided to catch the Windmill museum (De Valk). Billy walked in, took a look around and promptly declared "oh, I know how this works! Look Jimmy, the blades turn, which turns this pole, which turns this mill and grinds the wheat. I get this!" Our little engineer:) As an aside, we counted windmills during our trip. Total count? 37.

De Valk

View of Leiden from the top of De Valk

Billy in his element

A photo of us with Natalie and Louis
Too bad we didn't have any fun with them!

The kids on the "tramp". It was a nightly activity and allowed us to meet Louis, Alex, Reinke, Aston and JJ. Billy and Kay learned to do front flips and they made up a game called "hot dog" and "mama". Can't say I really understand the rules, but they all did. Tom and I met Natalie, Linda and Marianne. It really is nice to compare travel notes over a glass of wine with other adults. Especially like minded adults with kids!

Saturday we decided to stay in town to see the farmers market and take a walking tour of Leiden. Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt, the oldest university in the Netherlands (alma mater Rene Descartes) and the port the pilgrims left from for the new world. There are tons of canals, walk ways, bike paths and shops. There are also over 40 poems written on the sides of buildings in 40 languages. The town is over 500 years old and has a rich history. VERY cool.

We met Wendy for lunch and saw the Burcht (old fort), Pieterkerk church (church of the pilgrims) and tried fresh herring with onions (yum!). Wendy needed to leave for wedding prep "stuff" so we decided to ride our bikes down to Zoeterwoude Dorp. Its a small city about 3 miles south east of Leiden, it was a nice bike ride, but since everything in the Netherlands seems to close at 5pm, unfortunately, there wasn't much to see. The kids were good sports though!

Another aside, we rode bikes EVERYWHERE! Tom and I each had a kids seat on our bikes for Billy/Kay and Jimmy had his own bike, Jimmy did an amazing job! Every street has an accompanying bike lane and we saw more bikes than cars. EVERYONE rides: grandparents, new parents with babies, women in short skirts and heals, kids, you name it. Even the stop lights had a separate light for cars, bikes and people. AND, bikes ALWAYS have the right of way...I loved it!

City Hall, the place of the wedding and established in the late 1600's.

Sunday was the only day that was a bust. It rained ALL DAY!. Not a mist or a drizzle, but a true all day down pour. We started to go stir crazy about 3pm, so we decided to get on our bikes and find the indoor pool Natalie had told us about. We got horribly lost and ended riding in the down pour for 90 minutes. We were all soaked to the skin but at least we had worn ourselves out!

The weather while we were there was exactly my favorite kind of weather. Low 70's, high 60's, slightly cloudy, light drizzle everyday followed by sun. You could wear jeans and short sleeve shirt or a sweatshirt and shorts. You could ride or walk all day and not get sweaty.
Red wine and coffee tasted equally good at the end of each day.

Monday we were off for adventure again. We got a busser and headed to Den Haag. Den Haag is the center of the royalty and Parliament. Its a cool city on the North Sea and has impressive palaces, courthouse, museums and parks. Of course, on Mondays all museums are closed, but we learned a lot just walking around and reading plaques. It was the only day we indulged in fast food (KFC and McD's) and the kids were in heaven. We did find an aquarium that was open and headed for that. Always fun to see fish, eels, sharks and manta rays.

There is art in all the parks in Den Haag

Petting "zoo" in the aquarium

Billy's "bike rack" (see the below blog)

Tuesday was the day before the wedding and we thought we'd better stay close in case Wendy and Annemiek needed anything. We also had to move out of our "townhouse" and into a hiking cabin on the grounds. It was nice but smaller. Very cozy. We met Wendy, Cate and Laurie for lunch on the cannal (and I had my covetted beer at an outside cafe). Then it was off for a cannal boat tour of the city.

De Valk from the bridge before our boat tour

On the canal tour

Then, it was back to our place, more tramp and Kay decided to try and scale the pole. She must have tried 60 times and got WAY further than ANY of the boys.

Kay in her element

Wednesday was the wedding (see below for ALL the details:)

Thursday was our last full and day we decided to hit the beach. We rode our bikes the 10km to Katwijk again and spent the FULL day on the beach. We were going to try for the Space Expo again, but it was WAY too nice. We rented a little cabana, plopped down in our chairs and took turns taking naps. Jimmy swam in the waves for hours and Kay & Billy played in the sand. It was by far the nicest day of the whole trip. Beautiful!

The beach with all the holiday "go-ers"

Kay burying Jimmy

Billy digging his own grave - actually, he did dig a hole that he could crawl into.

Since most activities close by 5pm and the sun doesnt go down until after 10pm, we found ourselves with LOTS of family time. Between the trampoline, climbing poles and socializing, we also found time to teach Kay and Billy how to play solitaire. That's an interesting endevor if you ever should partake. The picked it up and now beg to play all the time

Breakfast in our hiking cabin

Our hiking cabin

It was a wonderful trip in so many ways. It was great to really spend time in 1 place and get to know the people, the culture and the daily habits. Thank god we werent in a hotel driving each other up the walls! We'd recommend this trip to ANYONE. A perfect vacation:)