Friday, June 27, 2014

Grade 5 Graduation

It is referred to in the hood only as " The GRAD" it is only one name like Madonna, Sting or FIFA, same caliber, depending on ones perspective. I mean graduating from 5th Grade, just saying.

However in keeping with the frenzy Tom volunteered to be on charge of the food for the event .Traditionally, yes I can use that reference, the food consisted of chips, a cake of some sort and then focusing on the parents and guests, coffee, sweets and like that, but no, not when there is a new Sheriff in town with a daughter graduating from 5th Grade, bring it baby!

Chocolate Fountain, tear way cupcakes, with the grade 5 Grade composite etched in edible icing on the cupcakes, fruit off all kinds, marshmallows, and lady fingers for the fountaining, loot bags and the like ,that's what I'm talking about : "The GRAD"!!!!

The Graduates walked into the hall to Pomp and Circumstances, deck to the 9's, the flash of hand held devices lighting the way lining up alphabetically in front of the crowd, synergy.
The Principal delivered a hand crafted welcome speech, the 5th grade teacher was aroused from his slumber and introduced the agenda as well as handed out several student achievement awards culminating with a member of the Toronto City Council announcing this years John Filion Community Involvement Award, for the 5th grade student that shows an over abundant interest in his or her community, not a dry eye in the house.

The 2 Valedictorians who were chosen by a panel of teachers based on many difficult criteria, then delivered what can only be called ' The Valedictorian Speech"
Kay's speech is below and we think that since it sounds more like a locker room speech for a game well played than a speech geared toward academic achievement, she did not meet the stick standards of the panel.

Then the moment the kids have lived their whole lives for, up to this point, the introduction of the Graduates and receiving their diplomas. Keeping with the program, the Graduates broke out in a song they all hand picked for the occasion; " Best Day of My Life".

Then it was off to the reception ,where you heard the GRADS saying, WOW a Chocolate Fountain and Cupcakes, this is the best GRAD ever, or at least I thought that's what I heard. The feeding frenzy over, the Grads where then ushered back into the Graduation Hall for a 2 hour dance and lets go crazy party. Congratulations Graduates!!!
More to come......

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

4th Annual Presquile weekend

We were invited to this very prestigious event which was held over the past weekend.
In the neighborhood there are literally dozens of kids, all or most of which go to the same school and for the past 4 years the Dads have been taking the kids on a two day no holds bared camping trip. This year was no different.
Presquile is a sort of National Park type place about 2 hours east of Toronto and it sits on a peninsula in Lake Ontario and has several beaches and most important for this group, large group camp sites. The group usually takes up two sites one for the tents, pop-up trailers and campers, the other for the sports field.

We all arrived late Friday afternoon, the murphy's kids, less Jimmy, The Clarks and the Kawalchuk's caravanned together with a brief stop at the Clark family farm for dirt bike riding and a nature walk.
We arrived around 3:00 amidst rest of the campers setting up tents, the dining hall/gambling room. The main event for the dad's is the Saturday night 31 tournament complete with a trophy and year long bragging rights! Friday night was a gourmet feats of hot-dogs for the kids and polish type sausages for the adults, that was it!
The camp fire was big, the stories long winded and by the end of the night the entire West Lansing Spiritual Group said it's prayers and hit he hay.

Saturday morning kids being kids they all were up and running around at 6:30 screaming and have a blast, the Dads were right behind them! Following a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausages it was time for the annual dads versus kids baseball game. Kids got as many pitches as it took to get a hit. Dads had to bat one handed opposite hand 3 strikes, tough crowd. The game battles on for two hours and ended with a draw, no fooling. Next up the beach and more wearing out the kids. Some one has the video and I shall try to find it of the 30 foot Camper Van pulling up to  the beach and 25 dads and 43 kids getting off, it will be a safety video later this fall! Lunch was cold cut sandwiches complete with condiments and cheese, the kids devoured the chow and we had to make a speed run into town for more!

Saturday afternoon was lazing around the campo ground playing catch, horse shoes, badminton and watching Germany and Ghana in the World Cup, it think the 40 inch big screen that came with the motor home was the real reason it was rented! Dinner was burgers, and chips!!! The battle for the crown and the 31 bragging rites. Many of the rituals that go into the tournament are not for public knowledge, they are after all rituals, suffice it to say when the dust settled, the defending champ was the first one out and on the new comer's stood victorious, I must confess  the author came in third, which was a feat in itself!
Looking forward to the invite for next year and moving into my rightful place as 31 champ of the West Lansing Spiritual Group!
more to come....

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The start of the end of the school year

School in Canada goes through the end of June, lest you think that sounds like heaven for those of you that have kids fully entrenched in summer ... keep in mind ... it means that there are 3 extra weeks to have 'final' school activities - field trips, banquets, tournaments, birthday parties, you name it... And hence, it started 10 days ago, the official  start of the end of the school year. Grab a energy drink or your favorite beverage and settle in. I promise you'll be tired when we get through with this blog.
Thurs 6/5 - Tracy leaves for the MS150 and Sue arrives to help/participate in the start of the end. It starts slowly and deceptively with a typical Thursday night - gymnastics, soccer and pick up basketball in our front yard Fri 6/6 - a PA day (the kids have off school) so that the teachers can write report cards - Not sure why they are writing them NOW when there is still 3 weeks left of school but...who am I to say. while a PA day can cause every parent to panic - no worries, Kay has her final gymnastics tournament an hour away- Perfect! In this tournament she bumped up a level and learned 4 new routines in 2 weeks. Do you think that deterred our Kay from winning medals? No Way! She walked away with a gold on beam (and the award for best technique) as well as 3rd in floor and 5th & 7th respectively in bars and vault. Not a bad showing given she had 4 practices to master 4 new routines. Tom tempted fate and left Jimmy at home to play basketball and hang with this friends. The good news is, he's turning it a pretty responsible pre-teen. We'll see how long that lasts any case, the house was standing when they returned.
Sat 6/7 - another "typical" day - tae kwon do, baseball and dinner with friends Sun 6/8 - Kay had a birthday party, Jimmy a baseball game, and Tom had school. Not to mention piano lessons. Everyone met back up at home at 9pm and fell into bed exhausted (Tracy came rolling in at 11pm from her MS150 flight home)
Mon 6/9 - as an early birthday present we bought Jimmy and Sue tickets to the Blue Jay/Twins game - it was AWESOME! On top it, Billy had Tae Kwon Do, Kay had dress rehersal for her dance recital and Tom had school. We were all asleep the minute our heads hit the pillow (11pm-ish) Tues 6/10 - Sue felt "bad" that she took Jimmy on a special outing and a couple parents in Kay & Billy's class where "skipping" school to take their kids to Wonderland (think Great America or Valley Fair) and so we thought - Hey! Why not?! Off they went to eat junk food, spin in circles and get sunburned. Life doesn't get any better than that! That night was the usual - gymnastics, another baseball game for Jimmy and Tae Kwon Do - The parents are borderline sleep deprived and the kids are so tired they are hyper. But...the fun is just beginning....
Wed 6/11 - Sue went to school to help Billys class make their Fathers Day presents - VERY Fun. Also.. Kay had her 1st and LAST dance recital EVER! She did amazing BUT she's declared she's "done" with dance. That's fine with us, the recital was a 3 hour affair and we left early. She had her game face on and is just one big muscle - Got home at 9:30pm - just in time for dinner:) – Kay (not very good video as we weren’t allowed to video and we had to “sneak” doing it)
Thurs 6/12 - Jimmy's drum concert - its the pinnacle of all his lessons and was held at a real bar with a real band. He brought the house down (again). He played James Brown and is quite worried about what his teacher is going to say since he ad libbed quite a bit and (apparently) that's not allowed. Needless to say, he got a sweeped round of applause and unlike the other 20 acts, actually seemed to be enjoying himself AND stayed on beat. I think we were in bed "early" (10:30) - a little grainy but good sound - in case you cant tell, he's in the middle of the screen:)
Fri 6/13 - AND a full moon - woo woo woo - we ACTUALLY stayed home. and... did nothing... can you believe it?! Cant be too careful these days.. It was also jump rope for heart at school and pizza lunch, both of which Sue volunteered at.
Sat 6/14 - Kay hosted 13 girls for her 11th birthday party - yes her birthday isn't until July and yes Jimmy had baseball and Billy had Tae Kwon Do as well as she had her gymnastics banquet that night but NO ONE puts Baby in a corner and isn't it a piece of cake to whip up a tea party, make your own pizza, Hawaiian themed zombie tag party?! Not a problem - it all worked out. The banquet was fun too. They sat the kids on 1 side of the room and the mom's on the other. Then there was a fashion show, dance party and awards. Did we mention the neighbors also had us over for drinks/dinner?

Sun 6/15 - Tom is back at class, Kay at gymnastics, Jimmy has baseball and Tracy spent the day trying to make it a decent Fathers Day for Tom. We had a VERY yummy brunch and presents/cards/DQ post Jimmy's baseball win and once we ate dinner (10pm). We each said what we love most about Tom and what we are thankful for, we talked to our Grandpas and Tom loved all his gifts (well, except the book Tracy bought him) Overall, not a bad Fathers day. Mon 6/16 - Back at it! Sue headed back home, the kids back in school, Tracy back at work and Tom left at home to cleanup the carnage. Come to speak of it. Maybe he should ask for a "re do" on Fathers day:) Next up? The Cameron Father/Child camping trip this weekend for Tom/Kay/Billy, 2 baseball games for Jimmy this weekend, more school for Tom, another birthday party for Billy, gymnastics for Kay and Jimmy wants to have an end of the year party at our house. Piece of cake...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

20 years of the MS150 - WE DID IT!!

As background, I have been doing the MS 150 for 20 years! (holy cow I'm old!!) Its a 2 day bike ride from Duluth to MPLS and is an important part of my personal traditions. My Uncle Alan lived, fought and passed away from complications with MS 18 years ago. I have great memories of his humor and attitude but I can also remember his decline. I raise money for him, everyone living and fighting MS and all the families, friends and caregivers that fight equally as hard against this disease. The MS150 is SUCH an inspiring ride and tribute to my uncle (plus a whole bunch of fun which he would have appreciated). As I have the last few years, I rode with Team Target- we are now a team of well over 100+ strong. I literally pulled and was pulled on the ride by my MS family of 15+ years; Dick (78 years young and 2200 miles already logged this year!) Allen (Ned's Dad) Ned (work and St Olaf friend - note: this is year 18 for Ned and Allen) and Wendy (the whole reason I learned about this ride, she's been riding 24 years and we've been riding together 20 years!!). And... We did it! It was an incredibly fun and exhausting weekend. Thank you for ALL your support; financially AND mentally. Here’s the run down This year, there were 4,000 riders and 2,000+ volunteers and the ride raised over $3m for MS – Think about that, it’s AMAZING not only from a logistic perspective but from a support perspective as well. This money will make a VERY real difference in the lives of Minnesotans that live with MS. AND…its great fun T -1: The bus ride up was great fun, caught up with friends on Team Target and even had a few beers We got to camp in Proctor (Glamping this year, a company sets up and takes down your tent AND, you get a chair and sleeping pad – genius!) and immediately headed to Canal Park for our yearly tradition Lil’ Angies Mexican with Ned, his dad Allen, Wendy and our friend Dick. (Side note: Dick is 78, retired from the Navy and Post Office and bikes in his retirement, he had logged 2,200 miles already this year BEFORE the ride, he’s a machine!!) The food was great, the margaritas good and the company outstanding. From there we walked along Lake Superior and just relaxed, it was the perfect summer night in Duluth. Day 1 – We woke up to rain – yes, it started to rain about 4am and by 5:30 was pouring and about 48 degrees. Thank GOD for glamping and warm pancakes for breakfast! We headed to the start and we asked to “wait due to an incident” , we (along with 50+ other riders) waited in the rain for 15 min’s as the MS crew got things under control. Very scary. One of our Team Target riders was riding with his Dad. On the 1st hill, his dad had a heart attack. The MS crew and Duluth emergency crews were wonderful and got him to a hospital quickly. (Please send all your thoughts of healing and recovery!) Once we started, we biked in the rain for about an hour until it cleared up. The rest of the day was “easy”; tail wind, low 50’s and the gorgeous Mungar Trail from Duluth to Hinckley ( a paved railroad bed through a state forest, including a waterfall - lovely!!!) We arrived in Hinckley and guest what?! Our tent was set up !! Nice!! Off to get a beer from the Target tent and then a hot shower (in a semi-trailer, everyone should have this experience at some point) followed by relaxing, catching up with friends, massages, more beer, more food, music and general good will. The best part of the MS150 is finishing the 1st day (only to be outdone by finishing the 2nd day) Day 2 – woke a bit later than normal but – what the hey – we didn’t have to take down the tent – sweet! (totally glamping again next year) It was very dewy and in the low 50’s without a cloud in the sky (and another tailwind!!). The day was extremely uneventful (which is good!) and while the wind shifted a bit to a cross wind, we finished in record time. Annemiek (Wendy’s wife) road up from Golden Valley to White Bear Lake (go Bears!) to meet us at the finish, that was an awesome surprise! We all went for DQ to celebrate. Fundraising – Thanks to a sprint towards the finish, I ended at $3,045 – RIGHT over my goal of $3,000 – THANK YOU! (and up from $2,980 last year – nice!) It’s good to know that we can still do this ride, have fun, be safe and make a difference. Join team Target next year?!  Peace, tailwinds and GET ON YOUR BIKE! 

Friday, June 06, 2014

Happy Anniversary!!!

16 years ago Tracy and I along with our family and friends started our married life on a beautiful day and it has continued ever since.
We have had our ups and downs just like every married couple and through out the one thing that was always there was the love we share.

The kids wanted to do something special for us or was it we were asking them what they had planned? The boys more or less follow Kay's lead on things like this however fir this occasion she decided to fly solo. Billy did make us a beautiful  heart felt card pronouncing us the best mom and dad in the world, high praise. Jimmy is at the kind of awkward age where he is sometimes too cool for school, but he did wish us a happy anniversary, with out being prompted.

Back to Kay, so I am sure some people have seen our Facebook post but for those who have not here is what happened:

Ok so just a moment to talk about food, I have now logged over 300 hours of classroom/lab instruction on food prep, methods and delivery, meaning, making, baking and serving. Today for our Anniversary Kay who has logged a mere 80 hours of t...he same, decided that she wanted to make for us a special Anniversary dinner, lock stock and barrel from scratch by her no help form the adults in the family. the results, 5 stars+ the menu: Starter, Baked brie in a puff pastry with red currant and egg wash, Black Bean Salad with red onion and fresh chopped cilantro, Cajun spiced chicken and a sun dried tomato cream sauce pasta for the adults and the Chef, baked spaghetti and mozzarella for the boy's, and a fresh made chocolate and cream pudding with berry compote for the adults and a chocolate pudding, graham cracker cake for the kids, highest praise ever form the boys when Jimmy exclaimed " Kay, this cake is awesome, Thanks,' Just another small town Saturday night at the Loudamericans....

Hard to beat that.
Happy Anniversary Tracy I love you!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Happy Memorial Day, Updates and other refelections

Happy Memorial Day to all of our family, friends and kinfolk south of the border!

The celebration of Memorial Day does not occur here in Canada in the same manner as it does in the States however we embrace the memory of all those whom we have had in our lives and those that have made an impact upon us, reflection on thanks and gratitude.

The kids continue to keep us busy and Billy has now begun his second career, soccer. The Hearts Soccer Club drafted him along with a few hundred other 9-10 year olds and we meet on Thursday evenings. The coach has about a half hour in which to instruct the lads and lasses on the finer points of the game, then the ball is dropped all the learnt knowledge is forgotten with a focus on the ball and the ball only, youth soccer! Billy also was awarded one of the coolest award from school. the Integrity Award. It is no wonder that has two buddies Spencer and William also won the award, they are the Three Musketeers!

Jimmy has begun baseball and is on two different teams again this year and has started football as well.  He is busy behind the plate for both teams and loves being the catcher. He owns the plate and second base as well, the issue is that sometimes his team mates are busy writing their name in the dirt when he fires the ball from home plate and it results is... well, they need some work. He is working on his swing which again is interfering with this desire to be the quarterback of the football team, his motto must be " Go Big or Go Home", it going to be a long fall. The house league team went down 10 to 6 while his Select team was on fire and won the game in 4 innings. The schedule calls for several tournament's again this year so we will see. He is also bound and determined to grow a mullet..

Kay on the other hand is almost through with her ACRO career, it worked on paper in the winter months but now that it is nice she is wishing she had her Monday's free. Two more classes and then the performance and she will finished, more on that to come.  Now speaking of time commitments,  she had been asked to join the Provincial Gymnastics Competition Team, meaning what? The coaches for some reason fear talking with us as if we may yell at them or something?  With kid gloves, they explained that Kay has the skills to be a strong competitor at the highest level and were we as parents concerned? About what, that's all she does, constantly,. Turns out this is a big commitment on both the coaches and the athlete, which Kay is now in that group,
meaning she will practice 16 hours a week and two days a week she will have to leave school to practice. The reasoning behind leaving school is because at night the place is so busy that they cant give the "athlete" the amount of one on one time to raise their skills to the next level so by having them leave school they will be the only people in the gym therefore more one on one time, follow?
She will have three meets starting in November and finishing in March. The best two results will be added up and divided in half determine the athlete's standing, the top 70 finishers in Ontario will then come head to head for the chance to be the next Level 6 Champion, whew.

If in my day someone told me if you want to join the team you have to leave school early I would have been " I'm in, hey what sports is it by the way?" more to come...

Happy Memorial Day there are many whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for what they have done, Gob Bless...