Sunday, November 19, 2017

Taekwondo (aka Billy) Update

Ok, who knew that taekwondo season was in the fall? Not us! In fact, if we had we may have reconsidered having a kid in football and one in tkd.  Its been NUTS!

Now that Billy is competing at the black belt level, we've "graduated" to a travel meet schedule. This fall has already taken us to Chicago, Florida and South Dakota.  January is Vegas and that doesnt include the local meets which happen about every 6 weeks. Tracy has handled all the travel tournaments and is exhausted.  Nothing like sitting on a bleacher for 8+ hours waiting to see your kid compete for 4 1/2 minutes.  Riveting balanced with complete boredom.  Good thing the tkd families are super fun and everyone gets along famously (we HAVE to, we'd go crazy otherwise!)

Not only is this his 1st year competing at the black belt level but he's also in the 12-14 age group (just turning 13 next month) and little (feather weight at 90 lbs and only 4'9").  This means he's constantly competing against kids that are bigger, older and have more experience. Its been a tough year but he's a fighter. Literally.  His size doesnt play much into his pomsea competitions with the exception that he's learning all new forms at the black belt level BUT ... it makes a HUGE difference in sparring where they are now allowed to do head kicks since they are black belts. When your competitor has 4-8 inches on you and 10-15 lbs over you, thats a big advantage (for your competition!).  Billy has stepped up to the challenge and is giving it his all. He never backs down, takes his points where he can get them, is very coachable and open to learning and most of all... a great sport. He always says nice match and figures out what he can learn from the match. His coaches adore him as he's an amazingly smart, technical and strategic fighter. He's precise, thoughtful and has quick reflexes.  In fact, his coach says he's right where he wants him - getting better with every meet, learning new skills, getting more flexible and stronger and resilient. He's "the whole package" and all anyone wants him to do is grow 6 inches.  Thats all.  If only that were in our control:)

Billy continues to love tkd, his team, his coaches, his friends, learning new skills and getting stronger.  He's a true warrior and we are so proud of him!!

Waiting for your next event is the hardest part.

I wish they were talking about tkd strategy but I suspect it was NBA results and video game hacks.

His official black belt certificate
The 1st place winner - Ross - was coaching another team member in their event and couldn't make the photo - love that they have the kids coach each other - great learning!

Joseph photo bombed - Grandma and Grandpa came to see him compete in Chicago. Much appreciated and fun!


Billys Buddies - Esa, Isaac, Augie, Joseph, Ian and Jacqueline - Rogers kids

The full TKD crew!

Watching Marvel movies in the hotel with Ian, Isaac and Lori.

Billy coaching against Ace's coaching with 2 of the kids he fought and lost to.  Billys kid won.
Tournament of champions 2nd place weapons

Ace and Billy, bringing home the hardware

At the Million Kicks for Cancer Fundraiser - wearing his pink dolbak in honor of breast cancer warriors

Es and Billy's prom picture

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Football- The Year that never was

Jimmy # 86 spent hundreds of hours in the gym from February through June lifting weights, increasing his speed and agility, conditioning all in preparation for this years football season.The one thing he could not train for was not being an upper class-man.

The practises started and the coaches implemented a point system to determine who would be the starters in many of the key positions. Jimmy was bound and determined to be the starting H, or tight-end. He was 12 points ahead of his any other kids in that position and was super excited. He is very aggressive when it comes to football and there was no way he was going to let anyone beat him. So that's when we ran into the first of many problems. He was told because he was only a Sophomore he would not be starting. I give Jimmy credit for saying to his coach " Let me get this straight, even though you had us go through all these tests and goals and even though I won everyone one of them I am not starting because I am a Sophomore?" His position coach said that was the decision the head coach made. To that Jimmy replied then why did you lie to me? I would not have done one thing different in any of these drills even if I new I wasn't going to start" That was how the whole season went.

Jimmy played his heart out in every game, practice and scrimmage. He played only 6 plays of defense the whole year resulting in 3 sacks, 2 rushed passes, and a fumbled recovered for 20 yards, then the coaches decided to not play him on defense any more... it was very frustrating and confusing.
Then the coaches invite him to come to the varsity film session to prepare for the upcoming game which is great. They spend the week practicing Jimmy playing tightened and slot receiver until game day when they tell him they have changed the game plan and he will not be playing and because he didn't go to the JV game he will be benched.... so for the first home game of his varsity career he had to stand on the side lines and watch...he was not happy. Once again he took to his caused and asked the coaches " what should I be doing to get more play time?" They replied go to the JV games.

JV had the best record in the whole Hopkins football program and finished 5 wins 3 losses, prior to this year the JV team had only one 2 games ,where was Jimmy? On defense sacking the QB, plugging up the middle of the line and tacking running backs, in the backfield tacking the fullback for a loss. He was returning kick offs, playing running back, catching passes making first downs and even a 15 yard touchdown run! He had two games where he over 200 all  purpose yards.

Back to Varsity where the coaches took notice and spent the entire team working plays with Jimmy at running back, he was once again coerced over to the dark side. He would come home from practice on cloud 9 ...'I'm going to start at full back' and he did, for 2 plays then the coach freaked out and completely changed the game plan 5 minutes into the game and once again Jimmy was shaking his head. This is how the season went.

Finally it was the play-offs, Hopkins was 1-7 going into the play-off season and Jimmy's view was " well Dad all we need is four straight upsets to make it to the championship!" Positive attitude, great kid. Jimmy did play quite a bit in the playoff game and came away with a great outlook, mindset for next season. The final game was in the snow with 30 mph winds and he got a ton of play time. He came home super excited "I've waited my whole life to play in the snow and I LOVE it!!  I cant wait until next season!" While he was not happy with the way the season went (mainly because of coaching) is looking forward to next season with enthusiasm. This year was 1-8, next year is in the making.

The Football banquet was like all those types of events 3 hours long with lots of inside jokes and pranks. The high lights, Jimmy received a letter award and an award for maintaining a higher than 3.0 grade point during the season, way to go!

Jimmy also made a highlight film which is below and low and behold the High School scouts found his film and were very impressed, especially with his defense and asked him where the rest of his defense film was, and since the coaches decided to not play him after the first couple of games he replied, I spent the remainder of the season focusing on offense. The good news is they have identified him as an athlete, they think he has a ton of potential, they are impressed with his weight lifting strength and speed and will be watching him.

Hopefully, next year, he'll play positions on both offense and defense. So all in all a pretty decent Sophomore year!

So the day after the banquet where was Jimmy, back in the gym training and getting ready for next season, where else!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wow, how did a whole month go by without a blog?!

There isnt any excuse except we are horribly busy.   On a brighter note, we have been fairly good about posting quick updates on FaceBook so you should be relatively caught up.

But .., for propriety, we'll get a quick catch up and run down...

Tom - even though he's scheduled for 30 hrs/week at work, he's been putting in 37+.  They are short staffed and he's been filling in for others in classrooms, late start, days off, etc.  He's loving the kids at school, again, and the weather has been pretty cooperate for really nice fall days and outside recess.  On top of that, he's main chauffeur for gymnastics and tried to hit as many of Jimmys football games (varsity and JV) as he could. Then, there is the matter of fall yard work and such.  He also just finished a 10 week weight loss/get in shape challenge and lost 13 lbs. Really proud of him but we are all sort of sick of hearing about fiber.  (Even Kay had to tell him not to bring up the fiber conversation when her friends are around). He continues to feed us well and we are so spoiled with all his meal creations.

Jimmy - the main problem with football season is ... football.  Tom will give a season recap but suffice to say that he played great this season in both the JV and Varsity games (practices every school day and games 2 days per week). He would have liked more Varsity play time but he's only a sophomore, that will come. Then, you have the Vikings and weekly line ups.  He's in a fantasy league with the Kims and its pretty cut throat. Did we also mention he's taking a super tough course load with AP US History (APUSH) which gives him 2+ hours of homework a night, Pre-Calc, Sociology (he loves it!), gym and band.  Then, jazz band just started and is 2 days/week before school starts.  No wonder the kid is tired!  He had a girl friend for the 1st 2 months but they are on a break.  They were good friends before they started dating and recently realized that being friends was probably a better idea. Let's hope that they can stay friends.

Kay - gymnastics, school work but...those aren't even the most important things in Kay's life right now. Friends are the #1,2 & 3 priority.  There are weekly sleep overs, hanging out after school, before practice. Runs to Starbucks. Instagram feeds to keep up and YouTube videos to watch.  Its been a rough start of the school season with her. She's finding it hard to balance and we are trying to help her out. Unfortunately, she's not the type that welcomes help.  Then, add in the face that she's grown 6 inches in the last 6 months and is about to hit puberty and ...let's just say we never know what we are walking into each time we come home. But, when she does manage to show up, she's as wonderful and brilliant as ever (its just not as frequent as we'd like)

Billy - now that he's a black belt the competition season is intense. We've had a tournament every other weekend and now he's expected to travel. We've been to Chicago, this weekend is Florida and in 2 weeks is South Dakota. These are on top of the MN tournaments. In January he's even been invited to Vegas. We shall see. He's really liking 7th grade and is doing well, not that we get much out of him. He's not a big talker. He goes to TKD 6 days/week and seems really happy with his friends and teachers.

Tracy - wow, staring a new job is overwhelming both in terms of time and mental energy.  Every night my brain explodes and I fall into a dead sleep with incredibly vivid dreams. It is SO different than Target. I'm loving it but it takes all my concentration to just keep up with my team on a daily and hourly basis.  Then, I'm in charge of TKD car pooling and all tournament travel.  Its fun to be with Billy and he's the calm, peaceful, zen being I need to be around right now to calm my brain down.  I'm still walking Nikki on a daily basis and it's a great way to center before each day starts.  Part of my job involves public "appearances" and so I have at least 1 event each week thats on the weekends or at night. I actually really enjoy these and they tend to be great reminders on why we do what we do.

Nikki - she's got it made. Daily walks, love from Billy, naps on the couch.  She's even lost a bit of weight now that we replaced some of her food with green beans (fiber fiber fiber ...)

So, life is life. Good, hectic, fun, exhausting, frustrating, emotional, happy, peaceful and chaotic.

We are blessed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Many Happy Returns of the Day Tom!

Sunday was Tom's birthday and we did our best to make it the most fun, most relaxing and happiest day of his year. Not sure we succeeded but it was a damn good day.

We had a few key gifts planned (new book and new camera lens) and football games to watch.

Thankfully the Vikings kicked some butt and won. Then, in an extra bonus overtime, so did the Packers!! (ok, not sure Tom's excited about the Packers winning but I am!!)

I also mowed the lawn so that he could enjoy the game uninterrupted (wife of the year, I know...)

He was able to go to the club and work out and... had the dinner of his choice.  Lamb chops, creamy risotto and fresh green beans. I was in charge of the beans and risotto (my specialty) and he did the lamb. Needless to say it was amazing and I stumped him with my secret risotto ingredient. He couldn't figure out what it was but Kay did on 1st bite (spoiler alert, sr cream in risotto adds extra creaminess and bit of bite that the lamb needed)

Then we compared favorite stories from the year and our favorite birthdays.

Tom's favorites from the past year....
~ Him going back to work full time
~ Tracy getting a new job
~ Jimmy getting his drivers license
~ Kay getting 2nd in regionals on beam
~ Billy getting 2nd in nationals in sparring

Overall a pretty damn impressive year.

On the subject of favorite birthdays, he picked some classics ...
~ his 40th complete with a new fishing boat, photo shopped pictures from high school with Tracy in each one and staying up with friends and family until 4am
~ Jimmy's 5th birthday in Bangalore when everyone came dressed as spider man
~ Kay's 11th birthday and the live auction (enough said...)
~ Billy's 3rd birthday where he had a Cars cake and wouldn't let anyone touch it, he loved it too much
~ Tracy's most memorable but probably not favorite was when she turned 6 and her parents threw her presents into the way back of the station wagon as they drove to Disney World for a week, in June...

Tom, its so fun celebrating YOU! Thanks for all you do, who you are and what you mean to us.

We love you!!! OXOXOXOXOX

Jays class picture next to her former year pictures 


Billy's class photo 

Kay refusing to get her photo take + my cute boys

Jimmys class photo

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Watch out world, there is 1 new driver in your midst!

Yes, a major milestone and hurdle to adulthood, James Michael Lee Murphy is now a licensed driver.'

It was a bit of an ordeal but he got there.

A bit of context, getting a behind the wheel appointment in the Twin Cities is like trying to get an audience with the pope. It take forever and you need to have connections and do favors.  Since we didnt want him missing school and he didnt want to miss football, it left us precious few options for his test. In fact, it meant that Tracy and Jimmy drove to Winona in late August for the 1st attempt (foreshadowing, you can see where this is going...). Its a 2 12/ hour drive, the did it in the dark, through road construction and Tracy made Jimmy drive.  They had a wonderful chat about football, school and life and encountered some harrowing fog and windy hilly river roads but they made it!

The next morning, after some last minute rules of the road cramming and texting with a friend from Korean camp that is learning to drive in Winona,  they were up and headed to the drivers station.  It did not look good. The instructor was flustered, crabby and might have been hung over.  It didnt go well.  While Tracy waited with bated breath, Jimmy came in shaking his head and downtrodden, he didnt pass.  What really killed him was that it wasnt one thing. It was a point off here and there and a mandate to practice for another week and try again.  UGHHH!! It would have been better if he crashed or hit the pylon during parking.  But the slow no was killing him. Lets just leave it at ... the ride home sucked.

So, back to the drawing board to find a time to retest and back at practicing parallel parking and driving.  For the 2nd test, we were insistent that he use the Pilot as its going to be the car he drives. But, this is infinitely harder to park than the Insight (which he used in the 1st test).  Needless to say, the next 2 weeks were full of practice, frustration, minor moments of hope and building anxiety that he might not pass his second time either (on our part, for his part he figured "I've already passed once, i just need to do it again" the kid does not lack confidence...)

We found a 10am appointment in Chaska (30 min away) but it meant he'd have to miss gym. We were ok with that compromise. Now, the argument, who's going to take him. As the brilliant young man he is, he refused to choose between Mom or Dad.  Mom wanted Dad to do it because she still has PSD from the 1st attempt. Dad is steering clear and is actually scheduled to work at that time.  So, Mom it is, a second time.

Tracy heads to school to pick him up at 9am with a sinking feeling in her stomach and on the verge of heartburn with all her nerves.  The drive home will be a disaster if he doesnt pass this time.

As she pulls into school, kids are streaming out ... a fire drill!  They manage to find each other and off they go. Jimmy driving and getting warmed up.

The testing center is WAY more welcoming and there are many parent/kid combo sitting nervously around. Jimmy has, of course, researched this site and quizzed all his friends that have tested here. Its an open course and he's feeling confident.  The instructor comes out and has a big smile on his face.  A much more auspicious start than that 1st!  As Tracy is waiting, she's visiting with other parents and most are here for their 2nd or 3rd attempt. We are in good company.

Jimmy comes back - all smiles, thumbs up and excited. He passed!  His instructor even commented that his 1st attempt was a marginal fail.  They did the parking part 1st and while his parallel parking was ugly, it was effective (life hack, he turned his side mirror way down so that he could see the curb) In an interesting turn of events, as he was parallel parking, there was a fender bender 1/2 block away. The instructor got on the phone to call 911 and Jimmy was wondering if it was all a staged part of his test, to see what he'd do in an accident and emergency vehicle situation. It was real life however, he stayed calm, navigated the police cars and passed with flying colors!!

Jimmy, we are so proud of you ! You worked hard, persevered and did it!

His 1st outing driving alone?  GameStop to put money down on a new game...typical kid.

XOXOX Love you Jimmy!!
Filling out the paperwork for his license

He did it!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Labor Day and Back to School .... AHHHHHHH

Seriously, did we have a summer? How can it be school already?! Tracy and I are already having serious summer regrets of what we didnt do... but, we did end the summer with a bang.  Camp McGregor with Doug, Jennifer, James, Sam, Sean and Bella (yes, random white girl - aka: friend of Kays so that she didnt feel out numbered by boys, not that thats ever stopped Kay before ... just saying')

Camp McGregor is a property owned by Tracy's new work (Mount Olivet Rolling Acres) and is a huge piece of property in McGregor (2 1/2 hours north) that has 3 cabins, a lodge, a pontoon, a fishing boat, 2 paddle boats, 3 canoes, and every kind of sport imaginable (football, volleyball, soccer, pingpong, horseshoes, fuse ball, etc...)  We had so much fun!

It was also wild rice days in town so we were able to see the local fare and have some really incredible people watching including a parade that strongly featured the republican party (support mining, support forestry, support concealed weapons - the kids were in a bit of shock).

The only down side (for the kids) was no cell connectivity and no wifi. The adults, however, were in heaven!

The weather was gorgeous, the food yummy and the company chill and relaxed. A perfect pre-school retreat.

Then....dum dum DUM!..... the 1st day of school.  Billy started Jr High, Jimmy started High School and Kay is ruling the roost as a Freshman at the Jr High.

Everyone has friends in their classes, someone to eat lunch with and ... so far ... seems to like their teachers.

Jimmy is going to have a tough schedule.  AP US History (A-PUSH) and Pre Calc. But, he also have gimme classes like band and gym so ... on the all it evens out.

Kay is bummed she didnt get Jimmys math teacher from last year but is pretty excited and determined to start the year off right, getting up, getting dressed and being ready more than 5 minutes before the bus arrives. Its an adjustment for all  of us.

Billy said school was "nice".  Enough said.

Of course, they were chatty chatty chatty the 1st night and then ... reality crashed in and they have been crabby days 2, 3 and 4.

Its  hard to adjust to a new school, new schedule, new teachers, new/old friends and actual responsibility again.  So is the ways of the world.

Here's the highlights...

Tom waited all day for his turkey leg at Wild Rice Days

Kay planned a taste test with miracle berries. You suck on them for 20 minutes and they make everything taste sweet. She had everything from vinegar to hot sauce to lemons. Billy had a stomach ache for 2 days

TONS of VHS movies to choose from - we went with Ferris, classic

Hours of prep and entertainment

No one was safe

Everyone was a good sport

LOVE the pontoon - the had so much fun jumping off and doing flips

The crew

The moon

1st day of school smiles, yes, he did wear shoes

The sophomore!

These signs welcomed the kids to school, Tracy got seriously choked up.

Our favorite


xoxo Hopkins


Alright Billy!

The most important exercise of the day, who's got who in class....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sweet 16!! Happy Birthday Jimmy !

Its good to know that some things never change.  Jimmy is the same happy, outgoing, inquisitive, competitive, talkative and funny kid at 16 that he was at 16 months.  And, he is still naked boy. I swear that kid would be naked 100% of the time if allowed. He's been that way since he came home to be a part of our forever family and each day when he walks in, takes off his shirt and shoes and proceeds to relax. 
Jimmy didnt have many requests for his "big day" but it WAS a big day.
1st up - the braces came off!! He has a new, braces free smile and is loving how it feels to eat without food getting stuck in your teeth. He also got a big bag of chewy candy and popcorn from the orthodontist as he walked out. Not sure our dentist is happy about that...
Then, it was off to football practice where - drum roll - the local news was there to highlight the Hopkins2017 team.  They had a nice 3 minute clip on the nightly news where Jimmy (& his abs) are prominently featured 2/3 of the way through.  
He needed to get in some parking practice as his test is next Tuesday so Tom took him to the local church parking lot to practice parallel parking and the T back up parking. Let's just say we need to go out a few more times.... 
Next up was his favorite dinner (Tom's homemade orange chicken with mondu, rice and Asian green beans) and dessert - ice cream sandwiches (super random but really easy!!)
Finally - presents.  He had only a few (but expensive) requests so while it was a short present opening, it was filled with excitement. He got exactly what he wanted and I think he was shocked.
We asked the kids their favorite Jimmy memories from last year and they included: he's nicer to us now, he's maturing and growing up and ... he's sharing way more about his life.  Its fun to be (back) a part of his life (In our limited experience, ages 13-15 tend to be break away years that are HIGHLY focused on friends with distain for family. Feelin' it quite a bit with Kay right now but that's another blog ....)
In terms of his goals for the next year - football football football  - we tried to add grades, friends and music but ... not sure he's all the way signed up for that yet:)
Jimmy, we love you and are SO thankful for who you are and the adult you are turning into.  We are eternally grateful to your birth parents for their unbelievable decisions and to your foster family for their unbelievable care. Not to mention the social workers, lawyers, advocates, teachers, coaches, etc that helped us on the path to finding you and helped you find a strong path. 
XOXO - Mom and Dad
A birthday candle ice cream sandwich

Making a wish

Lets hope the wish comes true!

Billy (standing on a chair) with Jimmy and the card he made Jimmy

Jimmys Abs

His present from Grandma and Grandpa - he LOVES it!

His present from Billy and Kay - again  he loves it, let hope he actually wears it

Opening his "big" present from Mom and Dad, he could hardly believe it and when nuts with giving out hugs

Tracy trying to take advantage of the feel good moment and actually be allowed a kiss on the check (not to be ...)

A Beats Noise Canceling Headphone - nirvana for a drummer, teen and music guru

Too excited I think he slept with them on and they are competing with his helmet for a place on his pillow (yes, he sleeps with his football helmet)