As I was saying…

1 -- T ty dy 8-17  1 -- T in coat 8-17

We’ve had a full year and this blog has tumbled by the wayside, but we’ll start with a few updates and try to keep it up more in the New Year.


T at school - 12-17   t-at-school2

This Fall, Timothy started kindergarten at Highlands Elementary.  He really enjoys school and has an amazing teacher in Alyssa Paulsen and has received strong support from Amber, Mary, Susan and the special ed staff.  The principal, Katie Mahoney, does such a good job leading that school, setting a tone as a welcoming school community with really strong academics.  We’ve been a part of many schools, in several states, have had two daughters in gifted and talented and now a son in special education.  We’ve seen a lot in education and Highlands is a very unique place.

A big, big thanks to Katie, Alyssa and the awesome staff at Highlands!


1 -- Cat in Korea - 1 Spring 2017

Both of our girls studied overseas for the 2016-17 school year – Catherine spent a gap year in South Korea (her blog at and Elisabeth did her junior year of college in France and then in Brussels (her blog at

1 -- E and L 5-17

The funny thing is that when people found out about where our girls were studying last year, they always ignored France and instead asked, ‘aren’t you worried about having a daughter near North Korea?’  But as nervy as it was to have Cat 200 miles from North Korea, Elisabeth was arguably in more danger in the south of France and Belgium.

Fortunately, both girls returned home safely and had amazing years abroad.

_1 -- LTJ -2_____

Laura and I were at church recently with Timothy when they announced that there would be a second collection for refugee families.  As they started coming around for the second collection, I reached into my wallet and found a twenty dollar bill for Timothy to put in the collection basket.  Unbeknownst to me, Laura was also looking in her purse for money for Timothy, but she pulled out a fifty dollar bill.

She and I looked at each other.

Laura gave me a look like ‘it’s to help the refugee families’.

I gave her a look like ‘I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a fifty dollar bill’.

And meanwhile, Timothy sat there like a tennis spectator, his head going back and forth to mom and to dad.

Finally, Timothy got tired of his parents’ staring contest and grabbed my twenty dollar bill and then snatched Laura’s fifty dollar bill and plunked the whole seventy dollars into the collection basket.

Maybe there’s a lesson in there about generosity, especially as we gather with family around the Holidays.

Or maybe there’s a lesson about learning to get along and work together.

Or maybe the lesson is simply not to put your financial decisions in the hands of a six year old.

1 -- Family photo- 1 8-17

In any case, we’re grateful for our families and friends and wish you a Happy Holidays!

The Lee’s

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Hey, what’s the world coming to when a guy can’t overthrow his own parents?

t-on-deck3  t-on-deck2

Timothy loves to give kisses.

But kisses do not always mean what you think.

In the movie The Godfather II, Michael Corleone gives his younger brother Fredo a kiss on the lips shortly before he has him killed.  That may be a little extreme, but the point is that some cultures use a kiss to deliver a message.

tutu12 tutu30 tutu20

Which brings us to our house.

One night at bedtime, after Laura and I had helped him put on his pajamas, Timothy asked for his mom (baba), and then grabbed my hand and gave it a big smooch.

As I stood there, a little unsure about what to do, the annoyed look on Timothy’s face made it clear that the ‘kiss’ was of the ‘good bye’ type.  After a bit, he looked up at me, incredulously, as if to say, ‘Can I help you?  Are you waiting for a tip?  Don’t you have someplace to be?’

So while T is not exactly Michael Corleone, he’s at least a Godfather with a lower case ‘g’.

tutu56  tutu57 tutu58 tutu60

In medieval times, royalty would sometimes enter through their own separate entrance to the castle.  Maybe Timothy is nostalgic for the good old days, because he’s reviving that tradition.

He’s spent his first five years getting in the car on the right side (which is where his car seat is), but in the past few weeks he’s been insisting on using the left side of the car for his entrances and exits.  And while the rest of us enter the house through the side door, Timothy has started walking around the front of the house for a grand entrance through the (until now) rarely used front door.

I’m not sure what’s happening here, but given the godfather’s power plays and royal entrances, we just might be in the early stages of a family coup.

Grateful, we think,

The Lee’s

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Goldilocks and the Missing Baseball


Both of our girls are enjoying their stays overseas.

Elisabeth really likes Montpelier, France and is now well into her classes, which are all in French.  She is living at the home of a very nice French woman, in a house with two Mexican students and a Swiss student.

Catherine is enrolled in high school in a type of curriculum for Korean students who want to go into ‘animal professions’ like dog grooming, so at least she’s learning a marketable skill.  The picture below is the seating chart of the kids in her class (I don’t see any other Lee’s in the class but might just be reading it wrong).

Here are their blogs:



Timothy and I went to the playground today, and T decided to play Goldilocks on the swings, testing out eat one (‘this one’s too hard, this one’s too soft’, etc) before selecting the one that was just right for him.  He then quickly located the only puddle of water in the area and was impressively efficient at soaking his shoes and shorts.  In retrospect, on a cool Fall day, some parents would have quickly changed the affected child into dry clothes, but we’re a strong, hardy family, and besides, I forgot he was wet.  But we’re all fine and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

t-playground7          t-playground8

Timothy and I played baseball again in the backyard.  We bought him a little tee to hit the plastic baseball off, which was nice because my hand was starting to lose feeling in it after being used as the ‘tee’ by Timothy — me holding the ball while he hit it (mostly my hand, though sometimes the baseball).

baseball8   baseball4  baseball

Timothy did well hitting the plastic baseball off the tee.  But with our entire lawn service studying overseas at the moment, the grass in the back yard is long and it was not easy finding the baseballs.  But we eventually located the balls, which is about when Timothy decided to hide all of the baseballs down in the window well.  And once again we found that the game is harder to play without baseballs.

Missing baseballs and wet clothes on a windy Fall day.  It doesn’t get much better than that.


The Lee’s

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Would you like fries with your silkworm larvae?


t-fashion3     t-fashion4

People ask about whether we’re nervous about having our daughter Catherine living in South Korea after North Korea’s recent nuclear tests.  We’re not pleased about her noisy neighbors to the north, but Cat provided perspective when she mentioned offhandedly that she was in a 5.3 earthquake earlier this week (they’ve had 3 earthquakes in the past 9 months) and a typhoon is expected to hit them this weekend.  I’ll stop complaining about the mosquitoes here in Minnesota.

cat-and-c2  silkworm-larvae

But those moments of excitement may pale in comparison to some of the new foods she’ll get to try.  The most recent was silkworm larvae (pupae), which they boil and throw into a bowl like popcorn (with apologies to Orville Redenbacher).

es-1st-day   t-fashion5

Our family is one that cherishes one another and our tender moments together.

This morning, Timothy was playing when I picked him up and gave him a hug and told him that I loved him.

T’s response was ‘Okay, Dada’ and he quickly wriggled out of my grasp and went back to playing with his cars.

swing7  VOBS

Timothy’s touching response reminded me of when the girls were young, and I used to write down some of the funny things they said.

When Elisabeth was 6 years old, she turned to me unprompted during a church service and said, “I love you, Daddy, even when you’re mad at me and you yell at me.”

Similarly, when Catherine was five years old and we were in church, I whispered to her that I loved her and she replied, “Dad, your breath is not great right now.”

So much love in just one family.


The Lee’s

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Anyone up for a 2 person game of Duck Duck Grey Duck?

t at fair3  t at fair

Our daughters, Elisabeth and Catherine, are getting settled into the new overseas homes.

Here are their blogs, with some great pictures:

z-girls4      z-girls2

Timothy enjoys hiding things.  But that means that when he and I were playing baseball, he hid the whiffle ball in a hosta plant.  While I walked over to pick the ball out of that poor hosta, T hid the plastic bat in a small tree.  It’s not uncommon for a baseball game to be called due to a sudden rainstorm, but that was my first where it was cancelled due to a sudden lack of equipment.

t-and-j  t-on-deck

Recently, people have been asking us a question — ‘Is it quiet in the house now that the girls are gone?’

The question makes sense, but the answer is easy –  NO (please note the red headed main character of this blog).

z-girls  the girls

Then people ask whether Timothy misses his sisters.

That question also makes sense, but the answer is even easier – YES.

At dinner recently, Laura asked T if he missed his sisters, and he put on his sad face and nodded a slow ‘yes’.

Then he convinced me to revive a recent tradition that we’ve been doing with the girls this summer.  Although playing a two person game of duck duck grey duck takes some imagination, Timothy makes it easier by just making up his own rules and deciding when the game is over.

We all miss the girls a lot, and we pray for their safety and we hope that they have an amazing experience in France and South Korea.

Always Grateful,

The Lee’s

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Where the girls go overseas and Timothy gets his feng shui on

Cat in Kor3  Cat in Kor4

This has been a big week at the Lee household.

We put Catherine on a flight for her year abroad in South Korea.

We put Elisabeth on a flight for her year abroad in France.

And Timothy turned five years old on Monday.

E at airport2  E at airport3

This is sure to be an exciting year, with both girls overseas and Timothy preparing for kindergarten.  TRBL is so excited for the opportunity to absorb the full love and attention of his parents that he pulled down the metal gate on our front porch.  Laura and I agreed that the front porch needed some sprucing up, but we didn’t realize that Timothy had such a strong sense of feng shui.

fallen gate     Cat in Kor

In two decades of growing up, our girls have only known a few Americans with the last name ‘Lee’.  Within days of arriving, Catherine had been assigned two Korean host families and a Taiwanese roommate, all three of whom have the last name ‘Lee’.

Now we know where the rest of the Lee family has been hiding.

We miss our girls a lot and are praying for their safe year overseas and also that Timothy doesn’t feng the shui out of any other parts of our house in the meantime.


The Lee’s

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The Cat’s in the Korea

fam bye  Our daughter, Catherine left yesterday for her year in South Korea.  The airport send off was sad but quick, and we each react differently to ‘good byes’.

t floorshow

We were following Catherine’s flight to South Korea on the computer, but after awhile, it looked like the Flight Tracker was stuck in the same place.  I am not one to worry much, but I’d be lying if I said that the idea of a plane crash didn’t cross my mind.

I drove to pick Elisabeth up at work, and mentioned that the Flight tracker hadn’t moved for awhile and Elisa looked at her phone and gasped a little.  I asked her what she had found, and she laughed as she explained that she had just Googled it and found an article titled ‘Delta 747 jet destroyed by hail during flight to Seoul’, but that the article was from last summer (though it was Cat’s exact flight — DL 159 from Detroit to Seoul — and as a note, even that hailstorm didn’t cause the plane to crash) .

Once we got home, I checked again and the Flight Tracker had advanced and showed that Cat’s plane was flying over Russia.  And nothing personal, Mr. Putin, but I’d be lying if I said that put my mind at ease very much.

But Catherine landed in Inchon airport, texted us that she had made some Finnish and Taiwanese friends and was doing great, and ready to start her life 14 hours ahead of us.

Cat and t  girls w T2

Catherine, we’re excited for you and we love you very much, or as we would write in Korean…

우리는 너를 사랑해

(which is pronounced exactly as it looks — ‘ ulineun neoleul salanghae’)


The Lee’s

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Ninja in a Tutu

T with helmet  Recently, Timothy has been trying things on – baseball caps, safety helmets, winter stocking caps — even ballet tutu’s.  And since he’s been trying some new things, I’ll try writing a blog entry with a combination of lessons and bedtime stories.

Shoulders2    Shoulders    standing3

First, some lessons…

In the past I have mentioned that Timothy has a tendency of slamming doors.  The good news is that he’s being much gentler closing doors these days, but he enjoys opening doors as well, which can be a mixed blessing.

Speaking of doors, many older homes have a door or two whose lock doesn’t work well.  In our house, it’s the door of the bathroom on the first floor whose lock has a tendency to get stuck.  The bathroom is located in what could be referred to as a ‘high traffic’ and ‘visible’ area.

tutu9   tutu11    tutu12

For the record, in 13 years, only one person (possibly me, but I won’t confirm) has ever really gotten locked in the bathroom and had to exit by climbing out of the first floor window — which is when we finally got a key to open the lock.

Bottom line, if you’re a guest in our house, you can either lock the bathroom door and hope it doesn’t stick, or leave the door unlocked and hope that Timothy doesn’t fling open the bathroom door (see above Timothy’s recent interest in opening doors and also the ‘high traffic’ location of the bathroom).

The lesson is that, if you’re a guest in our house, you’d better have a sense of adventure if you’re going to use the bathroom on the main floor.

T in owl cap2   T in owl cap4


We’re seasoned parents, and so we always bring a back up outfit for Timothy when we go out, in case of an emergency.

Last week, our family visited the awesome staff at Voyageur Outward Bound’s Homeplace location (in Ely, MN).  It was raining when we arrived, and Timothy wasted no time in finding puddles to jump into and sit in.  Extra outfit?   Got it.

But this weekend, Timothy had an upset stomach, and we were out with him, and his stomach started making some gurgling sounds.  Before we knew it, he was throwing up, and it soaked my shirt, pants and my shoes (possibly known as ‘the trifecta’ in the barf business).  The vomit was everywhere.  Or actually I should say everywhere except on him.  Somehow, the king of the colon covered all of the people and surfaces around him but didn’t get anything on himself.  He felt fine after a good night’s sleep, and our lesson is that while we’ll always bring extra clothes for T, in the future we’ll remember to bring an extra outfit for us, too.

T swing.5  T swing.7  T reading

In the past few weeks, after dinner, our family has sometimes played a game of ‘Duck Duck Grey Duck’ (or ‘Duck Duck Goose’ for those unfortunate souls living outside Minnesota).  We normally play it outside, but after dinner recently, Timothy requested an indoor game of DDGD.  So we circled up in our small living room.

T was ‘it’ first, and said his version of the word ‘Duck’ and tapped Laura on the head, and then walked around the outside of the circle and said ‘Duck’ and tapped me, and then continued walking and tapped Catherine and made a noise that was clear that she was indeed the ‘grey duck’.

Catherine got up, but before she could begin the chase, Timothy ran a little wide and veered into our big stereo cabinet.

The boy-meets-cabinet impact resulted in a small ‘thud’ sound, but our little energizer bunny popped right back up and continued the quest to outrun his sister around the circle and sat down in her vacated spot.

The lesson is that if we decide to play the inside version of Duck Duck Grey Duck, we’ll give ourselves a little extra room.  And we’ll stay a long ways away from that big stereo cabinet.


seat2  hose

And a pair of bedtime stories…

One night, I was reading to Timothy at bedtime.  As usual, once he had gone to sleep, I snuck out of his bedroom and sat at the dining room table in the next room.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of his bedroom door opening, and I looked up to see Timothy walking toward our room.  As I stood up to investigate, he started running, and by the time I reached the hallway, he was quickly scaling up the side of our tall bed.  It was impressive — he looked like a combination of ‘The Fugitive’ and ‘American Ninja Warrior’.


in rain  crabby

On another evening, I was lying in T’s bed with him, reading some bedtime books when Laura popped her head in to check on us.

Timothy noticed Laura and exclaimed ‘Baba’ (mom) and then, as if I was an outgoing contestant on the ‘Bachelor’, he turned and politely smiled at me, and gave me a few kisses on the cheek.

I asked if I was expected to leave, to which he quickly replied ‘yesssss’.

Moments after having been unceremoniously ushered out of his room, I was standing in the dining room, when Timothy ran out of his bedroom and came up to me.  I braced for an invitation back into his room, but I was caught a little off guard when he said, ‘Dada’ and made the sign for ‘water’ — as in ‘hey, sorry that the reading thing didn’t work out for you tonight, but please make yourself useful and get me a cold one’.


a family2  fam selfie 3

The world can be a scary place at the moment, and I have talked with many people who are losing hope about where we are going as a country and as a world.  But I disagree.  I see many, many challenges before us, but I also see many, many signs of hope, from the young adults I work with at Voyageur Outward Bound to the great organizations and schools we partner with, to the impressive young people who we serve.  They give me real hope.

And I see many reasons to hope when I talk with our two daughters. In the next ten days, both Elisabeth and Catherine will be leaving home to spend the next nine months overseas — Elisa in France and Cat to blend in with the other Lee’s in South Korea (she’s been given two different host families, both named Lee).  We’re so proud of them both for jumping into a new experience, and for helping to shrink the world a little by meeting new people and understanding other cultures and languages.

We’re praying for their safety and are confident that this will be a year of great growth, friendship and learning (probably for all of us).  But we will miss them both tremendously, and their little brother Timothy is going to miss them a ton.

We love you both, Elisabeth and Catherine!

Always grateful and hopeful,

The Lee’s

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One Word — TRexit

T in wagon2 The British vote a few weeks ago to separate from the European Union, or ‘Brexit’, was as perplexing to us as it was to our friends and relatives from the UK and Europe.  It was shocking.

In other news, Timothy has a strong will and a lot of energy, and these can be an exciting cocktail of forces.  He will sometimes do something contrary or run decisively in the opposite direction.

Until now, I haven’t been able to explain it, but the British vote has finally given me a language for the rash ‘exits’ for our little TRBL (Timothy Robert Brandon Lee) – ‘TRexit’.

mirror3  mirror5


museum8  museum3

I said in the prior blog post that I was out of Timothy’s inner circle.  But as noted in the above ‘TRexit’ comment, his tastes change frequently.  So if you’re out of the circle, you always have a chance of being invited back in.  Oh, but also vice versa.

More recently, I’ve seen a resurgence in my prospects with Timothy and so at bedtime last night, I offered to read to him and he said, ‘No.  Baba.’ (meaning ‘sorry pal, you’re still out, mom’s in’).  I handed him his water and he was somehow able to start drinking his water with his left hand while he used his right hand to gently grab my elbow and guide me toward the door.  That’s talent.


boo2  boo3

Faced with a bunch of old family chairs and a sofa sitting in storage 600 miles away, most people wouldn’t think twice about calling a mover to have the furniture transported to its new home.

But not us.

Given that summer has been busy and our girls are both getting ready to spend a year overseas, we decided that a little ‘forced family time’ was in order.

engineers6 engineers5

And so we piled into the Honda CRV and drove down to Indianapolis – note: small detail, but that car feels like a tiny Matchbox car when it’s packed for 12 hours of driving with 4 adults and a redhead in his car seat.  Then we put the furniture in a rental truck and drove it all back up to Minnesota.

We love car trips and had a lot of fun and visited a few friends and family, but even for us, 1,200 miles of driving in 72 hours was a lot, and at times it was a wee bit too much family time.  But I’ll take a risk of erring on that side of the equation.

a swimmer14  a sun3


This morning, after Timothy finished his morning swim in the hotel pool, I carried him into the bathtub in our room to shower him off.

a swimmer10  a swimmer5

Maybe he didn’t like the small enclosed space, and maybe he didn’t want to get washed.

Or maybe he wanted to do a little science experiment on how quickly a standing object can be put into motion.

As I stood in the bathtub, holding him with one hand and used the other hand to start putting shampoo in his hair, the little gremlin put both feet on the shower wall, and, like a swimmer doing a turn, he quickly pushed off, propelling us both away from the shower.

Had I not been lucky enough to tighten my grasp on the soapy boy and cling to the flimsy shower curtain for dear life, I would certainly have been thrown toward the nearby toilet and I’m not sure where TRBL would have landed.

Laura quickly arrived on the scene to find us giggling amidst a shower rod pulled from the wall, a shower curtain lying on the floor, and water running all over the place.

I have one word for that — ‘TRexit’.

Grateful, if not always so graceful,

The Lee’s

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Kim Jong TRBL

Lee family pic2     Lee family pic3

Our second oldest daughter, Catherine, will be spending next year studying in Korea (which reminds me that I need to confirm which side of the Mason Dixon Line she’ll be on, but I’m pretty sure that she’ll be in South Korea).  Perhaps jumping on the Korean bandwagon, Timothy is taking a page from the North Korean supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.

T in tank top

In between the reports of North Korea’s nuclear tests, you hear stories of power plays in the North Korean government, in which government officials once in favor with the leader suddenly disappear or become persona non grata.  This lack of subtlety seems to suit young TRBL.

T in chair4   plane

For a long time, Timothy was focused more on me (his dad), and was not always as generous to others in our household.

While I soaked up the attention, I also counseled the boy that this was not a wise choice, since his mother is a great person and spends a whole lot more time tolerating his shenanigans than I do, and so he’d better be nicer to her.

Laura was far more patient with his crabby treatment than I would have been, possibly sensing that her time was coming.

And now it’s here.

In a move that would make the North Korean supreme leader proud, TRBL is pushing me out in order to elevate his mom and his sisters.

If I am in his room at bedtime, he’ll now point to me and then point to the door, in an effort to communicate that only those in the inner circle get to read to the big cheese.

I can deal with this status change for now, but I’m going to get nervous if Timothy starts airbrushing me out of family photos.


Selfie at Swedish Am    T w teachers

Our family is displaying good versatility these days.

On a recent Saturday, we attended Timothy’s toddler music class, a 5 year old’s birthday party, went to Catherine’s senior prom pictures and then Laura and I attended the English Beat concert.

When a good friend offered me a beer at his daughter’s high school graduation party last weekend, I politely declined, explaining ‘Martin, while you’ll be going to more grad parties this afternoon, I’ll be on my way to a 3 year old’s bubble-themed birthday party.’


T reach2  T in car2

The old saying goes that ‘Silence is Golden’, but I would dispute that when it comes to a four year old boy.

Timothy was playing in his room, and as is often the case, his door was closed and I could hear him playing loudly with books, toy cars and stuffed animals.

But then suddenly I didn’t hear anything.

After a few minutes of blissful peace and quiet, I decided to make sure he was okay.  As I walked toward his room, I noticed something white on the floor of the bathroom, and I realized that Timothy must have found the box of Arm and Hammer baking soda – used to help his skin during baths  – and that he might be using his new found toy in his room.

I quickly opened his door and was confronted with a winter wonderland.  Our little performance artist had decorated his room in baking soda, with white piles of powder everywhere from his bed to his carpet to his stuffed animals.  A parenting expert might have counseled me to ‘enjoy it and be present in the moment’ and ‘join my child in play’. But I just got crabby and quickly cleaned it up, although I was glad that our redheaded Rembrandt’s medium was baking soda and not oil colors.

T chalk   T chalk 2


On this warm Father’s Day, I’m very grateful for my Dad.

I’ve written before about how my Dad has and continues to influence me, with his wisdom, hard work, career success, focus on ethics and his strong faith.

But I think most today about just what a good person he is.

He has helped so many people and been there for family and friends in need.

He maintains his old friendships, but no one makes new friends more easily than my Dad.  The first time he meets people, he’ll spend a half hour asking them all about themselves, and he shows such a genuine interest in each person that a friend of his jokes, ‘everyone thinks that they’re Tom Lee’s best friend’.

In a world where technology can give us more ‘connections’ than ever but less real personal interactions, my Dad is old school.

He wants to look you in the eye and get to know you.

No wonder people love him so much.


Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I love you.


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