Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer in Michigan Part 2

Only a few days ago, Jose, the girls and I arrived back in Spain after spending six weeks back in the States. I wrote about the first half of our adventures here and about our annual GAGME family trip here but I figured I needed to chronicle the rest of what we did before school starts again and I forget.

At the beginning of August we went up north to celebrate our extended family´s annual reunion (PUFO) on Lake Huron. This year was an extra special weekend since almost all of my cousins were there, plus all of their kiddos. We had a lot of children under foot for a few days and the weather cooperated enough for us to spend time at the beach. My aunt and uncle had just recently finished a huge renovation on their cottage and it was beautiful.

Jose, the twins and I stayed a few extra days up north and were visited by our friends Erica and Ernie who drove over from Mount Pleasant. We all stayed at my cousins´cottage for a couple of nights. Unfortunately we didn´t have the best weather so while we could explore the nearby town of Tawas and try to find Eddie Murphy we weren´t really able to go to the beach. I am so happy that I was able to see my best friend a few times while home this summer.

We also made another trip up to Grand Rapids to spend some time with my sister Katie and family. While there we visited the Boulder Ridge zoo which was AWESOME! If you have never been I would totally recommend it. There are a lot of different animals but it isn´t a huge area to walk around which makes it doable with little kids. We got to feed camels and giraffes and ride on a safari bus which took us on a tour of the big animal enclosures. 

On the Boulder Ridge Safari
While in Grand Rapids I also went out with some of Katie´s friends and the girls got to hang out with their big cousin Daphne. Vera is obsessed. I think Daphne was ready for us to go after a few days but for us it was a good visit.

Laura and Vera fighting over a chair
Most of the rest of our time was spent at my parents´house on the lake. The weather this summer was gorgeous and we were outside a lot of the time. Laura and Vera loved that there was a small beach this year and enjoyed playing there. We went out on the boat a lot and Jose did quite a bit of fishing.

During our last week in Michigan we randomly decided to celebrate my brother-in-law´s 40th birthday as a surprise since it came and went without much ado earlier this year. Spencer obviously had no idea what was going on when we came outside to surprise him in our Dollar Tree birthday hats and Kroger cake but it was fun. We have decided to make this a new family tradition.

Another thing we do each summer is head to Frankenmuth with my mom´s friends for breakfast and a visit to Bronner´s which is a huge Christmas-themed store for those who don´t know. It is ENORMOUS and I love it. The girls liked seeing all the trees, lights and ornaments but it was a bit stressful trying to keep them from touching stuff this year. I got them personalized stockings which will come in handy this Christmas as I don´t think we will be putting up a tree (two toddlers seems to spell disaster and I really like my ornaments).

Bronner´s Christmas Wonderland
One of our last visits in Michigan was with my friend Dana and her son Jack who we met in Ann Arbor at the famous Zingerman´s deli. It was a short lunch but we got to catch up a bit and though we didn´t manage to get a picture together I am glad to have been able to touch base with my friend and meet her ADORABLE son.

Since we flew out of Chicago we decided to spend a few days with my sister Andie before we left for Spain. We all went downtown for a day and I was reminded of how much I like that city. The five of us walked all around and got to see some of the annual airshow that was going on at the time.

The bean 2017

The bean 2009

While in Chicago we also saw my friend Jenna and her husband and son for an afternoon. Our kids are all about the same age so it was cute to see them interacting together. Jenna is one of my oldest friends and I am happy to have seen her family before our flight back to Spain.

We honestly had the best summer ever and I had a really hard time leaving. I am happy that we made it back to Spain safely and without incident but I am really sad at the same time. We are still adjusting back to the time here and getting back into the swing of things before work picks up again. Waaaaahhhhhh!!! I don´t want summer to end!

Monday, August 14, 2017

GAGME 2017 Indianapolis

Daphne's face says it all
My family and I just recently got back from our annual weekend trip and this year we went to Indianapolis. We have dubbed our gathering GAGME and this was our third time escaping with as many members of our group as we can wrangle together whilst wearing themed clothing.

You can read about past GAGMEs here (Washington D.C. in 2014) and here (Grand Rapids 2016). 

We arrived on Saturday around lunchtime to Indy where we stayed at an Airbnb house in an up and coming neighborhood close to the city center. Our first day we hung around the house, letting all the girlies run around like crazy before heading to a local playground and then a brewery for dinner. It was a long day if only for the four plus hours we spent driving, each car laden with kiddos.

Day one's themed clothes RACING
On Sunday we went downtown and most of us headed to the zoo while a few others decided to hit up a bar and wait for us. As part of the group that went to the zoo (and since I was a responsible mom) I have to say we had a great time especially seeing the orangutan exhibit and the dolphins. On the other hand, I am very jealous of the three who got to day drink but that's another story. The weather was a bit off that day so the zoo wasn't too crowded and we got to see lots of animals. It was expensive to get in but I generally think zoos are worth the price. My girls loved it. 

Shark-petting exhibit
Dolphin dome
An orangutan came to say hi to all the girls
We did find beer (expensive beer)
Later that day we went to the NCAA museum after having lunch. I am glad we got our tickets through Groupon and that they had been really cheap because I wasn't very impressed with said museum except for the basketball court where Vera and Laura had a blast bouncing balls. After our visit it started to rain so we skipped checking out much else downtown. We did watch Game of Thrones together that night and I was made fun of for how intensely I lived the show. Whatever.

Nerds at NCAA museum
Lunch on day two
GAGME themed shirts for day two
On Monday we headed to the Children's Museum which was awesome! It's huge, with several floors of interactive exhibits, some permanent and others rotating. When you drive up to the museum the first thing you see is a pair of enormous dinosaurs climbing up the side of the building. We took the girls through the dinos, trains, space, dance and circus areas and I think they liked it but were overwhelmed. After being there a few hours it was time for us to take a break and we hadn't even seen it all. The museum is a must-see in Indianapolis but it is made for older kids rather than my little ones.

In the circus room

All the grand-girlies in their NCAA gear for theme day three
After the Children's museum we had lunch and hit the road four another long drive home. Things have changed a lot since we all started having kids. Vacations and plans revolve around naps and eating schedules. The activities we choose to do are ones we think little ones will enjoy as well. Indianapolis was the perfect destination for us with five kiddos under five and I would recommend it to other families out there. GAGME 2017 was a great time!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer in Michigan part 1

Summer officially began for us when Jose finished school at the end of June. We only had a few days to say goodbye to everyone in Spain and pack our bags before we headed by high speed train up to Madrid to catch our flight to Chicago. I was incredibly nervous for our nine hour trip but it ended up being ok. Thank you to everyone who made suggestions to us to ease our travel with the girls. They didn't cry at all and only Laura slept for a while so it was a lot of videos, walking the aisles and trying just about everything to keep them entertained.

We don't do a lot of screen time normally so they were pretty excited about having unlimited access to videos and music during our flight. We bought baby-sized headphones that worked out really well and everyone who sat around us was really nice and patient. This is the second time we have flown IBERIA with our girls and I highly recommend them to other families. They were very accommodating not only of us but the seven other families (there were that many strollers gate checked so I know there were lots of other people with kids on our plane).

We wanted to do only one direct flight this year and avoid connections so we decided to arrive in Chicago where my sister Andie lives. We spent a couple days at her house with my parents as well who had driven down to meet us. We adjusted to the time difference fairly well and went to an awesome kids' museum with the girls. We also got to see my friend Kate and her family which was great. We studied together at UNC and were roommates our second year there. She recently had a son so it was wonderful that it worked out for us to see each other.

From Chicago we headed up to visit my other sister Katie in Grand Rapids. We were there for a few days hanging out with our niece Daphne and meeting their new dog. It was a relaxing trip and the weather was beautiful, enough so that we got to go to her local splash pad in the park. We also indulged in our strange addiction to the Hoarders t.v. show. I love spending time with my sisters because they are just as weird as me.

After Grand Rapids we drove to Plymouth (we are really making the rounds these last few weeks) to stay with my last sister, Chrissie, and her family. We spent the week with my nieces Eve and Caroline and it was fun to watch all the little girls playing together. I think Caroline was more than happy to see us leave in the end because her cousins came roaring into her life, disrupting her routine. I am pretty sure I saw her in their front window waving buh-bye as we drove away.

Since then we have been at my parents' house on the lake (except for our weekend in Indianapolis which will get its own blog soon). The weather has been absolutely perfect, not too hot and sunny. We have been outside a lot, going in the lake, on the boat and enjoying the sunshine. Jose and I have been going to the movies on Tuesdays to get our free popcorn like we used to in the past. All of us go to my parents' favorite lunch special restaurants on Wednesdays. We have a nice routine going and besides my parents' cats I think everyone is having a good visit.

Just yesterday we had two of my oldest friends, Kim and Claire, over to spend the day on the lake. We have been friends for what seems like forever and no matter how long we go without seeing each other, it doesn't matter. We just pick up where we left off. Now we have added three little munchkins to the mix but we were still able to catch up. I also got the chance to see my best friend Erica for an afternoon when we first arrived in Brighton but can't find a picture to post. Whoops.

Today we met my sister, nieces and aunt in Detroit at the riverfront. We walked downtown and got food from a lunch truck. We rode on the carousel they have by the water and waved at Canada. I have to admit that Detroit isn't my favorite place to visit but they are certainly making an effort to attract people to the area.

We have been in the USA for about three weeks now and have about the same amount of time to go. I will write a blog about our annual family trip (GAGME) soon and then another to commemorate the rest of our adventures stateside this summer. I hope everyone is having a relaxing summer!