Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer Summary

We have had an amazing summer here in the USA!!! I am sad to leave and say goodbye to all our friends and family but I can honestly say that we took advantage of almost every moment we've been home. You can read about some of our specific summer adventures in these posts:

Our girls-only weekend trip to the Big Apple

Hanging out around the great state of Michigan

Family GAGME trip to Washington D.C.

Climbing Mount Pleasant

As if all that weren't enough, we also went up to visit our good friends in Mount Pleasant (though I blanked and didn't take any pictures) for a few days last week. We walked around the campus and saw how much everything has changed since I graduated from CMU. Talk about expansion and new buildings! We also got to see Erica and Ernie's new house and have dinner where they had their wedding reception. Jose and I are excited that they are planning a visit to Spain in December. It'll be a great way to start the new year!

Wedding weekend

Last weekend we went to another of my sorority sister's weddings. The bride, Dana, and the groom, Kyle, looked awesome and the wedding was a ton of fun! A bit of background: Dana is my little sister in my sorority, we lived together my senior year of college in a house full of 9 girls and then we lived together again in Ann Arbor two years ago. Jose and I were so happy to be able to celebrate with such a great couple. I was also able to see a lot of my old friends from college who I haven't seen in too long. It was great to be able to catch up with them all and we had a good time.

Between the ceremony and the reception
Beautiful bride, Dana
In the photo booth with Dana's brothers
Sigma sisters (and babies)

Today on our last day before we head back to Spain three of my other sorority sisters came by my parents' house to visit us. These were women that I lived with when I lived in my chapter's house. Two of them have recently had babies and though it is a bit surreal since we had some crazy times together in the past, they are wonderful moms. I am glad we got to see them before we leave and their babies are pretty cute.

The next generation

Tomorrow we are taking the bus to Chicago where we catch our flight on Wednesday. We will be staying with some friends for the night and I can't wait to catch up with them too. Jenna is one of my oldest friend from high school and we always have a good time together.

Saying hasta luego

I feel incredibly lucky this summer because I have been able to see and spend time with just about everyone who is important in my life. Whether it was a dinner with one of my most loyal blog-followers, Suzy, or spending a couple of hours chatting over a beer with another high school buddy, Kim and her sister Julianne, I have reconnected and feel ready to face another long stint away from home. I visited my grandmother and saw her joy while interacting with my niece. I got to have a special dinner with some aunts one day followed by a lunch with the other to say goodbye for now. It's always hard to head out again but at least I will be reunited with this guy soon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Donating my hair for Daphne

The bald and the beautiful

You may have noticed in some of the pictures I have posted this summer of my niece, Daphne. She doesn't have any hair on her cute little head. No, she is not sick in the traditional sense of the word; she isn't suffering from pain, no chemo, no cancer. (Not that I want to downplay her condition because being bald and being a girl will not be easy). Daphne suffers from alopecia which has caused her hair loss. Basically it is an autoimmune disease in which her body fights her hair. It could grow back or not. The whole situation sucks the big one. For Daphne. For her mom. For all people who don't have hair (except maybe Walter White).

The long and short of it

My sister Chrissie and I have been growing our hair out for some time in order to donate it to a charity that makes wigs for children. We decided to use Children with Hair Loss (www.childrenwithhairloss.us). It is an amazing group that change the lives of kids who need a self esteem boost. There are other charities where you can donate your hair (Locks of Love) but focusing on children for me was very important.

CWHL needed a minimum of eight inches which took a while since my hair grows slowly. I would say that I have been growing it out for at least a year. I stopped heat styling my hair so much a while ago so that it would be healthier when I donated it (this is not a requirement, I just figured the less processed, the better). I did continue to dye my hair to cover my grays because 28 is too damn young to look like a Golden Girl. I knew that I would cut it here in the U.S. before I headed home to Spain and last weekend was finally the time. Chrissie and I headed to Salon Awesome in Plymouth where Michelle G (omg, AMAZING stylist) was super helpful and supportive.

The process itself couldn't have been more simple. You go to the charity's website, print out the donation form and head to your stylist. They ask that you either braid your hair or put it in a pony tail which keeps all the hair in the same direction. After it is cut, you put it in a plastic ziplock bag. Above I am in the chair waiting to be liberated from this mop (I honestly much prefer short hair and always have so this wasn't a tragedy for me).

Here you can see the tail that is now making its way to CWHL to be made into a wig for a child who deserves it. Michelle G finished up my haircut and I honestly love it. This entire experience has been great and super easy (I am in no way mourning the loss of my locks). I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a change in their hair. Donating it will make you feel lighter in more ways than one.

Though my face above is a bit weird, it wasn't from my reaction to my new hair. Rather it was the sort of surreal situation of having a baggie of hair in my purse while having lunch. Believe me, I don't take for granted my locks. Even bad hair days don't hurt so much when you think of the kiddos who might never have that problem. I also want to make clear that I am not writing this blog to make myself seem like a self-less, overly generous person. Rather, I hope that this might inspire other people (guys or gals) to think about donating their hair to this amazing charity. It's worth it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

G.A.G.M.E. 2014 in Washington D.C.

Garber's Annual Gathering: A Monumental Event

My family and I have decided to create a new tradition in which we will take a vacation together at least once a year thus labeling it with the acronym GAGME (the ME part allowing for changes according to where we go). Since there are a lot of us and differing ideas of what constitutes a good trip, how long is too long for a roadtrip, what we should spend, where we should stay, what our themed days should be, etc., there was a bit of discussion and compromise before we finally decided on Washington D.C. for our inaugural year. 

On the road to DC
I had never been to our country's capital and loved seeing all the monuments, memorials, museums and such but won't bore you with photos of the things you probably already know are there (the White House, the Smithsonian, the National Zoo). Suffice it to say that there was a good blend of tourism mixed with a fair amount of time swimming in the hotel pool, hanging around and laughs.

Bearpack outside the National Zoo where we did see the pandas
For this trip we decided to have themed days during our visit. They were as follows: Michigan day (see first photo above), USA day, trip t-shirt day and finally Ode to Mom and Dad day (since we also were celebrating their 60th birthdays and 35th anniversary).

The one and only time Daphne took a nap
Since we mostly traveled as a group around the city on the subways and walking, we did tend to get some odd looks from people as well as questions about our attire. Most people got that we were in theme but were especially curious about our green GAGME t-shirts and wanted to know what they meant.

What a group, huh
My favorite parts of the trip were probably visiting the Air and Space museum and reading about the Space Race, riding on the Carrousel with Daphne, going to the White House at night and seeing the pandas at the Zoo. Everyone mostly got along well and we were able to sort of do our own thing if we wanted, some people deciding to go different places because the public transportation was awesome and simple and D.C. really has something for everyone.

The weather was beautiful for us during our entire trip and we were lucky that it was never too hot. There were mercifully few crowds (except at the Natural History Museum) and our hotel was out of the main tourist area and thus quiet. I honestly have no complaints about this trip (apart from the long car rides).

Dressed only as Nonna and Poppa Walrus would
We have been discussing where our next family vacation might take us next summer and Chicago, Milwaukee and Toronto have all been thrown out as options. I am sure no matter where we go we will have a good (themed) time. How could we not?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What we've been up to this summer

Loving lake life

Since our girls' trip to NYC we have been busy and this summer just seems to be flying by. First, we have been enjoying the lake life, swimming, boating and fishing as much as weather has permitted. I love being near water and can't imagine summertime without it.

A view of the lake


On the raft
Fowlerville Fair

Next we had a visit from my sister, Katie, and niece during which we headed to the Fowlerville Fair. I wrote about going last year here. This time we mostly went to see the animals with Daphne since she loves an aminal (the way she pronounces it). She seems to have a slight obsession with the song "Old McDonald" so it was cute to see her interacting with the farm animals she is always singing about. She also got her face painted and we enjoyed some unhealthy treats.

Seeing the aminals.

Face paint and Noonie

Elephant ear. Yummmmmmmmm.
Pure Michigan Birthday Bash

My other sister, Chrissie had a 30th birthday party with a Pure Michigan theme. Some of us dressed up like famous folks from the Mitten State. I went as Ted Nugent, Daphne as Madonna but the best was Jose as Tom Selleck. His moustache has made him famous with my sister's friends. I'll have to try to find some pictures.


Then we headed back to Grand Rapids to go camping in Katie's new-to-her-family camper. They were given it by one of our aunts and have fixed up both the inside and outside. You can read about the changes they made on her blog here. It has turned out really well. I am jealous of their campuh (another Daphne pronunciation). We spent a couple of days at the Hungry Horse Campground in Dorr, Michigan where we went swimming in the pool, hiked a bit, read, relaxed and enjoyed some good campfires. We also all put on Doc McStuffin (one of Daphne's favorite TV shows) tattoos.

The Den

Manly tattoos
John Ball Zoo

As if all that weren't enough, we stayed a few more days in Grand Rapids. We have been to visit a few times before (read about our first time here) and this time we decided to take Daphne to the John Ball Zoo. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. There were a lot of hands on activities for children to participate in, like feeding budgie birds and touching sting rays. We saw all kinds of animals and they were quite active for it being the summertime. Overall, I would say this zoo is highly recommenable.

Bear pack!!

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag...
PUFO Family reunion

Last but not least we spent the weekend up north for our annual family reunion on Lake Huron. This year we stayed in one of our second cousins' cabin at night and went to my aunt's house on the lake during the day. We lucked out and the weather was just about perfect. We also got to spend time with my cousin's 2 boys. Both of them were cuties.

More to come

As you can see, things have been busy so far this summer and it isn't over yet. We still have our Washington D.C. trip planned for this upcoming weekend and a wedding at the end of the month. We are going to stay at another sister's house for a bit and want to drive up to Mt. Pleasant for a few days. I am glad we are getting to see everyone and spend a good amount of time with my family, especially my rotten little niece. She is seriously adorable but can have an attitude when she wants. We love her.