A blog about me and my adventure as an ex-pat.
Because someone told me to... Thank you Gaby.

Monday, April 30, 2012

you crack me up!

We have decided to get 'adjusted' by a Chiropractor.
He came to visit my MOPS group and I was intrigued by his claims of well-being and good health. After hearing rave reviews by friends on facebook we decided to go and see him.
With Jeremy's ill health we decided we would try anything to get him well.
I had no idea what a Chiropractor was, what he would do or why I would go but they are on every corner here so I figured they must do some good!
The first time you go, he takes x-rays of your spine and measures things like how the nerves are working down your spine. The theory is that displacement of your spine causes issues with how your nerves work which affects how well your organs work. They say that after getting adjusted, babies sleep better, they can fix recurrent ear infections or headaches in adults. And your immune system will work better too. It takes more than one visit and they suggest you get adjusted every few months.
So (unsurprisingly) my hips are out of place, twisted and causing me lower back pain. Given the size of my two babies and how I was pretty much pregnant for 2 years I was not surprised. I have been getting lower back pain recently (I really need to stop carrying around the kids) and have had issues in my neck for years.
I was very excited to start my treatment and he did not disappoint!
Do you ever wish someone would just walk across your back or grab your head and 'crack' your neck to get rid of those knots?! Have you ever had a massage and wish they could have 'fixed' you rather than just relax you? Well that is exactly what he does!
My word I have never heard such big cracks when he twists my neck or presses up my back or literally puts his weight on me to twist my hips! Some of the adjustments are a little bit painful, just for a second, but it sounds worse than it is. After only 2 visits (and the adjustments only take 5 minutes) I have much more movement in my neck and am excited to see if he can fix my back too.
We are also taking the kids to be adjusted. They both had pretty harsh births (forceps for one and a c-section for the other) and there are areas that need working on for both of them.
They love the office as it has a fab playroom for them so I can leave them in there whilst I see the doctor. Much easier than trying to take them to the dentist where there is nowhere to play and the visits last well over an hour.. I guess my teeth will just have to wait until both kids are in school.
Today was their first adjustment and they did really well. You have to lie face down on a bed whilst he stretches you or drops part of the bed to manipulate you. Toby cracked me up because he kept giggling and saying "tickle, tickle" when Dr Oscar ran the 'massager' over him. I heard his back crack when Dr Oscar did a move called the blast off and lifted him up whilst arching his back! The kids can't communicate aches and pains as well as us but maybe we will have slightly less grumpy kids in a few weeks!
I hope we will all benefit from visiting Dr Oscar... I'll let you know!

sweetest thing

Charlotte came in to see me today whilst I was sorting the laundry.
She spotted her party dress and pointed it out excitedly.
Yes I said, I have just washed it for you.
To which Charlotte said "Mummy. I love you".
Isn't that just the sweetest thing?

growing up

This morning, over breakfast looking out over the back yard, Charlotte was chatting away to me and just started to comment on things from the last year. It's really the first time that she has been able to recall things form more than 6 months ago... Like "Mummy we had pumpkins hanging there because it was halloween" or "Mummy we saw the dinosaurs and Izzy was scared and cried and I only cried a little bit".

So she has turned the corner with her memory... She will not be so easy to fool in future and we will have to be very careful from now on!

She is growing up fast but I love it! I always seem to find myself saying that this is my favourite stage.
I am on my own this week whilst Jeremy is in hospital getting treatment for his UC and she gave me just what I needed this morning... She came in to see me at 6:50am and snuggled up to me and gave me a big cuddle. Love her!

And her little brother is such a little man now! He is trying so hard with his language and often puts 2 or more words together. We have been waiting such a long time to hear him talk and it's such a delight! After saying "no way!" to his sister he soon realised he could get things by saying "qweese" after which is his way of saying please... How can I say no?! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

is big really better?

I always heard that everything in America is big but is it true and does that make it better?

Well the roads, parking spaces and cars are bigger. I'd say that two thirds of the cars on the roads round here are big SUVs, trucks or minivans. We bought a Chevrolet Traverse (one of the 'smalller' cars in their range) as we wanted something heavy to stick to the road and high enough to clear the feet of snow we were promised we would see in the winter (which can I hasten to add we didn't though it did drive really well on the ice!)

Here is my baby (and Charlotte!):

Jeremy says I look mean when I am driving it... I am excited because it looks like a Jack Bauer car!!

He drives a Ford Edge:

The other stereotype that I heard a lot in England was that there are loads of really fat people in America! 
Well yes I have seen some extraordinarily large people and lots of pretty big people but there are also a lot of fit, athletic, exercise nuts who put me to shame! 
It's easy to put weight on here. You have to drive to get to everything - you can't walk to the local shop for a pint of milk.... You drive 2 minutes to the gas station to buy a gallon of milk and pick up a slice of pizza whilst you are there (I have seen a brilliant advert along the lines of "Who has time to wait 10 minutes at a pizza takeaway or heat up a frozen pizza?! Head over to Speedway (petrol station) and grab a fresh slice of pizza - 2 for only $2!) so you have to make time to exercise. 
There are restaurants and fast food joints everywhere! You name it they have it and they are so convenient. Pull of the main highway and you have to drive a whole 0.1 miles to get to the nearest McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell or the American equivalent of Little Chef:

We are lucky as we have a fantastic restaurant near us where we can get relatively healthy take away (ready in 20 minutes!). They do fish, pasta, meat with rice and veggies... the only problem is that you get free bread rolls and cookies and their apple crisp (think crumble but with extra sugar and butter) is heavenly! There is also the Ample Pantry who deliver home cooked style meals to your door and the local 'corner shop' - Hardings Fresh Market which has a great deli. So if you are prepared to pay more for good food, you can get it.

I'll tell you who else is big.... My baby boy! A year ago we used to go to the library for story time and I would pack a bottle of milk to keep him occupied whilst Charlotte danced and sang along with the other kids. One year on and she is in school, he is 2 and is now the biggest kid there! 
I couldn't believe how grown up he seemed today:

Where has my little boy and all of those curls gone?! 

So is big really better? ... Sometimes it is!

just for the health of it...

The Borgess Run Camp has been amazing!
I am only training for a 5K but have already run 5 miles twice and am thinking of signing up for half marathon training over the summer.
It all started at a friend's house. A few expats, new to the area, met up for pre-Christmas drinks and we got talking about exercise. I was challenged to run the 'Borgess Run for the Health of it' and agreed to train for the 5K.
So one evening in January I headed to the induction evening and tried to find out what I was letting myself in for!
After getting kitted up at Gazelle Sports in town I was ready and raring to go!
And then reality hit and on a very cold and snowy February morning I got up at 7am, put on my new  shoes and trendy new running gear (any excuse to shop!) and headed out to the first run camp.
I was pretty nervous as I only knew one person there and what on earth was I letting myself in for?! It was freezing and I am not a morning person!!

Here we all are meeting for the first time. 
A mix of eager beavers training for the marathon, half marathon and 5K. 
I believe there are about 800 people in the run camp! 

That's my friend in purple and pink who got me into this mess! 

And so the fun begins! First week and I could barely run for 3 minutes! 
We only did 2 miles but it felt like such an achievement! 

Rob - my first coach and the guy who got me started.

Yep we ran in snow, rain, thunderstorms but most of the time in beautiful sunshine

Brian - one of my team leaders

Halfway through a 4 mile run with David (the other team leader) cheering us on! 
He kept me going many a time especially up one very steep hill! 

Some of my team - 5K-OSS

With my running buddy Bobbi

I couldn't have done it without the tremendous team spirit at the camp! 

Here's to a happier and healthier 2012!! :) 

out of the blue...

We get loads of thunderstorms here but they nearly always take me by surprise! They aren't always mentioned on the forecast as they sometimes only last a few minutes.
I hate the ones that start at 3am and scare you half to death as you awaken from a peaceful slumber to a massive thunderbolt and wonder what on earth is going on.
Today was very wet but not particularly warm or oppressive so I was not expecting a thunderstorm then suddenly as I am sat on the sofa watching torchwood (on BBC America - wanted to see what all of the hype was about! It's pretty weird and not that well acted but then I'm not the biggest Doctor Who fan... Well actually I can't stand Doctor Who so who am I to pass judgement on Torchwood!) when suddenly I spot a lightning bolt out of the corner of my eye (my favourite feature of this house is the 2 height entranceway with the big window over the door so when I am sat in the living room I can see the sky outside) followed by a huge thunder bolt right over the house. And I mean, it was a boom! Jeremy is going to bed really early (well 9pm) whilst he is fighting the colitis (so I found out this flare up is really bad because he can't take his long term maintenance meds after the cancer last year. Ironic that he only had 2 or 3 days off sick with the cancer but 2 weeks off so far with the colitis) so I was left on my own to watch the thunderstorm. You'd think I would be used to them now but sometimes you really do feel like they are just over the house and will strike anytime. They are amazing though... The lightning lights up the whole sky and sometimes you get to see proper sky to ground forks! And I have never checked the weather updates so much before in my life (though I am not as obsessed with the forecasts as Jeremy is - he will tell you exactly what time the rain or snow is due and how much to expect! Nerd!)

On a different note entirely, it's spring clean up time... In Portage, over the next 4 weeks, the waste management trucks are driving round picking up large items of rubbish which you can just leave outside your house. So the roads are lined with sofas, chairs and all sorts of crap! One house has built a wall of boxes (they must have done some serious filing over the years!) along their front yard. It's quite a sight and made worse by the pilfering and rain. I love that the roads around here are wide and tree lined with houses set back off the road to add to the feeling of space so I am looking forward to the garbage being picked up and the trees bursting with green leaves over the next few weeks!

Talking of rain, it rained today. It's been cool but sunny for days. I know because I've had a bag of lawn fertiliser sitting in the garage for 2 weeks as I have been waiting for rain (the plan was to spread it and then have the rain wash it into the ground). But unlike Manchester where it just seems to rain all day and is grey all the time, here there is so much space that you can actually see the sky without looking up. Back in Manchester, as I drove down the busy A56 to home, all I could see ahead was traffic, tall buildings around me and a small patch of sky above me. Here it seems like a grey sky is unusual. Even today when my neighbour commented that it was an awful day for weather (seriously?! She needs to spend a week in Manchester) it was dry and warm enough for a trip to the park this morning and just as the forecast had predicted, it rained at 2pm (full on big fat rain drops that bounce off the pavement - just as I was leaving the mall with Charlotte which made for a fun dash to the car and "Mummy my arms are wet!") and then a few hours later the sky had cleared. Not too bad really. Not like "that fine rain that soaks you through" (Peter Kay).

Well it's midnight and I hear the rumbling of thunder so I had best say goodnight and try to get some sleep.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

road trip...

I took the kids to Holland today - a town that is about 75 miles from our house, north west from here, up by the lake.

And yes it is a town that was built by settlers to be a mini Holland. They have a tulip festival in May which we went to last year with our expat friends and had a blast! There were clog dancers (in full costume) and festival grounds with animals to pet, bouncy castles and of course tulips! The most tulips I have ever seen! They are everywhere in the town and are beautiful! Every colour you can imagine, grown in rows and rows of different colours.

We can't go to the festival this year and given the unusually warm weather, the tulips are all flowering early so I decided (inspired by a friend who has just been) to head up there with the kids today. We only really went to Windmill island which has a couple of windmills (of course!) and few other little things to see like an old carousel, organ and model village. Plus wooden clogs for the kids to try on! The weather was unusually grey so we didn't stay long but the kids had loads of fun running up and down the rows of tulips together - they play so well together now (when they aren't fighting) and I loved taking it all in.

Charlotte loved the tulips and kept stroking them (her little brother was not so gentle - he grabbed one and destroyed it!) 

I decided to go for a few reasons... To see the beautiful tulips before they disappeared, to prove to myself that I could do it and to make the most of being able to take the kids on day trips during the week. Toby will be in school 3 days in Sept and Charlotte will do 4 so I won't have the chance to do these kind of trips... They make being a 'stay at home mum' worth it to me. If I have this fantastic opportunity to not work, I want to make the most of it. Plus it's easy to get caught up in everything else that needs doing and I needed a day with my kids. I loved having them all to myself when I went back to the UK in Feb - don't get me wrong - it was so hard work and I missed Jeremy loads but I feel we really bonded during those sleepless nights. Snuggling up together in bed, me doing everything for them all day and evening rather than letting day care or Jeremy do it. I so want my kids to grow up with happy memories of day trips, holidays and fun at home, not how nice the house looked. I love decorating the house and it is my relaxation time - doing something crafty, but I try not to stress over the house being perfectly tidy and organised (our basement hides a lot of junk!!) and try to remember to relax every so often and spend a day enjoying my kids.

Living in England I think we took for granted that we could drive for 3 hours and there would be so many things to do and places to see on the way. 10 minutes in a car and you are in a different town.
With all the space in America that isn't always true. A friend who lived in Atlanta was saying that there isn't anywhere to go on day trips - you were just in Atlanta. So she loves it here because there are so many places we can go that are only 1 or 2 hours drive away. It's like being on holiday every weekend, doing all of the touristy things! Grand Rapids is a cool city 1 hour north of here, there is Holland, and numerous places along the 'coast' of lake Michigan. We have been so caught up in the move here, visitors over the summer, Jeremy's cancer, 2 trips back to the UK and Christmas that we haven't had a lot of time to do any exploring. So I am hoping that we can rectify that over the next couple of months and get visiting! :) I hope we will have lots of cool new places to take our visitors this year and get a feel for what Michigan has to offer outside of Kalamazoo!

It's going to be a fun year! :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

grey clouds overhead

Colitis sucks.

I am feeling totally overwhelmed at the moment.

I know it is ten times harder for the person with all of the symptoms but I am out of my mind with worry and trying to find a solution and a cure through food and lifestyle.

I miss my husband. He is so tired from lack of nutrition and dehydration. He is sleeping in the spare room in an attempt to get some rest as he is up half the night in the bathroom. All we have talked about for the last 2 weeks is how to get him well.

Colitis takes over your life.

And the really scary bit is how it is linked to his cancer and the constant threat of more cancerous tumours (pathology came back this week to say there aren't any in his colon at present... Phew!).

So the doctors are very worried about him at the moment but hopefully he can beat it soon and we can take a good hard look at diet and exercise going forward to prevent future flare ups. There are some really interesting thoughts on how strict exclusion diets can help, specific foods that help inflammation and he is seeing a chiropractor.

So please lots of prayers and positive thoughts whilst we battle through and hope that we can start living rather than surviving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

it's all gone a bit south...

Yesterday we went on another road trip east to a hospital just outside Ann Arbor which meant a 2 hour drive. So what did we listen to? Did we tune into a hip radio station and check out the latest chart music? No. Did we plug in our iphones and reminisce with some classic tunes from the UK? No. DId we listen to one of the CDs my friend gave me with all of her favourite tunes? No. Did we log into Pandora or Radio One and listen to the latest music via the internet? No.

We listened to my guilty pleasure Blake Shelton.

This is Blake Shelton:

He is a popular country music singer and a judge on The Voice. Country music! Can you believe it? But I really like him! He sang on the Voice so I decided to buy Jeremy the CD for his birthday as he is had already admitted that he likes country music. Just recently I have been using his car to get to run camp and given the other thing that Jeremy listens to in his car is boring University radio I have found myself putting Blake's CD in and turning it up loud to keep myself awake at 8am on a saturday morning! 

So there you have it - I am turning more and more American by the day! 

Though I still can't make myself understood at a drive-thru! We went for coffee today and as I was driving I had to do the ordering. Jeremy didn't see what the big deal was but after it took 5 minutes and a number of attempts to order 2 coffees (decaff, 2 sizes, two types of milk) he was laughing his head off saying "they just don't understand you do they?!" Maybe I need to practiceMichigan drawl...

Monday, April 9, 2012

spring has sprung...

So I do miss the English gardens... Walking down the road to a friend's house or to the post office and looking at all of the front gardens along the way... We do like to plant in our front gardens though I have to say that we put quite a lot of work into our old garden but you couldn't really tell - they do take a lot of upkeep! So I suppose that is a freedom that we have with a rented house. All we can do is take care of the grass and plant a few containers (and we pay the lad across the road to mow the lawn!!)

But I do love the blossom trees here - they are beautiful shades of purples, pinks and white. And the tulips are flowering (a little early) and look beautiful!

Here is a beautiful blossom tree in Grand Rapids:

And the tree outside our house: 

And my tulip bulbs from Holland (MI) have flowered! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

is there anyone out there?!


Oh hi! Glad to see you are still with me! I thought I lost you - it's been so long since I last wrote something here that I thought you might have got bored and wandered off!!

It's April! I can't believe it! Where has this year gone already?!

Spring has come too early - I wasn't ready! Don't get me wrong, I am loving the sunshine, the beautiful blossom colours (the pinks, purples and yellows are so vibrant you'd think there was food colouring in the water here!) being outside, the fact the neighbourhood seems to have woken up... People are out and about again, cleaning up their bikes, dusting off the garden furniture, wheeling out the bbqs... Kids have grown over the winter.... People are smiling...

But I am not ready. I only just got back from our latest home leave and it has taken quite a while to recover!! I took the kids on my own (I know I must be mad) to England for 2.5 weeks. It was a fantastic trip, so worth it but so hard work. And it's not that I had to do everything from pack the bags and load the car, drive from place to place, get the kids up, dressed and fed etc every day but being responsible, being the single parent, doing all of the discipline - that was tough! We all had a bad case of jet lag and Toby ended up in my bed every night. I lost so much sleep but it was such a special time for me with my kids - I got to snuggle up to them every night and go on this big adventure with them.

So it has taken a good 3 weeks to get over the jet lag (spring time change didn't help!), do all of the washing, catch up on jobs and actually fit back into life here. I've had a bad case of home sickness too but finally feel like I am back on top of things and getting back into the way of life here.

And then spring lands early and I need to find our summer clothes, the sun tan lotion, the garden toys and order swimming costumes.

I feel a bit cheated out of the long, dark winter with snow and ice storms and piles of snow that seem like they will never melt. Don't get me wrong - it was cold and we had plenty of snow but it kept melting and was never that dramatic. Locals keep saying it's been a weird winter and freaky to have such warm weather in March. But again let me say I am not complaining, I just wasn't prepared for it. I was prepared to freeze for another month or so but instead I have tan lines and have put the winter coats away!

I think I can safely say that spring has sprung... The blossoms are on the trees, the tulips are in full bloom and there have only been a couple of nights when it has frozen so bring it on! Once Easter is over, summer I will be ready for you (though not quite as I had hoped - all this exercise is not enough to compensate for all of the delicious food I ate in England - trifles, sausages, cakes, roast dinners... It has been like Christmas day, every day for 2 weeks at a time, in November, December and February!!) So my waistline is suffering but thankfully swim skirts are fashionable here so I can hide that and enjoy the pool and beach and 80o heat!!