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

Sunday, August 18, 2013

the dean people...

My brother and his family (or as my son is affectionately calling them... The Dean People) have just been to Kalamazoo for a visit.

Over the past 18 months we have only seen them for a day and an afternoon. This time we got to see them for 2 weeks!

Being away from family and friends is the hardest part of expat life. I can cope with everything else but not being able to cuddle your nieces and nephews, sit down and have a beer with your brother or go shopping with your sister-in-law breaks my heart. With the 5 hour time difference, even speaking on the phone or skyping is a challenge.

So we have looked forward to this visit for 2 years and man did we savour every moment!

It was an absolute whirlwind of noise, laughter, fun trips out, cute cousin love and bonding.

Of course there were tears and tantrums and time-outs. You would expect that with 6 kids aged 2 to 8 under one roof, but watching how they all interacted was magical.

They have 8 year old Joe, 6 year old Zach, 4 year old Elizabeth and 2 year old Darcie. Add my almost 5 year old Charlotte and 3 year old Toby and we had quite the bunch of kids!
Here they are all are lined up in age order:

Darcie was just a baby when we left England so I have never felt like I have been able to get to know her properly. On this trip she really took to me and it was amazing! She was the first one to run over and give me a cuddle when they arrived which made me so happy! She would ask for me before I got up in the morning and even though she is scared of water, I was able to convince her to swim in the lake. I'm so glad I was able to get to know her and build up a bond with her.

A few times I took one or both of my kids out with their eldest two. They were so well behaved but I was still impressed that I brought everyone home in one piece! How did my eldest nephew turn 8?! 8?! It doesn't seem that long ago that I was holding him in my arms for the first time, scared stiff I would drop him because he was so small!

Elizabeth and Charlotte are only 9 months apart in age. They both have very strong characters and it took some time for them to get into a groove with each other. Like sisters, they either played really well together or they ended up fighting over Princess dolls. I think Charlotte had a hard time not being the oldest one or being in charge. She is also a hoarder who likes to be in control (does she sound familiar?!) She is such a sensitive little soul and has it far too easy with just her little brother who will do anything to please her. Here they are enjoying a bath together!

Anyway back to Elizabeth. She has lots of nicknames which her family use but she made me laugh when I tried to call her 'Babes'. She replied with "I'm not Babes... I'm Elizabeth!". Such a wonderful, strong minded character!

I loved watching Toby around his older cousins. He would do something to try to impress them and then look up to them for approval. It made me so happy to see his face light up when he realised he had made them laugh or done something cool.
He also loved getting help on the swing or learning how to play their DSs.
But he's not a morning person and for the first few days I think he forgot they were here. He would wander downstairs and then run back up to my room after being surprised to see 4 other kids round the breakfast table! He definitely needs time to wake up and eat breakfast quietly in the morning before socialising!

Zach and Toby will be trouble when they are older... They are such a comedy duo! The following picture was one of the first that I took of their trip and made me laugh out loud when I spotted Zach's face! It was nearly impossible to get a photo of him with just a smile on his face! Both he and Toby like being centre of attention and love it when they can make you laugh. And he did. A lot. He is such fun to be around! 

Charlotte also loved having older kids around. She asked me to read her a book the other day and told me that whilst they were here, Joe had read it to her. She then said "I like Joe". It doesn't sound like much but she doesn't talk about people like that very often - she's not big on outpouring affection so I know that he really made an impression on her by doing that.

It was also lovely to see my kids going to their Aunt and Uncle for affection. Seeing Charlotte cuddle up on her Uncle's knee  or Toby having a snuggle following an afternoon nap.
Being able to hold and cuddle my nieces and nephews was such a gift. We made memories to last a lifetime.

So what did we get up to for 2 weeks? Well unfortunately we have had a cold and wet summer here. So my plans of going to a beach or pool every other day went out of the window when the rain fell and clouds hid the sunshine.
But we had a lot of fun and found something to do every day. There were trips to the amusement arcade - Chuck-e-cheese, the cinema, girlie pedicures, the air zoo, the indoor play area full of inflatables - bounceland, a trip to Toys R Us to spend holiday money and of course a trip to Cracker Barrel for a proper American breakfast!

On the sunny days we enjoyed the local beach at Ramona Park and a trip out to Silver Beach at St Joseph which is on Lake Michigan. We also managed to get to our local outdoor pool for a few hours and the Farmers' market on a sunny Saturday morning.

We also took the girls (and Toby) for breakfast with Princesses at the hotel downtown whilst the boys went rock climbing. The hotel did a great job and I loved watching Elizabeth stare in awe at the Princesses whilst we waited in line to meet them.
We all met up afterwards and enjoyed a few hours in the museum downtown. They have so many fun exhibits for the kids to encounter from wooden guitars to a mini tv studio and diner to racing cars, tornadoes and heart rate monitors!

Joe turned 8 whilst they were here. He is such a wonderful, grown up boy with a generous heart and love for his siblings.
We decorated the house 'American style' and had a trip to the zoo at his request to see "American animals like Zee-bras". Feeding the giraffes was a highlight as always but he was most impressed that Hubby's work had let him have the day off especially for his birthday! Whilst we were having lunch in 'Africa' he said "This is the best birthday ever, spending it with my cousins in America". What a gorgeous young man he is. We were so happy to have you here Joe!

We also celebrated Jeremy's birthday with a firepit and s'mores. It was fun to see the Deans toast marshmallows then devour the chocolate gooey mess!

Jeremy and my brother got up to quite a lot of mischief in downtown. They had a few nights out, visiting the beer exchange, trying the hottest chicken wings on the menu at Buffalo wings and haggling for a free beer after a night at the Speedway and riding the bucking bronco. I won't tell all of their secrets but it was fun to hear their stories the next day!

My Sis-in-law and I were much more civilised with a night out at the Wine Loft, savouring beef filet, brie and other delicious treats washed down with flights of local wines. We also got to enjoy plenty of 'chick-flicks' whilst the boys were out! She is a sister I never had growing up and I love spending time with her.

Our families might not live near each other but we are determined to remain close and provide many years of memories for the kids spending time with their cousins. My brother and I fought like cat and dog when we were growing up but we are closer than ever now.

A huge thank you to the 'Dean People' for coming all of that way to see us. We can't wait to see you next year at your house!