Well the last two months have been a crazy whirlwind of kids' routines, exercise, home leave and Christmas preparations. Isn't everyone burned out by now?!
We spent November buying Christmas presents and getting ready for our home leave trip. We had just a few days over Thanksgiving to head back to the UK to catch up with everyone, distribute Christmas presents (at around $20 per parcel to mail them I decided being ultra organised was a better idea! Plus we have 6 birthdays around Christmas too!) and become Godparents to our niece at her Christening at the end of the week.
We left on the Friday night. The flight took off around 10pm and Toby fell asleep as soon as the plane started moving! We had two and two on either side of the plane with three seats between us. It actually worked fine as the kids stayed in their seats for the whole flight (normally they want to switch between each of us). It made us laugh that the three seats were occupied by a group of teenage kids whose parents were living it up in Business class! That's the way to do it I guess!
I had Charlotte and we actually got a few hours sleep. Toby unfortunately woke up after a few hours and kept his Daddy amused for the rest of the flight.
We get a lot of people asking how on earth we do all of the travel with the kids. First off we have no choice. But really it's not that stressful. We explain every thing that is going to happen through the airport etc and talk about good behaviour and what we expect of them. They are so used to it now that they aren't as intimidated by the passport officers or security staff so it's a bit harder to keep them quiet whilst we are doing our fingerprints and explaining our visas etc.
We make sure we are one of the first people off the plane (after business class of course!) and make the kids walk as fast as possible so we get into the passport line as soon as possible.
The kids have a backpack each filled with books, small toys and colouring stuff. Enough to keep them amused between movies! They also have their own headphones for watching the movies on the plane. The international flights have a tv at each seat which is a huge blessing!
And jet lag gets us every time but you just have to battle through it. The first night we all sleep great because we are so tired and again the second night. By the third night you have to make an effort to go to bed at the correct time for where you are. Unfortunately we chose to watch a double bill at the cinema and arrived home at gone 1am! Whoops! But it was worth it! We saw Gravity and the Hunger Games. Both excellent movies that we would have missed if we haven't watched them both in one night! Our local cinema is so small that they only show movies for about two weeks.
So the kids got into the new time zone nicely but we struggled all week (and for a good week or so when we got back!).
We had a couple of days at Jeremy's parents' catching up with them, his Aunts and Uncles and some of our friends.
There is something about family bonds. We haven't seen some of these Aunts and Uncles since we moved but the kids took to them straight away and were very sweet with them.
A fun couple of days spent mainly in the pub! As I was sipping my pear cider over lunch, Jeremy pointed out that it was only breakfast time in Michigan! Whoops!
Soon enough it was time to head up north to Manchester.
Our first stop on the way into Manchester was for a curry at our old local haunt with friends and their kids. So sad that to hear their kids asking why we were going already and they were having too much fun with our kids. A few hours is just never long enough!
We decided to try out an apartment hotel in the centre of Manchester. It's an apartment block run like a hotel. With underground parking and 24 hour door staff, we had a 2 bedroom apartment with kitchen and living room.
We enjoyed showing the kids around Manchester and the European Christmas Markets were on which made it even more fun. But that afternoon we dropped the kids off with my parents so we could spend two days shopping and enjoying the night life with friends.
I miss Manchester but not the gloomy weather!!
On the first night we had a delicious Thai meal and drinks with a friend I used to live with and her husband. It always makes us feel special when people go out of their way to take time off work and organise babysitters so they can meet us for a precious few hours.
The second night we did a pub crawl around town with lots of different friends. The time absolutely flew! What I thought had been just a couple of hours turned out to have been 7 hours!! And it still wasn't long enough!
That was true of the whole trip. Every afternoon or evening we spent with friends and family flew by in a flash. We certainly made the most of every minute but it's hard to say goodbye when you know it'll be another six months before we see them again.
It seems to be getting harder not easier. As the years go by (we have been here almost three years now) a few hours with each family just isn't enough. So we will be on a mission to get those people over here for a visit and next summer I am hoping to spend longer in the UK.
We did manage to get a Thanksgiving dinner with my parents (a day late but Turkey none-the-less) at a local pub carvery. So nice to sit down and give thanks with family.
The end of the week was spent with Jeremy's family, meeting our new nieces - two arrived this year - and enjoying celebrating with Jeremy's sister and family at her daughter's Christening. We were honoured to be her God-parents and join in the wonderful day.
One baby was just a couple of weeks old when we met her and now she is crawling and pulling herself up. I was worried about how she would be with us but she is such a little poppet and was happy to be held by us. Charlotte really doted on both babies and was so proud of herself by helping to stop them crying with her funny faces!
I also really enjoyed cuddling our youngest niece to sleep. She was only six weeks old so would just pass out on your shoulder. I could have held her all day! Both girls are beautiful and I will treasure those memories until I get to hold them again.
It was also Papa's 65th birthday so we had a fun day surprising him with a party! How we kept 7 small kids quiet long enough to surprise me I do not know but it was worth it!!
Seven kids in six years... These kids are going to have so much fun growing up together!
Sometimes I can't quite believe how crazy and surreal our life is. But then we are a slightly crazy family!
P.S. We didn't do a very good job with group photos on this trip! I promise to do better next time!