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

Saturday, May 24, 2014

end of year show for my lucky duck...

It's almost the end of the school year here. Our local schools go from early September to the end of May. A 3 month summer holiday sounds great but don't forget the kids barely get a break during the school year. A couple of days for Thanksgiving in November, a couple of weeks at Christmas and a week for spring break. Compare this to 6 week terms in the UK and you can imagine how tired our kids are by now.

The end of the year brings summer camp sign ups, dance recital, the thrills and skills show at gymnastics and the end of year Kindergarten show.

The Kindergarten show came first. Our lucky duck's first evening show, which was held in the gym at school.
They have spent the last few weeks practicing songs and poems and working on artwork to decorate the walls of the gym.

The teachers traced around them on large pieces of paper, drew outlines of their clothes and then the kids coloured them in and drew their own faces! It must have taken them ages! The gym looked fab with the walls covered with life size pictures of our kids holding hands.



We arrived at school around 6:15, dropped her off with her teachers and found a seat in the gym. Rows of parents, cameras at the ready, waiting for their not-so-little ones to make their grand entrance. 
Each child announced themselves at the microphone and took their place on the stage. And for the next 30 minutes their parents sat in awe as those 5 and 6 year olds sang their hearts out. Classics that I don't even know the names of, to modern songs from Disney movies like Frozen, Aladdin and Toy Story. They did actions to every song and recited the poems beautifully. There were plenty of whoops and loud claps after every piece. Amazing to hear them sing 'Zippity Do Dah' in several different styles of music. It seems like just a few months ago that my shy 3 year old preschooler was stood at the front of her class, barely whispering the words and now she is a confident little girl, happy to be on stage with her friends and entertaining a room full of parents. There were about 45 kids in the show so there must have been 100 or so adults watching! 

All of the kids did so well and we were all so proud of them. Toby loved the show too and was happily doing some of the actions in his seat. 
Charlotte made everyone smile at the end. Wearing her beautiful flower girl dress, she did the most elegant curtsey to the audience. She looked like a gorgeous princess. 



Above with Miss Burns and below the first day of school with Ms Gagie. 
What a difference 9 months makes!


Afterwards we got to see her teachers, tour her classroom and take home her self portrait and VIP board. 



The American presidents - I expect he will know all of these in order one day! 

She will do it all over again next year as being a lucky duck means she gets to go to full time Kindergarten and be the oldest one this time. We don't know where she will end up spending the majority of her school years, but for now this school is doing wonderful things with our little girl.

Friday, May 23, 2014

tulip time...

May brings spring blossoms, daffodils and tulips!


It's the perfect time of year to head up to Holland and spend a day at the Dutch Village, a wonderful theme park in Holland, Michigan. With thousands of tulips, stunning with their bright colours, fun fairground rides, windmills and dutch dancing.

If you are looking purely for tulips, head to the Windmill Island gardens where they have a huge windmill and as many tulips as you've ever seen!

Wherever you end up, make sure you take your camera as there are loads of photo opportunities.
I made a flipagram video of our photos from this year:

video

Thursday, May 22, 2014

tutu tutorial...

Tutus seem to be the 'in thing' to wear to fun races this year. There was the Tutu run back in february where men, women and kids donned their tutus and ran 2.2 miles over snow and ice in aid of Girls on the run. And then the Color run in April where I saw lots of rainbow coloured tutus running through the dye. And I bet there were plenty to be seen at the Borgess marathon.

It's the Run or Dye race coming up and our team are wearing... Yes you guessed it... Tutus! I love it! What a great excuse to wear something as fun as a tutu!

So how do you make one I hear you ask?! Simply purchase 4 spools of tulle, a roll of elastic and grab your scissors.


Measure the elastic around your waist and cut, leaving an extra bit to tie. Simply knot the elastic a couple of times to secure it. 
Then cut the tulle to your desired length. I cut mine to 30 inches as I wanted a longer skirt. 
Fold it in half and loop it around the elastic. Repeat. And repeat. Until you fill the elastic.
Ta-da! 


Note: Sparkly tulle looks fab but be prepared to get covered in the loose glitter!! 
P.S. if you have left over tulle, it can make a great ribbon for wrapping a present. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

T-ball!


The kids are playing T-ball with West Portage Little League (WPLL).

And we are so excited...
The kids are loving being out in the field with friends, wearing their new helmets and gloves. Jeremy is loving the fact they are in a team sport. I am loving that it's something I watched Kevin Arnold do and now my kids are stepping up to the plate and taking their turn to hit the ball out of the ball park (well they don't always hit it and when they do it usually just goes a few feet but it's early days!).

It's not all plain sailing though. Our sensitive 5 year old has fears she needs to conquer.
Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of being in the wrong place. Fear of the unknown. Fear of doing something new.
It breaks my heart because it's exactly what I went through (and still do at times) when I was a kid. As I sit on that bench, realising how the situation is unfolding, seeing the fear in her eyes, watching her face crumple and the tears start to flow. It makes me want to bundle her up and take her home. But this is good for her. She needs to learn that she can survive if she just asks for help. So I am trying to stay in my seat and let her figure it out.
I am hoping the coach will see the reward of spending a few minutes with her, building up her confidence, because when my daughter does something she loves she radiates that happiness. Her joy overflows and she is like a completely different person.

Toby is so different. He is still my baby and loves his snuggles but out on that field he is in his element. Jumping up and down in excitement. Bounding over the bases. Getting frustrated when he doesn't catch the ball! I can see a competitive streak in him, a desire to please and a desire to win. We'll see how that pans out over the next few years! 

They had 3 or 4 practice sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and their first game was Saturday. We've had cold and windy practices but the sun was out and it was glorious weather for their first game.

I felt like half of Portage was there. It was a lot of fun just seeing a lot of our friends sitting on the bleachers, cheering on their kids and their teams.

We arrived with the kids in their new team shirts - they are numbers 6 and 7 (size 'small child' looks like a dress on Toby!), the team gathered round to decide on a name - Jaguars - and so began their first game of the season.


We sat in the bleachers cheering them on and trying to stay out of the way.


I cringed when Charlotte ran straight for the first base on her first turn and managed to take out one of the other teams' players! Whoops! Poor kid! But that was the first and last incident and from then on we enjoyed watching the kids batting, running and standing out in the field waiting to catch the ball.








At T-ball level, it is not supposed to be competitive. No kid is run or caught out. There are no winners or losers. Just 26 kids out on the field having fun and learning a whole load of new skills. At this level it is all new to the parents and the kids.
We love our coach - he is really good with the kids and is encouraging them without pushing them too much.

At the end of the match, all of the kids from both teams line up to give each other high-fives.


Happy days! Go team Jaguars!


Monday, May 12, 2014

color run kalamazoo

The Color run came to Kalamazoo and I loved it!


It's definitely more of a fun run than a race and it's not timed so you just make your way around the course, soaking up the atmosphere and trying to get as colourful as you can over the 3 miles.



The start is staggered so that there isn't a big fight at the first colour station. I swear there were at least 5000 people there!


The colour stations are spread out about every kilometre. There are a load of volunteers who have paint bottles of dyed corn starch which they squirt at you as you run past. You can get handprints on your back, a new hair colour or just a splash of colour on your front. They don't spray it in your face and as long as you keep your mouth closed you won't really breathe too much in.











I wore the official white t-shirt with my running trousers and a tutu that I made at home. The tutu was just for fun and seems to be the 'in-thing' at races at the moment!

I ran with a friend and her 8 year old daughter - she was so much faster than us! Oh the joys of youth!

Jeremy and the kids were cheering us on and met us for the party at the end. That is where you really get covered in colour!



They give you a colour packet at the finish line and then everyone gathers around the stage. Every 15 minutes they countdown and then you throw your 'paint' up into the air or all over your friends.



Charlotte was very excited but I guess we didn't really explain it to Toby who looked down at his new white t-shirt in dismay and asked why we threw orange all over him! Whoops!


But he soon got over it and joined in the fun, watching all of the colour go into the air and throwing handfuls of confetti at the finish line.


When we got home we had the funniest shower ever! Pools of blue and green paint collected in the bottom of the shower and even scrubbing couldn't get off the most stubborn dye... I had blue elbows for about 3 days! And blowing my nose produced surprising results!


I would highly recommend this race to anyone and hope that Charlotte might even run it with me next year!


P.S. I put my iPhone in a small ziploc bag. Some of the photos ended up a bit fuzzy but it certainly saved my phone!

Friday, May 9, 2014

a little trip down under...

What a busy couple of months we have had!

March was one of the most surreal and amazing months of my life...

We took a trip down under for a wedding in Melbourne, Australia. We went with friends (they flew east from England and we flew west from here) and spent 2 and a half weeks there. We met kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears, my favourite F1 driver waved at me and we climbed to the top of a bridge!

Every day was an adventure with one amazing experience after another. I can't even tell you what my favourite thing was as we loved every minute of it!
It took about 28 hours to get there and over 30 to get home as we were delayed. Thankfully it wasn't just one mega long flight so that helped break up the time but it was an epic journey! The kids did amazingly well throughout the whole journey. The jet lag has been surprisingly tough to get over. It's hard to get up in the morning and bedtimes have been a struggle but it was well worth it!

The first part of our trip was spent in Manly where we stayed in a beachside apartment.
We woke up to the sound of the ocean and could see the beach from our windows.We even managed to do yoga one morning out on the rooftop patio just after sunrise.

Each day we walked past the beach and into town to catch the ferry to Sydney harbour. The kids loved running races along the beach path on the way home - it certainly made the 20 minute walk go by faster!
We spent 4 glorious days exploring the city, the botanical gardens, the zoo and of course the famous Sydney Opera House.
I am always one to rise to a challenge and when I heard you could climb up the Sydney Harbour bridge I decided to give it a go despite my fear of heights.
And I admit I was terrified at points. There was a section part way up where you had to climb up and down ladders, stepping across to get to the next ladder. And you had to look up or down to check the way was clear before stepping onto the next ladder. That was the worst bit. One of the group didn't even make it as far as that. They put the most anxious ones at the front. I was third after the girl who bailed and her boyfriend! I was so scared that I couldn't even look up at the bridge whilst we were still on the ground!
You are connected to a safety line the whole way so I couldn't actually have fallen off at any point but that didn't help when I was asked to let go of the rail for photos. I mustered my best smile for the camera before planting my hands firmly on the metal!

Before we knew it, we had to say goodbye to Sydney and make our way down to Melbourne.
It was a bizarre mix of wedding duties and trips to see the wildlife. One minute we were on our knees in the dust feeding kangaroos, then jumping in the car to drive two hours back to Melbourne to meet the new in-laws in a posh restaurant!

I had the most wonderful experience of sitting on the ground, surrounded by wallabies, feeding them grains. They would hop over and claw at your hands to see what goodies you had. They were so close that I could see my reflection in their eyes! There were wallabies and kangaroos carrying babies in their pouches. From tiny little pink babies to joeys so big they were bursting out of their mummy's pouches!
The kangaroos were bigger than Toby but that did not phase him! It was the kind of experience we were hoping for and exceeded our expectations.

We had so many other wonderful experiences and I could probably write at least 5 other posts describing the fun we had at the F1, the wedding, watching tiny penguins come out of the ocean at sunset, walking around Ramsay Street, running along the beach in the morning, the steam train ride into the bush and spending so much quality times with our friends.

But instead I will just leave you with a few photos of the highlights!

We made it to the top! 
  
Kangaroos! 

Up close to a wallaby

Kanagaroos as big as Toby!

Ruby the koala bear

Walking down the F1 track after the race

I spy the 'Kennedy house' on Ramsay St! 

A little girl's dream dress! 

Dancing outside the Church