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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

highs and lows...

I have an awesome group of ladies around me here in Michigan who have a positive influence on me every day.

Sometimes in huge, go out of their way, insightful, deep and meaningful ways and sometimes just a little comment thrown into a group conversation makes a big difference!

So I thought I would share that gem of an idea here, to record it for future reference and in case anyone reading this thinks it's a good idea too.

If you manage to get your family around the dinner table at the end of the day or you are trying to extract something more out of your kids, on the day home from school, than "it was ok" or "nothing much" then try the 'high-low' game.

Ask them to tell you one thing that was a high, the best thing that happened to them that day and their 'low' or the worst thing that happened. Try it, you might be surprised at the answers you get!

Take today for example; we managed to all sit down to eat together before Jeremy goes away for the weekend. Being a Wednesday, it was 'Mummy and Toby day' and we don't have many left so I am trying to make them count. Make them memorable. Savour this special time together.
Today we had some errands to run so started the day with a Biggby hot chocolate, then a special trip to Church where Miss Jan and Miss Kristen made a big fuss of him. We took the dog for a walk (we are dog sitting, so Tallulah is THE most exciting thing in our house at the moment) and the sun was shining so Toby could ride his brand new 'big boy bike'. We also visited a friend who just had a new baby. Being a 5 year old boy I didn't think he would be that interested, but he happily washed his hands so he could stroke baby Isaac's head for a few seconds.

So what do you think was his high today? His new bike? Waking up next to Daddy this morning? Tallulah?

It was that he got to stroke Isaac's head because "He is just so cute!". Bless him! He is full of surprises! It made me smile and you never know quite what is going on in a child's mind but this game definitely gives you a window into their world.

So thank you so much for the idea Carolyn!

(No baby photos I'm afraid but here's a pic from our walk today)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

knee high naturalist...

I heard about the knee-high naturalists program at Binder Park Zoo over a year ago and have been meaning to take Toby but it was one of those things that never worked out until today.

You have to book onto the program in advance and there is a maximum of 20 kids (an adult has to accompany them) and I just never got around to booking it.

It's designed for preschoolers aged 2-5 so Toby was the biggest kid there but it didn't matter!

So was it any good? Would we recommend it? Would we go again?!


In fact I've just booked him onto another 3 sessions. It's only on Wednesdays and Thursdays but Mummy Toby days are Wednesday and Fridays so that works for us.

When you arrive there are toys and games to play with. This morning there were lego bricks and a bean bag toss, a den to play in and balls to play catch with. Toby headed for the bean bags and then the legos! Pretty predictable :)

When everyone arrived they explained the theme for the day. It was camouflage and they did a good job of finding songs and videos to show them about animals that use camouflage.

And then you get to meet a couple of animals. The first one was a big bull frog called Jeremina. She was too delicate to touch but we got to see her up close.

And then the one that came with the warning... We were told we could leave the room if we wanted to as they brought out........ a snake!

Each child was able to stroke him and see him up close. And he was beautiful! He felt like a soft basketball and had beautiful brown markings that looked like dead leaves.

It was then time for more playing or jigsaws or artwork depending on what your kid wanted to do. We did some jigsaws and then made a collage of a snake in camouflage. Fun preschool type stuff.

After some fun action games, we headed outside to have a walk and a game of hide and seek. The warmer weather (29oF) meant they all had a great time climbing on the snow mounds, picking up pine branches and smashing the ice. And it was fun for me to be behind the scenes at the zoo!

That's the tram stop for Africa behind us! 

Before we knew it, it was time to leave. The best $10 I have spent in ages!! We will be back for amphibians in two weeks time.

The staff were fantastic - so friendly and engaging. We will have to keep an eye out for them when we visit in the summer!

If you want more info click here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

afternoon siesta...

It's Friday. It's been a busy few weeks. I've had something on almost every evening. Life is good but it clearly caught up with me today...

Toby and I were playing 'Guess Who?' in the living room. I was laying down and I knew I was sleepy because I asked Toby if his person had brown hair, then blonde and then white at which point he laughed and said "Mummy I told you ages ago that he didn't have any hair!". 

At the end of the game I lay my head on the floor and closed my eyes to day dream, as the sun was pouring in through the window, that it was summer and 80o warmer than it is right now. 

The next thing I knew I opened my eyes and realised I had been asleep and panicked as I have to leave at 3 for the school run! I looked up and saw it was only 2:35 so I lay back down again to come around. Then looked over to see that Toby was lying very still next to me. On closer inspection I realised he was fast asleep too! 

I stroked his hair and whispered to him that it was time to wake up but he snoozed until I got him into the car! He was so cute and peaceful, curled up on the carpet! 

We must have looked a sight though! Two bodies laid out on the living room floor in the middle of the afternoon!! 

When he woke up in the car he said with a smile on his face "See! I told you I wouldn't fall asleep on the way to school!" 

No you didn't Toby. But thank goodness I woke up when I did or Charlotte would have been the only kid left at school! 

This evening he told me that he came over and tickled my feet and when I didn't move he packed up the game and then decided he was tired too so laid down with me. Bless him! 

One of those stories that you want to remember when they are big and grown up and have left home...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

a night at the theatre...

I took Charlotte to see her first broadway musical this month. 

She loves watching live shows but this was the first time we went out on a Mummy-daughter date, all dressed up, for a night out at the theatre. 

I've always loved going to the theatre. As a kid I loved pantomimes and the farces that the amateur dramatics group put on at the local Church. 

I remember my first broadway show. My parents took us to see Les Miserables in Manchester. I really didn't want to go! I thought it would be boring classical music and remember making quite a fuss about going (sorry Mum and Dad!). Boy was I wrong! I loved it! It definitely started my love affair with musical theatre.

As a teenager, friends and I would pay £10 to stand at the back of the stalls to watch musicals like Phantom and Les Mis in the Manchester city centre theatres. And I still love them to this day. I've seen Phantom of the Opera in Manchester, London and New York. I've seen most of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals and my new favourite is Wicked! 

I love the whole experience. From getting dressed up, to looking around the historic theatres with their grand staircases, breathtaking views from the opera circle and beautiful decor. Live music can move me to tears, I find it so powerful. 

So I really wanted our kids to love it too. They are used to sitting still for long periods of time (thanks to 8 hour flights to the UK and back) so we've been able to take them to a few shows at our Church and at Disney. They are often on the edges of their seats, mesmerised by the performance in front of them. 

When I heard that Beauty and the Beast was coming to Kalamazoo I decided it would be perfect for Charlotte and I. It didn't start until 7:30 so it was a bit late really, but she is a night owl like me so easily stayed awake until we left at 10:30! 

The whole way there she kept saying "This is so exciting! I love you Mummy!". We arrived just in time to get our seats and discuss how the last time we were there was for her school production of 'A Christmas Carol'. That made the evening even more special! 

She sat so still through the whole show, watching in awe as the characters sang and danced across the stage. The show had a couple of slightly inappropriate story lines and costumes but I think it went over her head! It was really quite funny in parts and quite the production with lights and streamers! 'Be our guest' was my favourite and Charlotte said hers was the lady sing with Besuty and the Beast. 
She stood up at the end to applause each of the performers and the look of adoration on her face when Belle came on the stage was wonderful! 

We had a lovely time together and I hope she remembers it for a long time to come. Hopefully she might even recall the night to her kids one day. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

red rocks and pink jeeps...

Around Thanksgiving we got the amazing opportunity to go away without the kids for a much needed re-charge (thank you Granny and Papa!).

I asked for some advice on where to go and got a resounding vote for Sedona in Arizona. A new place for us and a 'tick' on the 'places to visit in America' list.

So we packed our bags, flew to Phoenix (4 hours on a plane with no kids and you can accomplish quite a lot - I almost read a whole book!) then drove 2 hours north to Sedona. We arrived under the cover of darkness so had no idea what was around us until we opened the curtains the next day......

This was the view out of our window! 

Part of the resort. 
It is set into the canyon so there are views like this wherever you are in the resort - 
in the spa, the restaurants, the pool or your room. 

The red rocks in Sedona are just so beautiful.

Cathedral Rock

Chapel of the Cross

At sunset they light up as the setting sun shines all of it's glory on them.

Each day we ate breakfast in our room, went for a hike, had a rest, ate lunch, hiked, rested, ate dinner and then more relaxation in the spa.


The days were warm and sunny but being in the desert, the nights were freezing! Sedona is about 15oF colder than Phoenix so we didn't get to do a lot of sunbathing. The highs during the day were only 50-55oF but the sun made it feel warmer.

On the Friday morning we took a Pink Jeep tour around Sedona. It was just the two of us as we booked onto the extended tour at the last minute.We got to see a lot of the rock formations in and around Sedona and had a lot of fun riding in the jeep. I won't spoil all of the surprises it in case you ever get the chance to go to Sedona, but if you do, I highly recommend the Pink Jeep Tours.

Fault lines run through the rocks

Cheesy magazine pose! 

Our tour guide took my camera and had a bit of fun with a photoshoot... What a location to get some couple shots!

I was cracking up too much to play along - this was the 'help we are falling down the rocks' shot! 

Saturday morning we took a group hike from the resort to the Teacup trail. I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to keep up but we did a really easy hike and I was able to take lots of photos and enjoy the stunning surroundings.

There were a couple of places to hike to from the resort. Up on this rock you could find a flute player who handed out heart shaped rocks and a girl playing a didjeridu. We listened to the music and just sat and took in the view. 

And of course we had to try the prickly pear margaritas! Cheers!

An actual prickly pear (anyone singing the Jungle Book song?!) 

We spent the last night at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix as we had an early flight home and we wanted to do a bit of shopping at the big mall in Phoenix. 

The art deco hotel lit up at night. 

And then it was time to leave and go home to hug our babies.

Pretty things to see at the airport (you know how I love colour!!) 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas in Kalamazoo...


A new year.

The last year was full of change for our family. New house, job, cars. It was also full of adventure and new friendships.
By Christmas time we were ready for a break.
A chance to breathe. A chance to relax. A chance to get straight.

Jeremy's parents were here for a couple of days after Thanksgiving so as a thank you for having our kids for us (more about that another day) we took them to see 'Elf the musical' at a local theatre. It was fun and bright and full of the cheesy comedy you'd expect! We all really enjoyed it and it got us into the festive spirit.

We also took them to see the lights being turned on in Bronson Park downtown and to the Christmas barn in Vicksburg to pick out our tree and have a look round their shop. It's one of my favourite places to go in the run up to Christmas. The barn is full of pretty ornaments and festive decorations. It was so nice to have been able to take the there and think about them when we are there next Christmas or when I look at the ornaments on the tree that we chose together.

Because we can't just take a normal photo! 

This year we went to the Union to decorate gingerbread houses with our neighbours. There were 3 families and 6 kids between us. The restaurant did a great job and the kids loved it! Ours decorated their house within about 5 minutes but friends, lunch and Santa kept them amused the rest of the time. I really hope we get to do it again next year!

What was I saying about family photos?! 

We also went to the Church near the library for their live nativity. It is so much more than just Mary and Joseph and some animals. They transform their basement and take you on a journey through Bethlehem telling the story of Christmas with kids and adults acting out scenes as you move through the different areas. Our kids' favourite bit is the angels singing 'Gloria'. Such a great way to teach the kids the story of Jesus' birth.

Charlotte and I went to see Excel Dance's performance of the nutcracker. They only do it every two years but she is already practicing, hoping she can be in it next time! I downloaded some of the music and she has been dancing around the house saying "Mummy is this the flower song or the snow flakes?" She is such a little performer.

This year our Church put on a performance of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. Growing up I remember watching Snoopy cartoons on the tv but not taking too much notice. Here, Charlie Brown movies are popular at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had no idea what Charlie Brown had to do with Christmas and Church but it all became clear as we watched the show. Our kids loved it and were so sad when it all finished. Charlotte now says it's her favourite Christmas movie! I wish they had recorded the show or at least the songs. The arts director wrote a lot of them and they were so catchy - Charlotte has been singing them all holiday.

It was a scramble to get the Church ready in time. We moved buildings in the weeks leading up to the show and the whole place had to be repainted / furniture etc moved and everything rearranged. It was fun to be a part of it and the kids got involved too. Amazing that it all came together the day of the first performance.

This year Charlotte was able to be a part of the Gagie school 'A Christmas Carol' (we were away last year) and I have to say that we were blown away. We love the emphasis that the school puts on music and so does Charlotte. Her kindergarten class did a great job on such a big stage (the show was at the Miller Auditorium - a 3500 seat theatre) and the performances from the solo musicians on stage before the show started, to the singing, acting and dancing of the whole school, was outstanding.

The Kindergarteners on stage

Post show celebratory donuts! 

Toby's show was also really cute. The last preschool Christmas show for us - he'll be at the Miller next year! He was very proud of his new blue tie and wanted to make sure everyone could see it - a smart dresser like his Daddy!

We also did the annual 'lights drive' around Kalamazoo with the addition of a lights show at Gull Meadow Farms. Well worth a drive up there and we came home with a big bag of apples as their market was closing and everything was half price.

Jeremy and I also went out for dinner and drinks with a group of friends from the end of our neighbourhood that we lived in when we first moved to the US. It was so nice to be included and have a kid-free few hours to catch up and celebrate together.

And then we all caught a virus and had to take it easy. It was hard to say no to a couple of party invites but we were grateful it didn't take us out too badly and we were able to enjoy Christmas Eve, Boxing day and New Years Eve with friends.

Life in Kalamazoo really has changed for us over the last few years.
It is really does feel like home now.
It doesn't have any of our family but our door is always open to visitors and technology brought them into our living room on Christmas day, which is the next best thing.

And so to a new year. 2015. A quiet one I hope. I am so ready for some stability. I know a few people who share that feeling. Christmas serves as a reminder of what we have lost but hopefully joy in looking forward to what is to come.