We moved to London in 2015. I made a quick trip home for my brother’s graduation, and we flew to Vegas for Rich’s debut in the World Series of Poker. Other than that, we have not been back to the US. And the kids haven’t been back at all.
Our family has been amazing about making visits to see us in London the last three years and I haven’t been enthusiastic about taking two toddlers on an 8 hour plane ride. We’ve been so happy to have so many visitors. But this year, with Vivian reaching a more palatable-plane-age, we decided it was time.
If I had known that we were going to be moving back to the US in 2019, I may have changed our plans. But, you know what they say about hindsight.
Regardless – it was so much fun. The kids were great little travelers, and it was great time spent with lots of family.
Just getting out the suitcases.
Rich wasn’t able to take off work just yet, so we arranged for Grandma to fly with us.
Then we landed and breezed through border patrol.
Theo was so excited when we got off the plane (who can blame him) that he ran full speed down the jet-way. We were some of the last people off the plane, so the hall was empty for him. I warned him. I know him. He’s clumsy. And sure enough, after a second at top speed – splat – massive face plant. From the sound it made – I anticipated upon reaching him, a broken nose. Seriously. It was awful. I looked awful and it sounded awful. He didn’t even use his hands to break his fall. Nothing broken, thankfully. Just a good bloody nose, rug burn on the forehead, and airport staff checking if we needed help.
We were all good after a trip to the bathroom. And because he’s a kid, he was practically fully recovered by the time we got in the car. And there was only a little bit of face burn left to show.
Then, Poppa Scott picked us up!
And we began the drive from Chicago to Casey.
Within 20 minutes, Vivian declared she didn’t like her carseat and wanted to get out and walk.
By the time we made it to Casey, all four children had fallen asleep.
It was a really really long day.
We spent the next few days relaxing and hanging out with family.
Then we packed back up and drove to Michigan. My dad drove a big truck – with me, Viv, and Theo. And mom drove her car with the big boys. We mitigated the whining in the car with donuts and ipads. And before we knew it – we were there.
My parent’s rented a GIANT victorian in Holland, right near the center of town. It worked as the perfect base for our time there and had pleeeeeenty of room for everyone. Everyone – meaning – my parents, the 6 of my family, my sister’s crew plus the nanny she lovingly brought, and my brother and his girl. Rich was conveniently brought from Chicago by my brother.
We began our time in the Michigan sun with a trip to the nearest beach.
Mom, thoughtfully brought along our beach essentials – a giant peacock and a giant unicorn.
And we were quite the scene on the beach with these.
We have three consecutive July birthdays – 29th, 30th, and 31st.
My sister celebrating 29 again. My brother celebrating 21! And Vivian celebrating 3!
It was fun to be together to celebrate each one.
We spent a beautiful morning at a park along the river.
And this is my one and only picture of our lovely angel-nanny Kelsey. She was amazing with the kids. She was on hand as an extra set of hands at the beach, and allowed us to have adult time every evening. We went out kid-less for beer and pizza for Ike’s birthday, sushi for Erika’s, dinner at a restaurant on the lake, dinner at a local Bavarian restaurant, and a night out at the Coast guard festival the next town over. It was such a special treat for us to have her come along, and made our time in Michigan so relaxing.
Thanks Kelsey. Love ya.
We went jeeping on the sand dunes.
This was my first time for this, and it was really fun.
More beach time.
All the kids enjoyed the beach, but Vivian was especially in love. She kept herself busy working with the sand while we were packing up, thinking we wouldn’t notice her and wouldn’t make her leave. But, sadly, we did have to peel her away.
And we finished the week out with a boat day on the lake.
The kids (and the adults) loved it.
Then it was back in the car, for a drive back down to Illinois.
Our destination – Mattoon, IL.
To spend a week with Rich’s family.
……Where we spent two more days on the lake.
We took all the kids out on the first day, and it was so much fun.
Then, on another day, Grandma stayed home with the kids so we could have an adults-only lake day.
I only have pictures of the kids boat day, and I think that’s a good thing for everyone involved.
The kids repurposed their sandwich bags as “aquariums” while playing on the lily pad.
And that entertained them for a loooong time.
Also while here, we celebrated Vivian’s birthday again and went out for Rich’s mom’s birthday. We attended a family reunion, and a party at the house with old friends. I met up with several girlfriends in the area and did some shopping at Old Navy! and Target!
It was so great to see everyone and have some downtime here.
Newsflash – the summer is really hot in central Illinois.
Naturally, we spent more time playing in the hose.
Then we spent time at a local wildlife refuge.
For our animal-loving kids, this was a real highlight and big surprise for them.
Our time in Mattoon came to an end. And, with sun-kissed faces, we headed back up to Chicago to prepare for our flight back to London. Rich’s sister let us borrow her van for the day, a friend loaned us car seats, and Rich’s mom drove us up.
We drove around the city for a little while, just to take a few peeks around. Then headed out to the airport where we had booked a hotel for the night.
A little swim.
A comfy bed.
Then, wake for an early morning flight.
We, of course, go through the international wing and I wanted a picture with the cool globe and all the flags. But we couldn’t stand here all day because we were sort of in everyone’s way and we needed to get to our gate. So I had to settle for the most terrible picture of them.
Whatever. I tried.
We took the “daytime” flight out of Chicago. Which leaves mid-morning, but lands in London at midnight. The line at border patrol was enormous despite the late hour. Some wonderful airport employee saw us with our four children, and plucked us right out of the border patrol line and put us right up in the front. Saying “Children don’t need to be waiting in line at this hour at night.”
It was almost too good to be true.
But it was. It was true.
We passed through in – I’m not even exaggerating -10 minutes. Saving us at least an hour in line. I wanted to feel bad for all the people left back in line. But, listen, we’ve served our time in the border patrol line, ok? Just let us have this one. With no guilt. And that’s what I did.
Upon landing, you think all the kids would be tired.
But that’s not how it works.
While waiting for our bags, they played wrestle mania.
Our taxi was patiently waiting on the other side of baggage claim and we cruised home in the silence of London at midnight.
Where we were solidly turned around for a good 7 days, and this is the kids eating Cheerios for dinner because we were all messed up and didn’t have any food.
And that’s that.
We did it!
AND we had a great time.