Saturday, July 21, 2012

About to Set Sail

 The moving truck came on Thursday.

 It started like this...

...and ended today like this.

Everything is in except a few odds and ends.
The driver will come mid-day Monday to pick it up and take it to Michigan.
The boys and I are camping out on air mattresses for the next couple nights.
My mom is doing a major attack on the laundry (YAY for moms!).

We celebrated this princess's 2nd birthday this afternoon...

and we'll say our good-byes to my brothers and their families tomorrow (*tear*) before we head out bright and early Monday morning.

My presence will be light on the blog for the next couple weeks (what's new?) as we travel and begin to get settled in our new home.

{I don't typically post a lot of photos on Facebook, but now that I'm smart phone capable you may see a few "progress" shots appearing there.}

Stay tuned!
Ta ta for now!

Friday, July 13, 2012

See Ya Later, Dad!

The official countdown has begun!

Brad left around 8 this morning, heading for Michigan to begin his first day of work as the new Associate Pastor of Family Ministries at Midland Reformed Church.  He'll make it to town tomorrow, ready to worship with our new church family on Sunday, and begin moving into his office on Monday.

For me and the boys, this means we'll be without Dad for 10 days.

But this also means that in only 9 days, we'll begin our journey to our new home!

Watch out, we come! :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Return to Birch Lake

We were able to make a return visit to Brad's sister's and brother-in-law's cabin on Birch Lake a couple weekends ago {June 30-July 3}.  We gathered there with Brad's family to celebrate summer, the Fourth of July, and Brad's mom's 70th birthday.  And for the four of us, it was one last hurrah with the fam before hitting the road for Michigan.

Eating - boating - swimming - playing - sandbar-ing - domino-ing - gaming - puzzling - grilling - Wii-ing - fishing - sand castle building - sunburning - canoe-ing - tubing - skiing - spitting {the game} - movie watching - golfing - celebrating - chatting - floating - kayaking - cuddling - sleeping - reading...

With 20 of us there, there was a lot happenin'!  

We heart our family.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer, So Far

I dare say that this year's Summer List may go down as the largest epic fail in summer history.

Just about halfway through, and we haven't done much.

Our legit excuse: we're moving!!!!...which is not only a big task, but it is, by far, the best thing that could've happened to us this summer!  Hopefully August will prove to be productive for our summer endeavors. :)  

Here's what we've accomplished so far...

 Fun Food Friday...the first and the last: strawberry smoothies.
(Fun Foods and Crafts just aren't going to happen this go 'round.)

 Play at the local parks.  At least one, anyway.

 Visit the farm at Sibley Park.

 Picnic at the park.

Make homemade ice cream.
Thanks to Papa, we've done this twice. ;)

We are also knee deep into reading our books for the library's summer reading program.
We've gone on vacation.
And we've gone on a number of bike rides.

Not to be accomplished:
swimming lessons
Twins game

Not terrible.  Not fantastic.
But I think we're all feeling the summer blues.
"Packing boxes" wasn't on the let's finish that up already and get on with the fun!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Shortly after we heard the official word about Brad's new job, we went into super-hyper-planning mode, trying to figure out how we can make the transition to Midland as quickly and as painlessly as possible.  First task...find a place to live.

So after making a few phone calls and arrangements, Brad and I hightailed it off to Michigan (for the third time in two months!) on Friday, June 22 to find our new home.

Here she is!

After spending three days looking at roughly 15 homes, and almost deciding on a different one, we took a look at this cute little ranch, that, online, didn't look at all attractive to me {hello overgrown landscaping...ever hear of garden shears?!?!}.  And compared to the charm and character of some other homes that we had seen {one of which was my absolute dream home}, this one lacked any kind of "wow" factor.  And it was slightly out of our price range.  But I turned off the cutesy and turned on the practical, and both Brad and I found that this house had just about everything we had said we wanted in a home.

And now she's ours!

I cannot wait!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Celebrating the 4th {when it's too hot outside}

When it's hotter than blazes outside, there isn't much desire, by anyone, to venture out and do anything...even on the Fourth of July.  At 100 degrees, I just wasn't in the mood.  So we didn't go to the parade and instead spent the day packing boxes in the basement. :)  

But we all wore red.  And had a bomb pop.  Or two.  

Much to Brad's dismay, I couldn't not take the boys to see the fireworks.  On the recommendation of my brother, we drove into the parking lot of a local business that ended up having the perfect view of the sky.  We arrived about 15 minutes before the show began, popped open the back of the van,

  cracked a few glow sticks, and waited for the show to begin.

It wasn't the best ambiance for a fireworks show {paved parking lot, building, street lights, etc} but for the 20 minute show, it sufficed.  We beat the traffic and the crowds in 90 degree heat and still saw the sky show...not bad at all!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Family Vacation, Part III {In the Van}

Knowing that we'd be spending a significant amount of time in the van during our vacation {approximately 1,500 miles} I wanted to have a pretty good game plan for satisfying the boys' antsy-ness and combating boredom.  Truth be told, I thought I could pull it off with minimal use of the DVD player.  Let's get real, though - 1,500 miles is a long stinkin' drive!  Anyway, a couple weeks before our trip, I began scouring the internet for ideas that would occupy our time.

First up, though - seating arrangements.  The boys typically sit in the middle row of the van.  We decided to move them to the back seat and remove one of the middle seats.

This gave them more leg room, provided more space in front of them for toys, food, etc and a spare seat for either Brad or me to sit in the back with them so there isn't the constant leaning-over-the-passenger-seat to get the boys what they need.  This idea: Brilliant!  It worked out great.

The space in front of the boys, where one of the middle seats was taken out, looked a little like this:

This picture was taken on the last day of vacation...please trust me when I say it was a bit more organized when we first started!  There were 3-4 bags of food, a cooler, and a ginormous toy/activity bag.

About the food: we had the usual travel snacks, but we had also decided to pack the fixings for several lunches/dinners.  Read: sandwiches!  This saved us money but it also saved our waistlines.  We did eat out a few times, but it was very refreshing to have fruit and cheese and yogurt available.  

Among the ideas that I had seen online, these are a couple that worked successfully for us...

Tracking our travel time by the hour.  Idea found HERE.
The boys really liked this.  We had two separate cars-on-ribbon for the two legs of our trip.  It really made the hours seem to go by faster when Brad would tell us we could move the car to the next number. 

The classic license plate game.
When I was a kid, I loved this game.  We typically listed all the states on a piece of paper and crossed them off as we saw them.  I saw this idea of coloring in the map and thought it was brilliant for the boys.  They each got a clipboard {which was useful for coloring and Car Bingo, as well}, a blank map, and a package of markers (washable!).  Drew was really into this, constantly asking what the license plates say, but he soon bored of the coloring part and asked me to do it.  Reed colored the entire map after the first couple states.  Ha!  

A few other ideas that worked for us... 

Car Bingo found HERE {I printed each card and slid them into plastic page protectors.  Use a dry erase marker and use them over and over again.}

Books to read

Color Wonder books and markers

Pipe cleaners {the idea was to use these to shape and mold into different things, but we ended up only making bracelets}

And there were a handful of ideas that we never tried, and others that didn't work at all.  That's what the DVD player was for.

And the extra space between us in the front seat and the boys in the back seat was especially enjoyable when Barney came on for the upteenth time.  :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Family Vacation, Part II

The second half of our vacation – and the entire reason we went on vacation in the first place – took us to Midland, Michigan upon the invitation of Midland Reformed Church. As you now know, Brad has been called as the Associate Pastor of Family Ministries at MRC. In order to really explain the purpose of this particular visit, let me give you a brief synopsis of the last couple months of the application process.

Brad first sent his profile to apply for this position sometime in February...I think. By the end of March, he had interviewed via phone with the search committee at the church. Two weeks later, the chair of the committee called Brad, inviting us to come to Midland for the weekend, for more extensive interviewing as well as meet-and-greets and other such activities. Brad and I flew out to Midland the first weekend in May – and had a most fantastic time. We felt really good about what we had seen and heard as well as the people we met, and we hoped that they felt the same about us. The following week, Brad received a call from the vice-president of the Consistory (governing church board), stating that he had received a recommendation from the search committee, naming Brad as the top candidate for the position. The VP then invited all four of us to Midland for another weekend visit, for even more meet-and-greets etc etc etc. It would be the week after this visit that the congregation would vote on whether or not to call Brad to the job.


On Friday, after our visit to the Chicago area, we headed north into Michigan for our second round of meeting and mingling. And we had a really great time...again. :) I took not a single photograph. I didn't know how it would look if I whipped out my mother-of-all-cameras and starting shooting away at random gatherings and meetings. So I restrained myself in that regard and instead enjoyed the weekend without worrying about taking photos.

Our schedule looked roughly like this....
Even though Brad's call to this position wasn't official, we wanted to get an idea of housing and what the options might be for us, so Jill, a member of the church and a realtor, took us to see about a half dozen homes on Saturday morning. We got a good idea of neighborhoods as well as what the market had to offer us. She took us out for lunch afterward and we had a brief break back at the hotel before we headed out to a park to meet with some younger families of the church. This was probably the best moment of the entire weekend for the boys. They made fast friends with all the kids (so many their age!) and truly enjoyed playing with all of them. They then were invited to go to some of the kids' grandparent's house for dinner while Brad and I shared dinner with the Consistory. Sunday morning included church, which was followed by a short question and answer session between us and the congregation. Then lunch at the mall food court with some church folks, sitting in on both the senior high and junior high youth groups, some rest back at the hotel, and dinner with some new friends.

Of course, we enjoyed the pool as well as the large play area at the hotel.

The weekend was exhausting. And so incredibly awesome. I'll try to share more about it at some point...but let's get back to vacation, shall we?

I picked my camera back up on Monday morning as we headed out of Michigan, on our way back home. After taking the recommendation from some people at church, we decided to take the northern route back home, traveling through the Upper Peninsula. As a plus we could avoid Chicago (and it only ended up adding about an hour onto our total travel time) BUT that meant we had to cross the Mackinaw bridge. Umm...I don't like bridges. They produce a significant amount of anxiety for me. But if you can look past the five mile long bridge with the loud girders and the neverending view of can be a really beautiful sight. The boys aren't old enough to really appreciate the beauty and wonder of it all, so I tried to show the boys how incredibly awesome it is when you look beyond the pitter pattering of your own heart. I could've won an Oscar for that performance. I told Brad I wasn't sure what produced more anxiety for me: that bridge, or Chicago traffic. I guess I'd better get used to it.

Despite the bridge, it was a really beautiful drive. We came to rest in Escanaba, Michigan, where the boys had their first visit to Lake Michigan.

We also had the best hotel pool we've ever seen.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, we traveled the last 400 miles home.

Family vacations... although things never go quite exactly as planned, they're really pretty great. I like 'em a lot.