So... how to capture the good as well as the bad, the difficulties as well as the joys... this is what I've been trying to figure out lately. But that will really have to wait for another post. For now, as the title of this post indicates, I need to recap our recent trip back to the United States.
And how to do that in just 10 pictures? Our six weeks there were filled with so many fun memories. We saw both sides of the family, spent some time with Hillsboro (our sponsoring church), visited with many supporters, including the Somerset church in Pennsylvania, and met up with many friends, both new and old. I limited myself to just 10 pictures to highlight our trip, but I'll try to fill in the gaps with a little commentary along the way.
We began by spending a few days in Michigan with my parents (and my sister and her family who happened to be there, too!):
Celebrating Christmas in Michigan with Nyanya and Babu and the cousins... highlights included the obligatory pic in front of the tree, opening presents (my parents gave us a Wii -- yay!) and tearing down and eating the gingerbread house.
Seeing the model train display at the Henry Ford Museum.
Indoor playgrounds galore! Jungle Java in Detroit, the Monkey's Treehouse in Nashville, Playdate PDX in Portland, and of course, McDonald's Playplaces!
Lots of fun in the snow, in both Michigan and in Pennsylvania -- besides helping build this giant snowman, Alex got to go sledding one day with Daddy and Michaela!From Michigan, we headed south to Nashville, where we spent about a week with the Hillsboro church. A big highlight was the time we got to spend with Hillsboro's new preacher and his family, the Hopes. They have two kids about the same ages as our two boys. We love them already, and we're so glad they are at Hillsboro! We also took a day and drove to Huntsville where we met up with Rick and Marinda Trull, our team coaches, as well as some of Rusty's extended family who live in the area.
From Nashville, we flew out to Portland, OR to spend a few days with Rusty's sister and nephews. Robbie and Johnny are seniors in highschool this year, and they are both starters on the varsity basketball team. We were able to go to one of their games while we were there, which was a lot of fun! We also saw several friends and visited my grandmother (my dad's mom) who lives in Portland.
Cousins ("My big cousins," as Alex calls them!)
From Portland, we flew back to Nashville, and then began a roundabout trip back to Michigan... driving first to Virginia to visit my "oldest friend," Michelle, and her family... then to Pennsylvania to spend some time with our friends Jimmy and Natalie and the Somerset church, also one of our supporters... then finally back to Michigan, stopping along the way to have some down time as a family at the Kalahari Resort in Ohio, home of the largest indoor water park in the U.S!
Stephen liked to float on his back in the giant wave pool while Alex and Daddy had fun on the waterslides!
Back in Michigan, we enjoyed almost two more weeks with my family before we headed back to Portugal.
We took a day and drove to Coldwater to visit my other grandmother (my mom's mom).
There was lots of grandparent time. Stephen liked to use Babu's chest as a ramp for his trains.
Music time with Nyanya... she would play from this book of kids songs she's had forever, and the kids would dance around the living room, playing with noisemakers or pretending to be a choo-choo train, or any number of other things, as the songs dictated. The kids also enjoyed finding the candy hearts that Nyanya would hide around the living room... like an indoor Easter egg hunt.
Celebrating Alex's 5th birthday with his cousins... he didn't actually turn 5 until the end of February after we got back to Portugal, but how often are we going to be able to celebrate with his cousins who live in South America? He wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese, so we did that one evening as part of his present, and then opened presents and had cake and ice-cream at home the next night.