Thursday, August 6, 2015

Travels with M&M&G: All around the US of A!

After taking a huge break from blogging throughout our summer, I've decided that it's time to do a little catching up! We are currently in the midst of school year preparations and are excited about how our school calendar looks this year (it's just like normal, for those of you in America - we start in August and end in May). Michael and I are both working; I am teaching full time, and Michael is teaching part time. Our (incredible) administrators have worked out our schedules so that one of us can always be at home with Gerrit! It will mean some switching back and forth during the school day, but we are so grateful that we have the opportunity to be able to teach and be full time parents. 

Michael, particularly, had an awesome "welcome back to teaching" moment today. We were walking out to 7-11, and were stopped by a student who graduated this past March. This student took some classes at a university over the summer, and was shocked by how difficult the work was - particularly the presentations. He specifically sought out Michael this afternoon to thank him for teaching him how to do projects/presentations, and even more for grading the projects so hard. Michael worked so hard last semester to help the 12th graders prepare for college, and they (obviously) didn't appreciate it at the time. It's good to know that at least one of them is grateful in hindsight, though! That conversation definitely made Michael's day (and mine, too!).

With that little update, let me catch you up on the last few months! We had a four month summer break; looking back, it's hard to believe that it's over already. However, we have to say that we used the time well! We spent the first month and a half in Thailand - Michael's parents came to visit for a week, and the rest of the time we just chilled out and enjoyed our time as a family. Then, in the middle of May, we traveled to the States. And that's where the epic journey begins!

On our international flights, we were able to get seats toward the front of the section, and the flight attendants put a bassinet on the wall in front of us so Gerrit could sleep in it! It was the best thing EVER. Seriously. 

So, we flew into Chicago, and were picked up there by my parents (who hadn't seen Gerrit since he was a week old!). Fortunately, Gerrit was an awesome traveler while on the airplane. Unfortunately, he had reached his limit by the time we got in the car, and since he was cold and had to be strapped into a car seat, he screamed the entire trip. Poor little guy! About 10 days in Indiana gave us enough time to get over jet lag, and then we hopped over to Michigan for Memorial Day weekend. 

Just after Memorial Day, we flew from Chicago to Omaha, where we were greeted by Michael's aunt. We drove a couple of hours to Northwest Iowa, and spent two days there, visiting with Grandma Van Maanen. Our Gerrit was named after Grandpa VM, who passed away several years ago; it was really special to get to introduce Gerrit to his Great Grandma for that reason!

From there, Michael's other grandparents picked us up and brought us to their house in Minnesota, where we stayed for the next couple of days. We visited with some aunts, uncles, and cousins along the way, and had a wonderful time seeing so many people that we haven't seen since we've lived in Thailand.

From Minnesota, we flew to Washington, where we stayed with Michael's parents for a few weeks. After those five days of nearly constant traveling, it was AMAZING to be able to stay in the same location for so long! We even got to unpack our suitcases and use dresser drawers! (Never underestimate the power of dressers. For real. They are what make a vacation seem like a home.) We saw a lot of growth in Gerrit during those weeks - he gained a lot of weight, started eating solid food (yay bananas!!), and became more and more curious about his surroundings. We came to the point where Michael's dad ("Pops") was even able to put Gerrit to bed faster and more effectively than I could!

Another highlight from our stay in Washington was that we got to see some of our really good friends again. We taught with them for four years; their son was born in Bangkok and is only four months older than Gerrit. They live in Vancouver; we visited them there for a day, and they came down and stayed a weekend at Michael's parents' house, too. It was so much fun hiking and hanging out again. 

The last full week of June, we took a road trip (because...why not?)! From Northwest Washington, we drove down into Oregon and stayed on the coast for a few nights in deluxe cabins. We liked to say we were camping...but in all reality we weren't. Deluxe cabins are totally the way to go, I think. I like campfires. And beds. And my own bathroom. And running water in the same location as my bathroom. I haven't ever seen such beauty as what is along that coast, though. I'll post pictures next time.

From there, we drove into northern California, and ended up in Sacramento for a cousin's wedding. It turned into a big ol' party with the Van Maanen clan, starting before the wedding (everyone stayed in the same hotel!), and ending several days later at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Tahoe also has a whole lot of beauty that I've never experienced before. We went hiking in the mountains (over 9,000 feet elevation), and the air up there tasted so much better than anything I remember breathing. It tasted like dust and pine - maybe that sounds disgusting, but it really wasn't!

In the beginning of July, a week after Michael's cousin's wedding in California, we got to go to my cousin's wedding in Michigan! We spent a couple of weeks in the Grand Rapids area, mostly hanging out with my family, but meeting up with a few of our old friends, too. We were so thankful to be able to borrow my mom's car during this time, so we could run our own errands, meet up with friends in different places, and not feel like we were stuck the whole time! We drove back to Indiana and spent our final 9 days in the US with my parents. We spent lots of time playing (Baby G was starting to try to figure out how to crawl!), both inside and outside. I got to pick blueberries - haven't done that in a really long time - and eat some sweet corn right off the cob! The big highlight, though, was that Gerrit had the privilege of attending his first ever Chicago Cubs game! He loved it most of the time...until the very end when he was exhausted and the cheering got really loud. 

So, we've been back in Bangkok for a little over a week now, and feel like we've adjusted back pretty well. It was a crazy summer. I'll leave you with some stats, just to prove my point (and because stats are fun!)

From May 13th through July 28th (76 days) we:
-- traveled to 10 different states and 1 Canadian province
-- flew on 8 different airplanes for a total of about 21,812 miles
-- drove about 2,737 miles in four different vehicles (using that many different car seats - so glad we didn't have to take one on the airplanes!)
-- slept in 14 different beds (only 7 for Gerrit)
-- and met up with more relatives than I'm willing to take the time to count. :) 

Not bad for a single summer, huh? The moral of the story is this: we are blessed. We are thankful. We could not have done all of this without our incredible families to welcome us with open arms, homes, and refrigerators! 

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