Home for the Holiday

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” – George Moore

Choosing a date to head home for our summer vacation came pretty easily this year.

One of the other many things we’ve learned from living abroad is how much we appreciate home.  Yes, definitely family and friends, but also our home country.   It was the place we were raised, where we both planted our roots and where we blossomed.

Last year, we weren’t prepared for how sad we felt when we missed the 4th of July.  Therefore, this year, we made sure that we would be there for it, making our trip both a celebration of Independence day and a celebration of those we love.

When we come back to visit, we do so to see you all, to catch up, to snag a hug.  But we know life is busy, summers in particular.  Those 12 or so weekends can easily be filled faster than a Packers game.

However, I’m fairly certain that we are blessed with the most wonderful family and friends on the PLANET.  The number of people who set aside weekends, weekdays, took time off of work, hosted us, held parties and/or dinners at their houses, hired babysitters, fed us, drove us around, celebrated birthdays, and just spent time with us, was magical. 

We adore spending time with you all.  We love watching our children develop beautiful friendships with your children.  It is all an incredible gift, and now that we’ve been so far removed for awhile, not one we’ll ever take for granted again.

Also, as parents to three children, we also understand how much work it is to dedicate this much of yourselves to us when you have a family, a career, a life, to think about at home.

We truly struck the lottery with all of you, with your tireless generosity and love. We felt your love from the moment we landed until the moment we departed! (well, obviously still do, but you know what I mean!)

Man, do you now how hard it is to say goodbye to 24 hours a day of love for 17 straight days?!?

No, it’s never enough time.  

Yes, undoubtedly this round made it the hardest to leave again.

But also, the time we spent with all of you was exactly what we needed to be able to return to Chile and continue to experience this adventure with energy and gratitude.

WE LOVE YOU ALL and will CHERISH THESE MEMORIES FOREVER! 

Now that said, what fun we had!!

Atlanta

Our first stateside stop involved a short early morning layover in Atlanta.  Any tiredness or sluggishness we may have been experiencing from the red-eye was completely obliterated when the dear Sarah DiGregorio met up with us for breakfast! This dear woman, came bearing gifts for the children (an255 - Copyd really also gifts for the padres as they were activities for the next plane ride!) and lots of hugs! It was so amazing to see her, and so bittersweet because we only had about an hour, and that was nowhere near enough; but I’ll take what I can get!!!  Best layover EVER!

THANK YOU DEAR SARAH! YOU ARE AN ANGEL!

Madison/Milwaukee

A short plane ride later we were greeted at the gate with the usual but completely unusual, incredible display of pomp and circumstance by Boss, Ama, Tia and Teddy, beginning our vacation began with a bang! (I mean, seriously, have you ever seen anything this cool in an airport?!)

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From there the party continued at the Davis household, complete with a Friday BBQ with the Davis’, Boss & Ama, and Jen & Adam and family!

And we ate up the sun and heat, given that it was our “tropical vacation to MN and WI”, coming from Chile’s cold and wet winter.

Fast forward to Saturday and the celebration continued with a fabulous pool party hosted by Shane & Tarah, including all of the above people plus the amazing arrival of Rara & Uncle Jeremy, the McDonalds and the Madsons!   259 262 - Copy 263 - Copy 271 - Copy 272 - Copy 277 - Copy 280

Honestly, we were in heaven.  Everyone enjoyed the delicious pig roast, the warm pool and/or hot-tub, and above all the best of company.  It was a pretty perfect day; a perfect weekend. 

Sunday we spent Father’s Day relaxing in the pool, and the kiddos were able to try out the inflatable jet ski from Ama.

Did I say try out? I mean, more like, got on and refused to get off!

Particularly Greyson and Ellie…Greyson enjoying the cruise, Ellie enjoying pointing the water gun at people’s faces (-:

As always, the Davis’ were incredible hosts.  There’s no better way to kick off a vacation than to be surrounded by family and friends.  ❤

THANK YOU FOR SEVERAL AMAZING DAYS SHANE AND TARAH! AS ALWAYS YOU SPOIL US! WE LOVE YOU GUYS!

Green Bay

We proceeded to head up to Green Bay for some quick shopping and reassembling of bags, and set sail (in Tom’s long-lost black beauty) for Rara and Tim’s house in Minnesota, getting to see Rara, Tim, Uncle Jeremy, Aiden, Grandma Carrie and Grandma Elaine.

Minnesota

Our 3 days there were fantastic.  Four-wheeling, swimming, picking strawberries, chasing butterflies, catching fireflies, woodworking (Maddie), visiting the dairy farm, feeding the baby cows, riding in a tractor, and visiting Grandma Elaine.  And as always, they all treated us to a perfectly perfect time.  Well, the old adage is true:  time flies when you are having fun…toooooo fast.   291 293 296 297 300 301 306 307 312 313

THANK YOU SARA, TIM, AIDEN, JEREMY, MOM AND GRANDMA—-WE HAD AN AMAZING TIME AND LOVE YOU TO PIECES!  311

Friday we hopped in the old caboose and headed up to Prior Lake for a wonderful gathering at the beautiful new home of Aaron and Leah and their sweet ninos.  It was marvelous to catch up with them, marvel at Leah’s amazing decorating skills, watch the kiddos in heaven with new friends and new toys, and then proceed to enjoy the remainder of the night at their house with Michelle and Dale, Alyssa, Trisha, and a few of Tom’s other friends from college.

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Truth:  Sometimes all you need is to share a drink and good conversation around a bonfire with good friends.

THANK YOU FOR HOSTING WOLLENBERGS! WE ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR OUR FRIENDSHIP!

Saturday we all headed over to visit Dale and Michelle’s marvelous new home, and then onward to Joe and Alyssa’s beautiful new home for a pool party!

All these incredible new homes—-we are SO, SO HAPPY FOR ALL OF YOU!!!! What fun to be able to see them!

At the Balster’s we were blessed with the presence of Brittany & Tom’s family, Trisha and Mark’s family, Melissa & Steve’s family, along with again the Balsters, Wolfs, and Wollenbergs.  489344 345 320

An incredible  home 4day.  19  357children played wonderfully, splitting up their time between the pool, slip n’ slide and trampoline.  And of course, it was pretty perfect being able to spend the day with some of our favorite grown ups (-:  That Sunday, the Balster family presented Miss Ellie her a candlelit birthday doughnut for her 2nd birthday!   Soooooo sweet!

346THANK YOU FOR HOSTING BALSTERS! WE APPRECIATE YOU SOOOOO MUCH!

AND THANK YOU FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US POHLS, WOLFS, SPEARS’ AND COLLOVAS! WE LOVE YOU ALL!

And Side note-there were a lot of people we really wish we could have seen while in Minnesota, but unfortunately with only a few days, we couldn’t make it work ); So sad, but hopefully next time! ❤

GREEN BAY

From there, we jumped on the rolling train (in the form of Tom’s truck) and headed back to Green Bay to Boss & Ama’s.

Awaiting us there was a gigantic sign attached to the garage door wishing Ellie a happy birthday.   326

Upon arrival, we rested a bit and then headed out to Sammy’s for a birthday dinner celebration.  Two highlights:  Ellie received a BEAUTIFUL handmade wooden jewelry box from Boss; and she also received an ice cream sundae, which she proceeded to drop all over herself! (-:  348

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Our week there was JAM PACKED with both fun and doctor appointments.

Greyson has been developing an evolving obsession with fishing.  As such, it was all he talked about before this trip.  It was all he wanted to do in Wisconsin. 

For his birthday, Greyson received an adorable Khaki fishing vest from Boss and Ama, and I’m legitimately not sure if he took it off.  Following a couple fishing trips with Boss & Daddy, I think it’s safe to say THE HAPPIEST CHILD IN THE WORLD existed in the house, (as if it was possible for him to be happier). He had some very successful fishing trips.  In fact, on one of those adventures he reeled in all by himself a roughly 10 pound catfish.  NICE WORK BUDDY!  331 330 365 366

We also made a trip out to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church with Ama and Katie and Will McDonald for a long-overdue visit, and from there proceeded to hit up the NEW Zoo in Green Bay for a couple hours.  Given that it’s been years since we’ve been to the zoo (meaning I’m not sure that Ellie or Greyson recall much of anything), it was wonderful to witness their excitement at all the different animals.  And of course to close the trip-Maddie, our thrill-seeker, took a trip down the zip line.

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That week Maddie was also able to hit up a movie and the bounce house, play with some of Boss & Ama’s neighbors that she has become friends with over the years, and all of us visited Bay Beach with the Madson family!  369 372 376 373 371 388 385 389 390 391 402 403

I was also able to share a lovely lunch with Merri and Briana. As always, so great to catch up on things, miss them dearly!

That week, a full two and a half days were dedicated to doctor appointments, a necessary evil when we make these trips home.  We headed to Wisconsin Rapids for well-childs and vaccine updates; Stevens Point for and Wausau for check-ups, and finally Wausau for an updated EGD for Greyson.  Of course, never easy on momma, but he did wonderfully and the procedure itself went off without a hitch.  Thank God.

Tom and I were able to sneak in a golf date-which was AWESOME.  It’s been YEARS since we played, and we had a blast, as well as a night out with the Madson’s and McDonald’s in downtown Green Bay.  home 6   401 404

It was so nice to be able to have some quality catch-up time with these dear friends, though once again, ended far too soon for my liking!

Truth:  Sometimes you just need to hit up an outside bar patio on the river with good friends and gab, gab and gab some more.   BOY do we miss that!

THANK YOU MCDONALDS AND MADSONS-FOR ALL THE TIME YOU GAVE US, AND FOR ALL THE FRIENDSHIP.  WE LOVE YOU ALL!

And of course, the week FLEW, and Friday we held a little birthday celebration for the kiddos at Ashwaubemay Lake in Green Bay.  Tarah, Shane, Teddy, Sara, Tim, Jeremy and Aiden all drove in for it, and Boss & Ama, the Madson’s, Smith’s (both Carol and Arlen as well as Beth and Hod’s fam), McDonald’s and Gauthier’s came as well! We just have so much love in our hearts for that group of people…the BEST gift of all that day was simply being TOGETHER.

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And Ama of course had the BEST party games planned EVER! She is so incredible about doing these at the parties; they always seem to be the highlight for all of the kids ❤

And side note-Maddie swam out to the diving board in the lake for the first time; then jumped off the high dive for the first time, and then proceeded to do flips off the high dive….you go girl!   424

Saturday, the 4th of July, Sara gave Ellie her first haircut!

Also, we were able to spend some quality time with the Smith’s at their house, celebrating the birthdays of Isaiah and Elijah.

*Interesting aside:  On our way there we swung by Wal Mart and ran into former Packer KGB.  He was interviewing people about the 4th of July, surveying how many people actually discussed the meaning of the holiday.  He informed us that we were only one of two families that responded that we did.  Very impressive man, and love that he’s spreading that message.  Hopefully he reached some people.

As always, it was absolutely lovely getting some one-on-one time with the Smith family; necessary really! And here’s Beth, who had 2 birthday cakes of her own to worry about (one for a 1st birthday), and she made Greyson his own egg-free, DELICIOUS, chocolate tres leches cake.  Yum! He was in heaven—-he is NOT used to that as an option!  The kids played, played and played some more on the slip n slide and the INCREDIBLE baseball field they’ve put in in their back yard.   430 433 435 442 449 444 432 426 427

And of course, we were the last to leave, because let’s face it, we could’ve talked forever, and goodbyes are so hard, and were getting harder by the minute! But alas it was necessary, always is ):

THANK YOU DEAR SMITHS-WE CHERISH OUR FRIENDSHIP SO MUCH!

From there we headed into Green Bay to catch a quick fireworks show.

Here’s the thing about fireworks.

When we lived in the United States, we could have taken them or left them.  It always seemed late, and it’s definitely crowded in the downtown areas wherever you are.

But now that we’ve lived abroad, our thankfulness for the United States has reached new heights; heights that I intend to describe in an entirely separate blog post because one paragraph here wouldn’t do it any justice.

Let me just say that for us:  watching the fireworks, engaging in a celebration of our country’s Independence, whether it was in a backyard or downtown, was SUPER important to Tom and I this year.  We felt lucky to be able to be here for that.

And they didn’t disappoint.  The kids were in heaven.  Greyson last saw them when he was less than 2, and Maddie 5, so it was practically new for them.  We ooed and awed with the best of them, and really truly felt JOY in our hearts for being able to be there (-:

Of note, our brother Andrew was the only sibling not with us, as he is stationed in the Middle East right now as a Marine.  We missed him greatly, but are SO VERY proud of him, and held him very close to our hearts that night.  ❤447 464 - Copy 451 home 2

It was a lovely 4th to be sure ❤

Fast Forward to Sunday.  We had a lovely breakfast and tearfully engaged in goodbyes with my sister, Tim, Aiden and Jeremy. How lucky are we that they made TWO trips to Wisconsin to be with us; they are absolutely amazing people. 

Damn goodbyes.

Then, I spent the first half of the day, (more?) assembling, packing, weighing, unpacking, and re-packing our luggage.  Let me say, there’s not much comparable to packing for airplane travel for a family of 5 for a 2 1/2 week trip.

Milwaukee

Once I wrapped up, we all (including the Davis and Tritt families) jetted down to Milwaukee and went straight to the casa of Adam and Jen for a lovely dinner with the most delicious kabobs.  To top off a wonderful visit, their neighbor gave quite the fireworks show from his backyard—the cherry on top.  289HOME 1 480

Monday,

Tarah set up a photo shoot for the kids in 4th of July gear, which was AMAZINGLY adorable! Later, Tarah, Jen and I had a lovely little afternoon visit at a local restaurant.

It always means so much to me when I can get that one-on-one time, as sometimes with kids, well, it’s an impossibility! Love it!

THANK YOU JEN AND ADAM! WE LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOU GUYS TO PIECES!

Alas, the black X on the calendar arrived.  It was Tuesday. 

Maddie had an extremely hard time with leaving this time; in truth, we all did.  She begged and begged for one more day.

“Please! Call the airport! Ask for one more day! That’s all I need and then I’ll go!”

(ugh, killer)

We gently explained it doesn’t work that way.

And so, we loaded up, drove to Madison, and began to check in.

And what do ya know, but our flight was delayed, meaning we’d miss our red-eye, meaning we couldn’t leave until the next day, same time. 

Got your wish, Maddie!

Sadly we still said goodbye to Boss, as he had to head back to Green Bay for work.  )-:  Then we simply enjoyed the gift of another 24 hours with Ama, Tarah, Shane and Teddy.

Oh, and had a small spill at the local trampoline center…Greyson made sure with his extra time to sneak in his requisite ER visit (it seems we can’t miss one of those on these trips back!) and sprained his knee.  Poor little guy-he handled it like a champ and has recovered perfectly. 

And let me just say, we are obsessed with Miss Teddy, and feel so blessed to be able to spend so much more time with her, getting to know the incredibly sweet, hilarious, independent little girl she is growing into.  And her laugh—-BEST. LAUGH. EVER!  The kids talk about her every day! Love that bean!  ❤

476 470AND THANK YOU TO BOSS AND AMA! FOR ALL THAT YOU DO, FOR THE PICK-UPS, FOR ALLOWING US TO TAKE OVER YOUR HOUSE, THE GENEROSITY, THE EXPERIENCES, AND THE LOVE! IT ALL MEANS THE WORLD TO US!  WE LOVE YOU!

It went fast.  And we departed.   485 483 481

And it wasn’t easy.  Never is );

But I suppose we are so blessed to have such hard goodbyes, because that means we have people in our lives that we love so much, and that love us.  What a gift.

THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR EVERYTHING—YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY REALLY KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO US, BUT PLEASE KNOW, IT MEANS SO MUCH.

All our Love,

Tom, Laura, Maddie, Greyson, and Ellie

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” – Frederick Buechner

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2 thoughts on “Home for the Holiday

  1. You are so loved! I feel a bit out of breath after reading about that “vacation,” whew you sure got a lot in. We loved spending time with you and your family. Enjoy Chile-I have a feeling it won’t be long now!

  2. Oh Laura! All that I’d clean forgotten because we dod SO much in the bat of an eye, you recorded with your “Beautiful Mind”. Family, friends & relationships are the blessings of God.
    We want you home
    because we miss you
    because we need you
    because we love you!
    But, Tom’s best is SO good that Ocean Spray still needs him there. You still have more to discover, more people to meet & more to be taught from that part of the world. And, in a “mo” you will be home. 😘😘😘😘😘

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