Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Home Leave 2015 -- Illinois, Indiana, NOLA and Bay St. Louis!

Three days after we got home from the South of France, we hopped on a trans-Atlantic flight to the States!
We landed in Chicago and spent a few wonderful days in Geneva with Rob's family. Not only did Bitsy's feet touch U.S. soil for the first time, but she also met her furry older sister, Maple dog! The kids all adjusted beautifully to jet lag. We enjoyed Sandie's home cooked meals and the comfort of "Grammy and Grandpa's" house. And, of course, we couldn't wait to go to Starbuck's and Target as soon as  they opened the doors -- I had been waiting a year for that!
Bitsy's feet touch US soil for the first time.
Long lost sisters!
Then we drove up to Michigan City, Indiana, on the other side of Lake Michigan, to spend a week with Andi, Kyle, Ben, Mollie, Kenny, Evie and my dad and Ning. Andi and Kyle just moved to South Bend for Kyle's radiology job. We swam at the beach and in the pool, paddle boarded, kayaked, took turns making meals and popped over to the outlet malls a few times in the evenings after the kids were all in bed! There was a lot of laughing -- it felt great to all be together.
Ben and John had fun in their outdoor shower.

Three brother-in-laws. Awesome that we would choose our family as friends.
Love that little Evie!
We headed back to Geneva for Bitsy's baptism and a party to end all parties! We loved having more special time with Tom, Sandie and Aunt Nicki.
Next up: We flew down to New Orleans and drove 45 minutes to Bay St. Louis, which is right over the Mississippi border. The first day we were there, my dad took the kids to Walmart to pick out their very own bike -- they rode them every single day afterwards! Andi and 20-month-old Ben joined us in BSL, and we filled our active days swimming at the Yacht Club, wading in the shallow Bay waters, and splashing in the baby pool and Slip 'n Slide, which we set up in the front yard of our rented house while Elizabeth napped. Rob and my dad taught the kids how to fish -- Madeline even caught a shark! And we had a fabulous girl's day in New Orlean's French Quarter eating creole shrimp at the one-and-only Mr. B's. (The waitstaff delicately tied bibs on us, and the maitre d' took Bitsy on a walk through the kitchen!) My dad and Ning took the kids to NASA's Stennis Space Center (15 minutes away) twice! On Rob's last night in town, we had a birthday party down at the pier -- Ning peeled shrimp that were pulled out of the Gulf hours earlier.

Picking out bikes our very first day in BSL.
Little world travelers!
Love this guy. Can't imagine these adventures without him.
Swimming at the Yacht Club
BBQ shrimp at the famous Mr. B's in New Orleans.
Girl day in NOLA
My dad and Ning bought an electric car for getting around!
We rode our bikes everywhere.
Rob headed back to Lux for work, and I stayed on in Bay St. Louis with the kids for another two weeks. Andi and Ben were there most of the time, and I was so grateful to have Ning's niece, Sarah, there to help me as the kids' nanny. One evening, Andi ordered pizza directly to the beach while our kids played -- it was one of my favorite memories from vacation!
Ning's lovely niece, Sarah, was our babysitter!
We flew back to Geneva, IL, where Rob's amazing parents picked up in our rental car and grabbed us at the airport. The next day, they took us to the circus, where Madeline, Charlie and John all rode on an elephant!! We had several more relaxed days before it was time to head home again. This time, Sandie flew back with us -- I was so grateful to have her expert hands. The flight back to Luxembourg was more difficult for the kids, and the Frankfort airport was quite stressful (they had issues with our paperwork at customs). But we made it.
Look at Sandie's "John Grin"!
Oh Maple. We love you so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At the airport, ready for the long flight home....
Home leave 2015. As Charlie would say, it was epic!!

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