Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hinkley Haven

Lauren and I went to visit family and friends in Michigan a few weeks back in August.

Here is part 2 of our travels....our time with the Hinkley's

My husband Brian grew up in Michigan. With the exception of one sister, Rose, his family is pretty much still in the Davison area. We debated whether Brian should go or Lauren. He decided that it would be better for Lauren to go, as his family hasn't seen her since she was 18 months, 3 years ago.

On August 18th, 2010, we arrived about 7pm. We visited my BBF Stephanie (part 3), arriving at Chris and Darcey Hinkley's around 10pm in Davison. They were so welcoming, a bonfire and fire flies greeted us. We didn't go to bed that night until midnight, the kids were too excited.
Lauren enjoyed sleeping on the portable bed in Chloe's room

Chris is Brian's younger brother, he's a 6th grade social studies teacher. He was also Brian's best man at our wedding. Darcey stays at home and is a domestic master, she even showed me how they make their own laundry soap for $6 a year. They have three kids, twins Chloe and Carter are age 6 and Isabella, age 3. They bought a house about a year ago just two blocks down the street from where Brian went to 6th grade.

Being concerned that Lauren prefers the company of older kids, I was glad to see that she played with Chloe and Bella equally. They're collection of toys is amazing. Still, Lauren and Chloe were like peas in a pod. All the kids played all day long. At night they took a bath together where you could hear 45 minutes of giggled delight in wet toy land.

Thursday, August 19th

That next morning the kids spent playing both inside and out. This was a great time to get reacquainted. In Bella's case, I haven't seen her since she was a newborn, so I finally got to experience her personality.

Bella is a firecracker. She's mischievous but quite grown up for 3. Her little smile is contagious and every morning I was woken up on the inflatable mattress stationed in their living room with her roly-poly playfulness.

Chloe is more sensitive and attuned to the needs of others. She is bright, cheerful and quite the hostest! She always made sure Lauren felt at home and it amazes me how much they look alike.

Though all the kids are creative (thanks to their parents lack of screen time and nurturing environment,) my nephew Carter is probably the most intensely creative kid I know, especially rare for a boy. He actually reminded me alot of myself as a young kid. He had a speech delay for years but you couldn't tell now. He was always creating, for hours at a time, with creations all over the house. Once he made a dinosaur mask and sharp claws out of paper and taped them to his fingers. He loves everything Africa, and falls to sleep listening to tribal music each night.

At 5pm this day, we had a Hinkley family reunion at Chris and Darcey's. Brian's parents: Larry and Janet were there, along with his older sister Tracey and younger sister Dena and her four kids: Audrianna, Travis, Alexis and Jamal. We ate a great BBQ outside but soon the weather turned. Before you know it a tornado warning sounded! It was a weird experiance. Finally when the sky became an eerie dark and the rain was blowing sideways that I conceded and went to the basement. Poor Chris and Darcey felt bad, their basement wasn't company ready. But in no time we cleaned off the pool table and the older kids were playing.
We still were able to chat so it worked. After the storm went by (missed us by a mile or so) we were able to return upstairs. That evening we played a game with Larry, Janet, Chris and Darcey. I don't remember the name but I think it was Balderdash, were you had to make up a meaning to a word and phrase and if people believed you, you got points. Note to future self, I was terrible at this!
Friday August 20th

This morning, Darcey and I went shopping at the Birch Run Outlets. I had no idea how big they were, such a big tourist attracting, they have their own tourist check-in building that was like a hotel lobby. She cleaned up for back to school. I was indecisive, not knowing what Lauren had or still fit, but got a few items. Still it was great to have girl time and be able to really talk. Afterwards we went to Applebee's for a late lunch and we each had the Oriental Chicken salad...yum!

Meanwhile Chris took the kids down the street to the park. Brian helped create this park and Lauren got to see where his name was engraved into the fence.

That night we went to the Community Center at La Pier. They have a mini-Great Wolf waterpark in there! The tiling had sea creature patterns in it. A mini slide an umbrella fountain, and a large water slide. The whirlpool tub was Lauren's favorite. Lauren took a while to warm up to the big slide and wanted Uncle Chris to go down with her the first time. It is however, still run like a community center. We only had 90 minutes and they shut off the water right at 8pm just when Lauren was about to go down the slide, actually making her get off, causing major tears. Besides that it was a total blast and worth the $4 admission price. I should of brought my water camera.
That night our adult time consisted of an introduction to Blink! What a fun card game!

Saturday August 21st

This morning we had to leave. I felt bad that our time had to come to an end but off we went to the Stutzman's house. They extended their hospitality again by loaning me some pillows, blankets and the air mattress that has been my life saver every night!

Tuesday August 24th
After leaving Steph's we went to spend a few more hours with the Hinkleys and return the borrowed items before flying back to SeaTac. Soon the kids wanted to play outside and rode bikes while us adults chatted.
At the end they chased Chris around and Lauren got some more fun time with Uncle Chris.

One main reason I was so excited for Lauren to go is that she needed some serious little girls time, away from her brothers. Every day in Michigan she was playing and interacting with girl cousins around her age and it had a positive impact on her! She now is more nurturing, communicative, creative and plays with her baby dolls!

She still talks about her cousins and I still hope that some day soon they can make it to Seattle!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On a jet plane & auto travels

Lauren and I went to visit family and friends in Michigan a few weeks back in August.

Here is part 1 of our travels....
We started off on a 7:00 am flight going from SeaTac to Atlanta Georgia. We woke up Lauren at 2am and I've never seen her so chipper so early. Brian dropped us off curb side, here we are with our luggage.
From here we check in at AirTran and had to go to Gate A-14, at the very end. One the way there we stopped for Italian soda for her and hot tea for me. At the gate I got a little nap while she colored, waiting for flight#46 to Atlanta, seats 31 A&B.

The last time Lauren flew (me too), she was 18 months and it was miserable. Thank goodness she has forgotten that experience and was totally fascinated by the entire experience. For this first flight, she stayed mesmerized the entire time. Her favorite parts are mine too, when the plane goes just above the clouds and also when drinks were served :)
She was thrilled with the free earphones, though she didn't use them for long, her Leapster 2 and crayons provided enough entertainment.

I must say that Lauren navigated the airports like a champ. She had no problems getting on or off the flat or staired escalators with her luggage, nor keeping up with long legged mom. The only time she ever needed help was to get past that little gap between the walkway and the plane. Because she is left-handed and I right, we quickly discovered after some collisions, that her being on my left side was ideal. She also did great with the security checks, and was pretty dang fast. Here she is in line before the first flight.

By the second flight of the day, #246, from Atlanta to Flint MI, seats 18A&18C, leaving at 3:36pm, she was a seasoned traveler! Both times on this short hour flight we were in a Boeing 717 instead of a 737. This was much better. For one the rows go 2 then three seats, so we got to sit alone both times, but also the carry-on luggage area is much larger in the 717, more accommodated for my carry-on which pushes the limits but width and weight wise.

Here is a picture of her with our rental car from Budget.
It was a nice car to have for the week. The best part was a full tank of gas was $23! I would consider it for Brian until I realized that I, at 5'8", have about two inches of headroom.

I loved driving in Michigan. Besides being able to go wicked fast, 70 on the freeway and 55 in rural residential areas, I never got lost once, having maps and simple directions. Navigating 69 east or west soon became second nature and here the squareness of MI came in handy.
I admit I didn't know didly abut AirTran before this, but now know that flying to Atlanta via AirTran was sweet. They are headquartered there and the access and customer service was unmatched. However, my favorite airport is Flint (Bishop International). It's tiny but so easy to find everything and surprisingly fast.

Here is Lauren just after saying goodbye to Stephanie and Hannah, waiting for the plan to board on #256 from Flint to Atlanta scheduled to leave at Gate 5 at 6:10pm, seats 27A&27C. All the flights were on time, this was the only one that was slightly delayed, which worked as I finally got a picture of her with one of our planes.

At the Atlanta airport we got her the last AirTran airplane from a gift shop. We had a few hours, so decided to eat subs from Charleys.
Changed for the last flight, #33, Gate C22, scheduled to leave Atlanta at 10:00 pm EST and Arrive in Seattle at 12:40am PST.

The last flight from Atlanta to Seattle was very nice. We were again in the back, in row 29 E&F, but shockingly we had an extra seat next to Lauren and the lady sitting opposite the isle had all three seats to herself. This in what we were told was a overly full flight! We looked each other when they closed the door, smiled, and threw our arms up in celebration. Lauren was able to stretch out in the middle and isle seat and sleep the entire way.
We went full circle, departing at gate A-14 where we started. When we departed at SeaTac she burst into tears realizing she left it on the plane. A very nice male attendant went back for her and found it.
At the end of this leg Lauren was just spent. Poor Brian felt bad, she burst into tears upon seeing him. I think it was all the emotions of the past week building up, plus it was 2am. But you ask her and Lauren will tell you she had the time of her life traveling with Mommy to and from Michigan!