On Sunday night (Dec. 27), we said goodbye to Bloomington friends, and drove up to Michigan, where we would celebrate a late Christmas with my family (including my aunt and two cousins), not to mention two birthdays, New Year’s, and a baby shower. We all stay in a couple houses together up there. On Monday morning, we woke to to find snow and ice accumulating on the ground–what a lovely birthday present for me. We also got to meet the final new baby that had been born while we were gone–our new niece Fiona.
Mid-day, I went grocery shopping with my two brothers-in-law. We needed green beans for that night’s dinner, and other groceries for the rest of the week. The roads were getting icier with each passing minute, but we really needed more food. So we decided to brave the weather. The drive to the grocery store was treacherous. We saw at least five cars that had already slid off the highway. We made it safely there and back, though, only to discover we had forgotten to buy the green beans. But I did remember to snap a picture of myself in a winter coat with a background of snow and ice, so I could post it to Facebook for Arrianne and my other friends back in Cebu.
I share my birthday with my niece, Mary Louise Weeks, who was turning one. That night, we celebrated with cake and gifts. Mary Louise has had very serious health problems since her birth a year ago, so it was a very sweet time of rejoicing that God has preserved her life and strengthened her body.
Tuesday, I was in charge of making dinner for the whole clan. In the morning I started two crockpots full of Cuban pork and black bean soup. I checked them periodically, but didn’t discover until late afternoon that one of the crockpots was only warming its contents, not cooking them. It was very questionable whether the beans and pork would have time to fully cook. I had visions of the hungry hordes waiting around until 8pm to eat their dinner. At 6pm I suggested maybe we would need to order pizza for the crowd of thirty-five people. I decided to give it until 6:30, though, and it finished just in time. I did not cry at any point during this fiasco, and I offered that up to my family as proof that I had just turned 30. Maybe this will be the year that I finally grow up.
That night, our bi-annual Michigan stomach virus reared its ugly head. I kid you not, that house must be the Typhoid Mary of norovirus. Over the next couple days, a quarter of the Bayly family succumbed. We had no desire to repeat our experience of this summer, traveling to the other side of the world with a vomiting toddler. I went around the house with Lysol spray, wiping down every possible surface. Maybe it was the same sickness that our family had already caught down in Bloomington, though, because Ben and I and the kids didn’t catch it.
That week, the kids were able to play out in the snow. They sledded on a tiny hill in front of the house. We took walks along the sand road to the beach. We had a gingerbread house construction party with all the kids at the living room table. We ate lots of meals and played lots of games together. Thursday was New Year’s Eve. The kids got to open their stockings just before bed. Then the ladies had a little baby shower for Heather, and finished just in time to ring in the New Year. The guys went outside to shoot off fireworks in the snow.
On Friday morning, we all exchanged Christmas gifts. Then in the afternoon, my dad’s sister drove over from Chicago, and my dad’s brother and most of his family drove over from Toledo, OH. Our intimate little family gathering of 35 expanded, and there were fifty people there for the Christmas ham dinner prepared by my mom. What a way to end our visit!
Saturday morning, we bid adieu to our family, and my dad drove us to O’Hare. We embarked on our journey back to Cebu.