A UPers Wedding Weekend

Did you know that people in Michigan (would that be Michiganders?  Michiganites?) who visit or live in the ‘Upper Peninsula‘ refer to themselves at UPers?  That’s pronounced ‘you-pers’, if you are keeping track.  Yeah, I didn’t either.  But, apparently they are and it’s kind of a big deal around there.  I found this out while we were up there for a wedding.  You see, the best man when Alex and I got married found a lovely UPer to settle down with and they planned the wedding at her parent’s lake house in Brimley.  Babysitters were scheduled, travel plans were made, bags were packed, and we were off.

Fly from St. Louis to Chicago, Layover, Fly from Chicago to Detroit, Rent a car, Drive 5 hours to Brimley

We were sitting in the St. Louis airport waiting to leave when it hit us – we were kid-less.  It was bizarre sitting there without someone hanging on me, making a mess, or saying ‘mom, mama, mommy’ on repeat.  It was odd, but nice.  Still, we already missed those little booger noses.

We’re leaving, on an airplane. Don’t know when we’ll be back again. Just kidding – our arrival time was closely scheduled for babysitting purposes. Goodbye spontaneity. 

On the road again… Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Ran out of song references. Crossing the bridge into the UP.

We made it to Brimley in time for the fish fry that had been arranged.  Almost all of Alex’s college buddies are from (and still live in) Michigan, so he doesn’t get to see them that often.  He was PUMPED to hang out with everyone.  I love his college buddies, so I was really excited too.  Those guys are hi-larious.

Just like old times

After the fish fry, we checked into our hotel.  The hotel just so happens to be on an Indian preserve and is home to two casinos.  The casinos offered free drinks if you were gambling.  You can see where this is heading…

Way to be creepy, Alex.

We got a late start to Saturday (thank you, free drinks in the casino).  Still, I managed to squeeze in a little international traveling.

Visit Canada in my lifetime – check!

I made it back to US soil in time to grab some lunch with the group and realize that the ‘Canadian chocolate’ I purchased was actually just Cadbury.  We headed back to the hotel to change and get to the ceremony.  The ceremony was at the bride’s family lake house.  They said their vows on the beach overlooking Lake Superior and Canada.  It was breathtaking.  Those Upers might be on to something…

Could they be any cuter??

Once it was completely dark, they did a lantern sendoff.  Everyone was given a Chinese lantern to light.  The gas filled the lantern and it floated away.  The winds took the lanterns across the lake and disappeared into the horizon.  It was easily one of the coolest things I’ve seen.  And I can say that as a semi-sober witness.  Don’t ask Alex about it – he was hammered.  It’s actually a miracle he didn’t set himself on fire.

Seriously cool.

The next morning came all too soon.  We had to skedaddle pretty quickly in order to make the 5 hour drive to Detroit to catch our first flight.  As I was taking a shower, I heard the bathroom door open.  Alex has this thing about sneaking into the hotel bathroom while I’m showering to take a stealthy shit.  He creeps in without making any noise, does his business, and just lets the smell marinate until I catch wind of it.  I’m never very happy about it, but it never stops him.  It’s like a sick entrapment rush for him.  I don’t get it.  Anyway, he tried to sneak in and I catch him.  I think he’s leaving when the next thing I hear is him blowing chunks in the toilet.  Someone had a little too much to drink the night before.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear someone puking it makes me dry heave.  I was hovered in the corner of the shower desperately trying to plug my ears when the smell hit me.  You know the smell.  It was too much.  I started gagging and heaving.  I couldn’t stop it and I couldn’t get out of the bathroom.  I barely managed to keep all my cookies in place while Alex finished.  I was less than happy about the whole ordeal.

We managed to get to the car without any more events and we hit the road.  It was my job to drive us since Alex could barely stand to keep his eyes open.

That center lane is a metal grate. Talk about freaky.

Alex eventually started feeling better once we got a little grease and Diet Coke in our systems  (the cure for a hangover, if you weren’t aware).  We were making good time and happened to be driving right past Flint, which is where Alex attended college.  I’ve never seen his college, so we figured it was the perfect time to take a little tour.

Let me introduce you to Kettering University

The bulldog statue. Apparently the thing to do was repaint it all the time.

Years of repainting tradition.

The house Alex and his buds lived in.

Animal House – I mean, the Pike house.

By the time we got back in the car we had just enough time to get to Detroit, ditch the rental, and get to our gate.  And then we hit traffic.  Obviously.  We were squeeze cheeking it to get to the airport and ran through security to our gate.  Turns out our plane was delayed.  Figures.  At least we hadn’t missed it.

Above the clouds

Our flight eventually left and we made it to Chicago.  We caught out next flight and landed shortly after in St. Louis.  The kids were asleep by the time we got home, but that didn’t stop us from getting some sweet cuddles in.  It’s amazing how much you miss someone in such a short time.

Oh my goodness, I just want to scoop you up!

Ahhh, it’s good to be home!

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My 15 Minutes in Canada

Two weekends ago, Alex and I headed north for the wedding of the best man from our wedding in Michigan.  The wedding was in an area known as the ‘Upper Peninsula’, which is the strip of land that is above Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, below Lake Superior, attached to Wisconsin, but considered part of Michigan.  Still with me?  So, the wedding was in an itty bitty town called Brimley.  Brimley is so far north, you can spit and hit Canada.  If you don’t believe me – Google it.  Anyway, I’ve never been to Canada and I enjoy visiting new places and saying that I’ve been to foreign countries.  Since I’ve never had the chance to step into Canada, I decided to bring my passport so I can check that off my traveling to do list.

We arrived in Brimley after a long day of traveling on Friday.  The plan was to get up on Saturday and shoot up to Canada, explore a little, snap some pictures, buy some t-shirts, and skip back over to the US.  Alex’s passport was expired, and because he didn’t put forth the effort to get it renewed, the plan was for me to hop into Canada by myself.  After a much later start to the day than planned (thank you, hangover) and dropping Alex off with some buddies to explore on the US side, I pointed my rental car toward the international bridge.

The international bridge – the only thing that was between me and Canada!

The Soo Locks at Sault Ste Marie

Holy crap – this is getting serious

That just freaking happened.

The ride across to Canada was no problem.  I did notice a long line of cars waiting to get back into the US, but I put it in the back of my mind.  I had to focus on stepping into Canada for the first time and getting past border patrol.  I can’t lie, i was nervous.  I rolled up to a friendly looking Canadian lady with a gigantic bullet proof vest on.  These Canadians aren’t joking around, eh.  It’s border patrol’s job to question why you are coming into the country.  Our conversation went a little something like this:

Canadian Border Patrol: Where are you from?

Me: St. Louis, Missouri

Canadian Border Patrol:  Who’s car is this?

Me: It’s a rental car.

Canadian Border Patrol: What are you doing in Canada?

Me: We are up here for a wedding in Brimley this afternoon.  I’ve never been to Canada before, and because we are so close, I thought I’d come over for a bit to buy some t-shirts.

Canadian Border Patrol: How long are you planning on being in Canada?

Me: Well, probably about an hour.

Canadian Border Patrol: What do you do for a living?

Me: I’m a photographer (I’m using the term loosely)

Canadian Border Patrol: So it’s just you and your fancy camera coming into the country?

Me: Yes, ma’am.

Canadian Border Patrol: What time is the wedding?

Me: it starts at 4pm.

Canadian Border Patrol: Are you in the wedding party?

Me: No, just attending.

Canadian Border Patrol: That’s a good thing, because you are probably going to be late with the line getting back.

Me: Yeah, I might not have planned this too well.

Canadian Border Patrol: Do you have any arrests or felonies on your record?

Me: No, ma’am.

Canadian Border Patrol: Yeah, you didn’t really look like you would.

Me: I know, right?!?

The border patrol agent (read: my new best friend) handed my passport back and I was given the green light to enter.

Quick, let me remember all four years of French that I took. Bonjour!

At this point, I was sweating bullets and freaking out that I was going to make Alex and myself late to the wedding.  My visions of exploring, leisurely shopping, and photographing the area were tossed.  I was in a race to find the coolest Canadian t-shirts I could as quickly as possible.  The bridge shoots you off in an industrial area, and there happened to be a visitor center there.  I decided to pop in to potty and ask where the best place to buy shirts was.  As luck would have it, the visitor center sold shirts.  They also gave me directions to other areas that sold souvenir shirts, but they seemed really far.  Over my dead body was I missing this wedding.  I opted to buy some of the crappy shirts that they sold and was ready to throw in the towel.

Notice all the unnecessary u’s.

I got back in the car and headed back to the bridge.  I eyed a duty free store on the entrance ramp to the bridge.  I pulled in to test my luck there.  I ended up hitting the t-shirt jackpot – maple leafs all around! On the way to the cash register, I noticed some foreign looking chocolate.  It looked delish – I mean, how could you go wrong with authentic Canadian chocolates?  So, I grabbed two bars of that as well.  I jumped back in the car and hit the bridge back to America.  I visited Canada for all of 15 minutes. The line of cars was backed up all the way across the bridge.

O Canada! Our home and native land!

I inched my way back toward the good ole US of A.  I was feeling good about time, even though it took an hour to get to the US border patrol gates.  A cold sweat started.  It’s like when you were called to the principal’s office.  You know you aren’t in trouble, but you freak out anyway.  It was kind of like that.

Ah, it feels so good to be back.

I had another conversation with a border patrol agent, this time an American man with a giant bullet proof vest.

American Border Patrol: What were you doing in Canada?

Me: Just went over to buy some t-shirts.

American Border Patrol: Really?

Me: Yeah.  I’ve never been to Canada before.  I’m from Missouri, up here for a wedding.  I figured that I was this close, I might as well hop over and back.

American Border Patrol: Have you traveled internationally? There aren’t any stamps in your passport.

Me: I have, but I had to get a new passport after I was married and my name changed.  We traveled internationally for our honeymoon.

American Border Patrol: Where did you go on your honeymoon?

Me: St. Lucia

American Border Patrol: Ah, a buddy of mine just went there and loved it.  Did you guys like it?

Me: We LOVED it!!  Would definitely go back someday.  We really enjoyed it.  You should go if they ever give you a break from here.

American Border Patrol: Ha! Yeah right.  Fingers crossed I can take a vacation at some point.

Me: Border patrol is intense!

American Border Patrol: Did you know that you never signed your passport?  You need to do that.

Me: Oh man! I had no idea.  I will get right on that!

American Border Patrol (hands me my passport): Welcome home, Mrs. Parsons.

Me: Ah, thank you.  It’s been an arduous journey.

I found Alex and the rest of the group at a little restaurant grabbing something to eat.  Bringing the chocolate in (I didn’t want it to melt in the car), I made it in just enough time to down a sandwich.  Alex wanted to see the chocolate and hear all about my international travels.  I proudly showed him what I brought back.  He took one look at it and exclaimed, ‘this is Cadbury chocolate!’  I was confused.  There was no way it was Cadbury – it looked so international at the duty free store.  Turns out I’m blonder than I even realized.  You can’t win them all, I guess.

I did buy it in Canada, so it’s technically international.

I might have screwed up the chocolate, but I’m now able to say that I’ve been to Canada.  Ignore the fact that I spent four times the amount of time sitting in my car waiting to cross each border than I actually spent in Canada.  I have been to freaking Canada and no one can take those precious 15 minutes from me.  Not even Cadbury.

Gulf Shores – Snaps

I took a ton of pictures during our trip to Gulf Shores.  Literally, a ton.  I realize that you are all probably bored to tears with posts about our trip, but I had to include some of the pictures from our trip that didn’t make it in the other posts.  Bare with me … I promise this will be the last time I mention Gulf Shores (at least for a little while).

Kitty made it to the beach!

Notice all the sand…

What designer am I wearing, you ask? Oh, just lemur.

Gulf Shores 2013 – Part 2

Catch up on the first part of our trip – Gulf Shores 2013 Part 1.

We heard about a Pirate and Princess breakfast at The Hangout, so we decided to check it out mid-week.  The staff was hilarious, and the kids were really into it.  I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t into it as well.  It was adorable and ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.

Arg!

On a treasure hunt!

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out by the ocean – getting our tan on and sand in every crevice that you can imagine.  Turns out, I have an aversion to being sandy.  It drives me nuts.  There was sand everywhere, even when we would go inside.  There was sand on the floor, sand in the shower, sand in the bed.  I would even chew something and have sand in my teeth.  I realize that going on a beach vacation means that you have to deal with sand, I just didn’t realize how crazy it made me.

Bathing beauties!

Time to get sandy, Mom!

To add to my aversion to being sandy, I have a bit of a fear of the ocean.  I think it’s just all the wildlife that is also milling around in there.  You can’t really see your feet, and you don’t really know what’s coming your way.  Eventually, I worked up the nerve to venture farther out into the water.  As soon as that happened, a person came running up to our group that was on the beach.  I saw them motioning to us to come back.  Turns out, there was a shark in the water.  There was a shark in the water each day we were there.  I’m not talking great white’s that could swallow us in one piece, but they could have done some damage (especially to baby legs).  Too much for this mid-westerner.

Look, we’re in the ocean. What’s that? Huh? Shark? HOOOOOLLLLLLLY SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

That evening, we ventured out for dinner.  The rest of the house was ordering from a small seafood joint.  Alex is allergic to shellfish, so we opted to go out to eat instead.  Plus, it gave us the perfect opportunity to check out the restaurant that Jimmy Buffett’s sister set up in the area.  Aside from Anna getting lost from us for a bit, we had a great time at Lulu’s!

Playing at Lulu’s before dinner.

The next day, the rain rolled in and stayed.  It rained and it rained and it rained some more.  It was miserable.  We tried to keep the kids occupied in the house, but it was getting hairy.  We were Googling indoor activities in the area.  Turns out, there are none.  We opted to drive into town and check out a souvenir shop and then grabbed some lunch.  We headed back to nap and wait for the rain to pass.

There’s a storm a-brewing!

How long does it take for a gaggle of kids to go stir crazy being stuck in a house? Answer – not long.

Luckily, the rain passed through while we napped.  It left us with overcast skies – horrible for swimming in the ocean, but awesome to take some pictures.  And, that’s what we did.  My kids get so annoyed when I bring my camera out, but I love snapping the memories.  I know they will appreciate it someday.  Someday far, far down the road.  Meanwhile, I will treasure them now.

Sometimes they love each other. Sometimes.

Apparently someone doesn’t mind to get all sandy.

Look Mom, shells!

Ah! These two – I could just eat them with a spoon!

Passed the camera over to get a quick family shot.

The next morning we woke up to sunny, beautiful skies!  We spent the day playing in the sand (ACK!) and dodging sharks in the ocean.  Ah!  We spent the afternoon and early evening packing up and loading the car.  It seemed like our stuff multiplied and grew legs.  It was like trying to shove 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.  Eventually we managed to wrangle our crap back in our bags and loaded it all in the car.  Our vacation was sadly winding down.

One last day of sun!!

The plan was to hit the road early Saturday morning.  We changed plans, and decided to drive through the night.  Aside from almost hitting a pedestrian who was running into the street in the middle of nowhere Alabama and getting slowed down at a sobriety checkpoint crossing into Mississippi, we made it to Missouri as the sun was coming up on Saturday.  The kids slept almost the entire way.  Freaking awesome! We were sad for our trip to end, but happy to be home.