There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

We went back to Peoria for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We took two-and-a-half weeks for the trip, which seemed like it would be a long time, but then didn’t feel that long at all. Any trip back to the US needs to be longish to make the jetlag worth dealing with, but with so many holidays to celebrate and people to see, the time flew by really fast.

Google was kind enough to make a video summing up the trip and it actually hit a lot of the highlights:

  • Playing Amplitude at ChrEmily’s house (which is now for sale if you’re looking!)
  • Christmas Eve at Grandma Voss’s house
  • Christmas morning at Sarah’s house
  • Christmas evening with Uncle Ray and Kayla
  • Oliver’s Ugly Christmas Sweater birthday party
  • Christmas at Tim’s house
  • Christmas at Kathy’s house
  • Breakfast at Childer’s with Sarah
  • Noon Year’s Eve
  • A picture with all five cousins

We were lucky enough to get to stay at our friend Sarah’s house again; she is a wonderfully generous host. Two-and-a-half weeks at a hotel would be expensive, so having free accommodations is obviously an awesome perk. My brother Ray and I also spent a long weekend in Austin while Andy and G went to visit friends in Indianapolis. So we didn’t all get to see everyone, but we got to see a lot of people.

The night before we left, I prepped G’s hair for travel:


As long as I’m in charge of her hair, I think this will be our go-to for travel.

The airport was all decked out for the holidays:


As I was taking this picture, Andy was getting yelled at by some random dude for trying to enter the express check-in for platinum members. We belonged there and that dude was just mad he couldn’t skip the long line.

We touched down in the US in Detroit, home of one of those weird tunnels with lights and music:

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the appeal. I’m tired and want to get to my next plane, not be thrown off by changing colors and music.

Since we’re always chasing daylight on our way to the US, none of us really sleep well on the plane. So G was goofy again at the Detroit airport, but not as silly as last time.

G loves to travel and she’s great on planes and trains. (She’s not so keen on automobiles now that she’s gotten used to no car seats on trams and buses, though.) My theory is that it’s because we pretty much let her watch as much iPad as she wants.

One of the first things I did once we got back to Peoria was get my hair cut. I hadn’t had it cut since we were in Peoria in May and it had gotten a little long.

Then that first weekend, Ray and I headed to Austin to visit our family down there. We have an aunt on our mom’s side and an uncle on our dad’s side who live in Austin, so it was a great trip seeing family and eating copious amounts of Tex-Mex and BBQ. (So necessary.)

Our friend Quentin also drove up from Houston to see us, so that was awesome. We went out downtown in Austin and hit up a few bars. The first one we went to was also an arcade, so I got a couple of pictures of the guys playing games. I also sucked it up at an arcade version of Mario Kart; our lack of a gaming system in Basel has really made my skills deteriorate.

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Beer pong sans beer.

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All too soon, it was time to head back to the airport and fly to Peoria.


We weren’t pleased.

We had our traditional Christmas Eve at Andy’s Grandma’s house. The company, food, and presents were all wonderful. Two highlights for me were G, Nolan, and Andy’s cousin Mary playing chase before dinner and trying to get a family picture of Dannie, Jason, Nolan, and Oliver after presents.



G crashed their photo shoot, of course.

We spent Christmas morning at Sarah’s house opening presents with just the three of us. Then that afternoon, we went to see The Good Dinosaur with Chris and Margeaux. My brother and his girlfriend joined all of us for Chinese food afterwards. After dinner, Ray and Kayla came over to Sarah’s to exchange gifts and play with G for a while.

[Side note: I remember thinking after Christmas 2014 that we would be able to keep up our movie and Chinese food tradition in Switzerland, but that definitely won’t be possible. One, because Christmas is likely to be when we go back to Peoria to visit every year. Two, because literally everything closes here for holidays. I don’t think you can fully grasp the extent to which Europe shuts down for holidays versus how everything is open all the time in the US until you experience it.]

The day after Christmas was Oliver’s first birthday, so we all donned our best Ugly Christmas Sweaters and headed to his party.

I’ve never seen two kids fight over a toy the way G and Nolan were fighting over that tractor.

That evening we went to Andy’s dad’s house to celebrate with Grandpa Tim and Grandma Connie.


Andy and G demonstrating their “two socks in the nose” routine. Note: Zero noses were socked that night (or ever).

And for our final Christmas, we went to Andy’s mom’s house to celebrate with Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Dennis.

The other holiday we celebrated while we were home was New Year’s Eve. NYE as a parent isn’t particularly exciting, usually, but we had fun anyway. We went to a party during the day called Noon Year’s Eve that had a bunch of family activities and a countdown at noon instead of midnight. It was a lot of fun!

That night we had dinner at Tim’s house and we managed to get a picture of all five cousins together.


Crazy kids!

Genevieve slept over at Aunt Dannie’s house that night, which she said was her favorite sleepover of the trip. (No offense to the sleepovers she had at Grandma Kathy’s, I’m sure!)

It wasn’t all Christmases and New Years Eves, though. We did a few other things as well.

One morning Genevieve went to preschool with Nolan. The intention was for her to teach his class about living in Switzerland, but they didn’t end up doing that. She did have lots of fun with him and his class, though.

We also went to the new Children’s Museum with Emily, Margeaux, and Isaac.

We also spent one morning playing Amplitude at Chris and Emily’s house. We backed that game on Kickstarter also, but haven’t had a chance to play it because our PS3 broke in the move. It was a total blast from the past playing that game with them for a while!

While we played video games, our children did more worthwhile things like read books together and hang out.

G had a couple of sleepovers at her Grandma Kathy’s house, allowing Andy and me to have a date night and also hang out with some friends. We ate so much food and got Starbucks so many times (which cost so little money). We played board games late into the night. We survived a terrible storm which resulted in no snow but lots of rain.

We did experience some reverse culture shock, though. Driving is weird. G hated sitting in a car seat and complained every time. Hearing a language all around you that you can actually understand is kind of exhausting. (I just block everyone out here most of the time.) Fitting in time with everyone in such a limited window is tough, but ultimately worth it.

Here’s to Christmas in Peoria 2015, already looking forward to Christmas in Peoria 2016!

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