Family, Friends, & a Freedom-Filled Fourth

    The 4th of July was a mere 2 days ago and we just returned from taking family to Chicago sometime after 2 a.m. this morning. We America-ed very thoroughly over the weekend and were so happy that 6 of our siblings and friends could make it from California, Arizona, & Ohio to come enjoy time with us. We have immediately plunged again full-force back into work and are getting our big orders out today and tomorrow. Weeee! In the meantime, we'll leave you with the story of our chaotic past week/ vacation with family and friends!

     ***As an aside before the silliness: Now, let's be real about The United States: We know our country has many issues, is ridiculously tumultuous right now (what with the political, racial, religious, financial, & gender issues) and is in no way perfect. Jenny even believes that it should be a requirement for each citizen to at least once every 2 years go meet normal people in different countries, but not many of us can afford to travel often or in such a way that we make friends abroad. What it really comes down to is making friends of a variety of cultures within our own melting pot and being open and respectful of their ways of life. NO ONE should only hang out solely with people like themselves. How boring and cult-like would that be?! Make some friends in all parts of town from all walks of life, eat foods from different cultures, and be friends with people of different skin tones, ethnicities, & religious backgrounds if you want to be a TRUE American citizen. 

     That being said... 4th of July is one of our favorite holidays because of the silly nature of what we like to do. Between the BBQs, bonfires, fireworks, beach time, boat rides, family & friend time, hilarious patriotic clothing, & games we have a blast. This year we spent it in areas near South Bend, Indiana and Cassopolis, Michigan as well as a little bit of time in Chicago.

     Jason's brother & Jason's brother's wife were the first to arrive and came in from California. We hung out them more than anyone else when we were in California in 2014 & part of 2015, so it was great to see them after 5 months of not seeing them. We picked them up in Chicago, took them for some infamous deep dish pizza, went to a huge Mexican candy/ party store, & bought a political pinata that had just been created a week prior! They were both pretty exhausted (both falling asleep in the car in our hour & a half of driving around Chicago), so we decided to head to Michigan. Once in Michigan we hopped on a boat and calmly rode around taking in the beautiful sights for an hour before sunset while listening to music. 

     The next day we all went and bought a big box of hugely discounted fireworks for $100 total then picked up Jenny's sister and her sister's boyfriend of 3 years at the more local airport (yay 2 hours closer!). We immediately went to our favorite restaurant/ brewery on the river of South Bend (Crooked Ewe) and ate very delicious food with all of our siblings and had them try a couple beers. We really loved having them all together since they'd never met each other since we've all physically been been all over the place since 2014 with master's programs and work. It was great to see them for the first time in half a year. After we finished up eating we took everyone to the 3 pm weekly fun Asian Market shipment in from Chicago and we snatched up some of the best BBQ pork buns & coconut cream rolls in the world. We THEN went directly to the local fair, snacked on some unique fair treats (fried watermelon & elephant ears) before watching one of the oldest Sideshow acts in the nation! It was in a way pretty funny, but watching a man actually swallow swords and watching a woman spin in a circle while having real knives being thrown at her was kind of amazing. Jenny's siblings were exhausted from the cross-country flight, so they decided to take a nap when we got home then go see their friends while the rest of us went on a boat ride in Michigan again. That night a couple friends of Jenny's came up who she hadn't seen in 8 months and she took them out for a night boat ride while everyone else slept.

   In the morning we both photographed a Triathalon that Jenny's parents participated in in the neighborhood at 7 am. Afterward we & Jason's siblings went swimming a bit and then everyone (all 8 of us) drove a boat over to a party in the middle of the lake. There was an entire band on a platform playing music for everyone who was standing in the water having fun. We even caught some prizes (necklaces, frisbees, koozies, etc) and proceeded to try to play frisbee the entire time (accidentally totally hitting kind, forgiving people in the process). We surprisingly had a great time within the crazy crowd of hundreds and what was probably a good deal of pee water! We ate dinner when we returned from the chaos, then went back out on the boat to watch the biggest fireworks show in the area. It was wonderful and afterward we laughed our butts off setting off more fireworks before heading to bed. 

      This Sunday (the day before 4th of July) everyone went tubing in Michigan and had a great time laughing at the ridiculousness. After a bit of lunch and visiting with as many of the 30 relatives next door as we could, we then headed to a fireworks & pizza party in Wine Country of Southwest Michigan (about 45 minutes from us). Although we'd wished it was at the main location, we still had a good time at the event listening to more live music and hanging out. We decided we'd seen enough fireworks for a bit, so we left before dusk hit to come back to bonfire and play with a few more fireworks. We set off even more fireworks and then just prior to bed sat and talked near a dwindling bonfire.

     On the actual 4th of July we dawdled around a bit to get ready for our friends' party and said goodbye to Jenny's siblings who had to return to Arizona. At the party in Indiana we grilled out all of our burgers & corn while sharing a bunch of food with everyone. This was definitely the biggest party to date as our friends were there along with their 8 family members & friends in from California along with a ton of other Midwest friends. We played some games and chatted with friends we haven't had time to see in a long while (months to years). We even got to set off fireworks and break out pinata which was a literal blast! 

    Yesterday we spent the day watching turtles and driving around on the boat for a last time prior to heading to Chicago. Once in Chicago we showed them Millenium Park (the BEAN!) and wandered looking for deep dish. Although those places were closed since it was a Tuesday at 9 pm, we found a wonderfully amazing handcrafted Italian-style gourmet pizza place and had some of the best pizza of our lives. Afterward we hopped in the car and said goodbye to Jason's siblings after taking them to their hotel. 

     We had such an amazing time with everyone and hope that our family and friends had a fun time! Hopefully after a great time laughing & playing will get some sleep when not at work! Whew. What a whirlwind, right?! We're so excited to see everyone again later this year and calmly relax/ eat/ catch up & we miss you already!