On Tuesday, we returned from a trip up north to Ohio, to celebrate Nicholas' grandpa's birthday (with a surprise party!) and to spend time with family. The last time we were in Ohio was for his cousins wedding, a year ago, almost to the day. I wrote in that post about the importance of face-to-face time, and every word of that still resonates so much. Living far from family is really hard, and so for now, in this life stage, we love, love, love those precious days when we can walk upstairs or down the driveway and give our loved ones hugs in person. 

We arrived on Saturday night, drove toward Akron from Cleveland and stopped at a mediterranean restaurant for really good food (and falafel!), then headed to Nicholas' uncles house for the night. We woke up on Sunday morning for coffee, the best french toast you can imagine, sausages, and fresh fruit and then took the dogs on a chilly fall-like walk with Nicholas and my sister-in-law, Katelyn. The grass was dewy, and it was the best crisp, cool, chacos-and-a-hoodie, make-you-take-a-deep-breath kind of morning. I took too many pictures of the changing leaves and picked up pretty golden leaves while Nicholas and his sister walked on ahead.

Then, we got ready for the main event―the party. I borrowed an entire outfit from Katelyn and my mother-in-law, since I felt cuter and more comfortable in that than in what I brought (thanks, Karen and Katelyn)! Nicholas' local family did the decorating the previous night, so we helped sort out the food and do last-minute tasks before Grandma and Grandpa Friend got there. There was confetti and helium balloons and a coffee bar. Centerpieces were orange slices and circus peanuts (Grandpa's favorites). A photographer came to do family photos, we had a good potluck lunch, and there were gifts for Grandpa that left hardly anyone dry-eyed in the room. We had coffee and cake and played a round of Phase 10 (as you do, when you're with the Friend family) and the siblings told stories from when they grew up. We caught up with new life happenings with the whole family there, and it just felt like the best afternoon

Our flights were scheduled for midday the next day...with a layover in Houston. We checked before leaving for the airport and saw the flight had been cancelled last minute. After two hours on the phone with our booking agency (thanks for taking one for the team, Nicholas!) we arranged for new flights the following day, called our employers, decided to make the best of an extra day with family and see it as a blessing (which it most definitely was).

Some other favorite parts of the trip:

  • hearing his grandparent's love story; about "cruising" around town together on their first date and stopping twice for hamburgers at a drive-in.
  • watching ninja warrior
  • puppy snuggles, as many as possible
  • a second cup of coffee in the morning
  • walking with all the dogs
  • seeing Grandma Friend's recent crochet projects
  • ripping out the start of the second sock for N after realizing it was too feminine (I mean, what can you do? ;) I already received a skein of navy yarn for his replacement pair!)
  • coffee and leftover birthday party cake on the patio at grandma and grandpa's 
  • chipotle for lunch 
  • post-lunch naps, puppy snuggles and knitting
  • a hike at a local park on our "extra day" aka Labor Day
  • a quiet night in with a movie and a last-minute run to DQ with Katelyn
  • the taste of a mint DQ shake―I always called it "minty cream" instead of "creme de menthe" as a kid, but they always knew what I meant ;). It's one of those childhood favorites that still tastes the way I remember. 
  • just being in the Midwest

And at the end of it all, we did have quite the journey: 4 airports, 3 flights, and 1 delay, but we arrived safely back in Austin. 

It was such a good trip, the kind that's too short (of course) but still heart-refreshing. We already can't wait for the next time we see everyone again. We love you, family!