BUT, the day before we left, our littlest man turned one! He had a very small 'party' that involved a cake not worth photographing, but plenty of smiles to go around :)
He enjoyed his dinner (and for the record, no longer eats peas..)
And even enjoyed his dessert!
So, the next day, off we went. Knowing this visit could be emotional, would definitely be wonderful, and might be our last chance, there was great anticipation and some apprehension.
It was really strange being back, but staying in someone else's house (which we were really thankful for, but the way!). Not knowing how much Aed really remembered, but noticing some obvious discontent when we were in areas we had frequented that he couldn't engage with in the same way (not being able to go into our old house, for example). Being out of the loop and missing out on seeing some really special people. It was bittersweet, with some tears as well as great joy and happy sighs.
A few days after our arrival, my parents and Ian's sister joined us, and we really enjoyed being together despite a number of cold, rainy days :). One sunny day, we headed out to play at the cathedral. Aed found all his usual favorite spots, and it was really fun to have Asher there with new mobility to enjoy the area so much more.
Asher also took his first official 'walks' across a room while we were there, which we all thought was really special :)
Something that a couple guys wanted to do was jump off the pier into the North Sea (as a celebration, of course). Ian wavered on whether he wanted to do it or not, but ultimately decided to and had tons of fun! He even considered doing it again! Here's the big jump..
And the scramble to get out of the frigid water!
We capitalized on another sunny and not-too-cold day and headed out to West Sands. I will never grow tired of seeing that skyline.
It was perfectly sunny on one side, but when I turned around, this is what I saw..
A little menacing given that I didn't have anything to keep us warm in the rain, but it blew over us without getting us even a little bit wet!
Both the boys LOVED the beach. Aed chased birds and played (and laid!) in the sand. Asher crawled around and ate the sand. They were covered. They both ended up sporting sandy mustaches because the cold made their little noses runny. Even with a sandy mustache.. cute as a button!
We were able to attend two Sundays at the Free Church, which was so meaningful, and were even included in the Sunday School gifts. Each of our boys was given a little set of books from the church, which just about sent me over the edge of all teariness. It really was a roller coaster experience. I had not considered that it would ultimately be saying goodbye all over again, but this time without a promise of return. It still breaks my heart when I think of all the relationships that can only continue in a limited fashion, but I am so thankful for that heartbreak because I know it means love has been shared. We were a part of each others' lives in big and small ways, and that will never be lost. I am so grateful that the Lord knows me through and through, that my joy and tears and confusion are not lost on him. No matter which way life tosses us, he is always the same. Always love, always goodness, always grace and truth. That is a life changer, that kind of love and commitment.
So there was a lot going on, inwardly and outwardly. We booked ourselves full trying to see as many people as we could. We got to experience slugs in the kitchen (something we had previously escaped!). And we were reminded just how biting cold, Scottish rain can be.
The big day came and Ian got all gussied up..
Such a stunner! I could not believe the moment had come, and was beyond proud of my husband.
He was tapped and hooded and proclaimed, Dr. Church! We were able to celebrate with several of his fellow students, as well as his supervisor and many others at a little 'garden party' (that was actually inside due to rain). It really was a happy and special time to enjoy Ian's accomplishment, and we were so glad to have some family with us to celebrate as well!
|The official PhD robes are beautiful blue! And, the hood is a perfect match :)|
|Look who I'm with! It's Dr. Church!|
|The whole gang (Minus kids! We didn't think they'd be a very welcome addition to the ceremony. :)|
There are so many others that weren't with us that have been such a support to us during Ian's tenure as a PhD student. We have so very much to be thankful for. And thankful we are!
My parents and Katy left before we did, so we had a couple days by ourselves again. I think it was those days when it really began to sink in that our time in St Andrews had ended. I'd move to Scotland again in a heartbeat if we had to do it all over. We went with such a sense of adventure, and found so much more than adventure while we were there. We never expected to root ourselves so securely into life there; I never expected to discover such a contentedness with who I am while were there. It is a place that will always be important, a place that has left a deep mark on us. I could not be more thankful that my first steps into motherhood were in that community; that we knit ourselves together as a family with a hodgepodge of people from all over the world supporting and loving us, us giving that love and support right back. Amazing. It is amazing to consider what a gift it is to have had such an experience.
We left Scotland with sadness and with readiness. We were sad to say goodbye to it all, but ready to set out for our new home. We were back in Indiana for less than 24 hours before we headed back to the airport to fly to California. We travelled 36 out of 48 hours and changed 8 time zones. That is something we will never, ever do again. Ever. I will always argue that it was worth it, but I will also always argue that we should do everything possible to avoid it in the future :). And so we were gone. Off to a new something, a new somewhere. And here we are, honing in on four months in our new location. A lot has changed, some things have stayed the same, and we're finding the good in all of it. One day at a time.