Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Final Push

After our trip to Alabama/Georgia, we spent about a week in Indiana before heading off for our last jaunt in bonnie Scotland. After all the effort we put into our time there, and after how much we grew to love little St Andrews and the people therein, it was really important to both of us that we go back for Ian's graduation. We needed some closure, and by the grace of God, we found some.

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Family Affair

After another long car trip (though not quite as long, thankfully), we arrived at our cabin in the woods! It was all very official, with entrance gates and codes and hidden keys. Not to mention the reminder in the cabin handbook that just because we find spider webs, that doesn't mean the cabin is dirty. We are in the WOODS, and spiders make webs really fast! So.

Let's just say it was obvious the owners had had some bad experiences with previous renters, and tried to address every. possible. issue.

We stayed for a week in a beautiful, hilly (mountainous? I'm not sure) area with lots of my beautiful, non-hilly family. There were 20 of us, and it was even more fun than it sounds! It had been a while since all of us had been reunited, and I think we made the most of it.

This was the view off the back deck..

And this was when it was made even prettier on a foggy morning..

We had a fun time figuring out how to cook for so many people with limited cooking apparatuses. There were lots of pots involved..

Aed managed to get creative with his dinner on more than one occasion.. this one was photo-worthy..

I looked at this photo and couldn't figure out why I took it, so just in case you don't see it,
check out the pickup truck Aed packed full :)

Possibly my favorite picture of the whole week, the oldest of the little cousins together on the swing!

It was really fun having all the littles together, and made for some very entertaining moments. Not the least of which was when Nena and Papaw were babysitting.. The rest of us had gone river tubing (which was ridiculously fun, and also a little gross, but mostly fun and also hilarious) and came back to hear tales of numerous potty incidents, including possible ingestion of poop. Those five together (just so it's that much more impressive - a 4 year old, two 2 year olds, an almost 1 year old, and an almost 6 month old) would be a lot to handle for any seasoned parent! Fortunately, my parents are brave.

A really fun aspect of the trip that I hadn't considered was that both my sister and Wes and Ian and I had babysitters (thank you family!) and were all together at the same time. Which meant we got to do things together without the kids! It was really fun to goof off and spend time together without the distraction and chaos (and wonderfulness, don't get me wrong!) of our precious kiddos. 

I loved the time with aunts, uncles, and cousins that I haven't seen in so long. It was such a gift to be together again and really catch up a bit. Such wonderful memories to add to the bank. So thankful!

Indiana Days: Let the Traveling Begin!

At the end of May, we embarked on the road trip that was pretty much the beginning of the end of our Indiana Days. We were headed South, and I was very excited about that! All of my mom's family (her mom's side) lives in the South (minus a few that have scattered northward). I grew up visiting my grandparents in Florida twice a year (a drive that I should know like the back of my hand.. but being me, I pretty much only know landmarks.. but I still think I could get there :), and the summer visit typically included attending the family reunion at my great aunt's house in southern Alabama. This was my first opportunity to attend a family reunion in years. I actually don't remember the last time I was able to go.. It's been a while.

So, we loaded up the van, making sure there was room for Ian, who we would be picking up during our travels (yay!), and set off.

An early morning, so a breakfast on the go!


We drove and drove and drove and drove. It took us 15 hours to make that trip! Small children really change the time commitment of a road trip :). But they were troopers and happily got out of the car when we arrived at our hotel. The next morning, we took a short drive to make our reunion debut! It was great! Everything looked the same, it smelled the same, the food was good, and the catching-up was even better.

This isn't a great picture, but the two beauties behind the couch are my two great aunts.

I love the hand-holding.. there is always hand-holding going on with this bunch..
Also, please give some love to that shag carpet. It is even more amazing in person!

They started as eight, four boys, four girls. Though there are only two walking with us now, their family has left an incredible legacy of human beings on this earth. The family has grown and grown and grown, and is full of wonderful, caring, kind people.

The living room is always full (though fortunately, there are many other places around to gather.. I don't think we'd all fit in this little room!), but there is also quite a treasure in the pond down the lane. I have memories of go-cart rides, baby alligators, blueberry picking, games in the pond-house, all the kid-cousins making a whirlpool in the pool. Not to mention endless card games and nibbles of goodies not-so-well-hidden in the dining room. However awkward I may be, or may have been, the memories are sweet. The heart is thankful. 

I have many memories of listening to stories on this porch, and making various mud 'treats' just outside :).

And the kitchen, always busy, busy. It takes a lot of work to feed so many, and while the helping hands have changed over the years, the food is always amazing. 

We did lunch at a bigger home nearby (belonging to a cousin of my mom's), to accommodate the growing, growing, growing family, and the spread was impressive to say the least.

This was only the beginnings of what was laid out. I didn't even get a picture of the dessert selection, but you can imagine :)

Aed discovered a trampoline, and it turns out bouncing is one of his favorite things. It took a lot of coaxing to get him off of there.

Finally the time came.. for more driving! Yay! No. Not really. No one was excited. But, we were grateful to have had a chance to see so many people we'd not seen for years. And there is something special about introducing your children to people that have been important in your life (even when your children are dazed and confused :). Maybe someday they'll get to meet my husband, too! :)

So into the car we climbed. Tired and ready to rest.


We were on our way! First stop was the airport to pick up Daddy (a million yays!), and then to our cabin in the woods for a super-duper fun-filled week!

Indiana Days: Farewell for Now

As evidence of our abruptly changing plans grew, we had to stretch our flexibility muscles and really, truly go with the flow. After we found out about Ian's job and how quickly they wanted him there, we had a lot of decisions to make. We had already made plans to travel through most of the month of June, but if May 7th was their date, we needed to make it work. The decision was made that Ian would drive a van load of our stuff out to California, all by himself. He'd stay there for a month, and then fly into Georgia, where we'd pick him up on our way to a cabin in the woods for a family vacation.

That meant we had to organize - and do it quickly! We gathered up essentials and lovingly shoved them into the van, packed as tightly as we could manage. It was a genuine low-rider :) If you've ever wondered if a pillow-top queen-sized mattress will fit horizontally into a minivan.. We can tell you, with the right coaxing, it will.

This was the passenger's side..

And the driver's side..

Knowing we'd be paying for every pound we shipped, we crammed as much as we could into that trusty van.

This was Ian's comfy seat..

And, yes, the red strap and clamp were relocated during the actual driving! 
That drive was a serious challenge for Ian. Doing it by himself on top of the sudden change of circumstances he'd just had, on top of ending up in a completely unfamiliar place with the pressure of a new job and no one (and no furniture!) to come home to and experience and process it all with him.. It was a bit of a doozy. He persevered, grew an affinity (might be too generous?) for Motel 6es, and made it in one piece with only a few anxious phone calls (that were responded to with varying degrees of sympathy - ha!). He set up some boxes as a 'couch' and a few others as a 'table' and spent the next 3.5 weeks learning about the area a bit and learning about all his new responsibilities. And always missing his family..

Who were partying back in Indiana! J/k. We can't even help but miss Daddy when he just goes off to work for a day, and we most certainly missed him during that long month!

Fortunately, the time was passed much more easily for us this go-around. With sunshine and green grass, we had plenty to do! Aed ate most of his lunches outside (which we learned was a horrible temptation for poor Pippers). It pretty much always ended with him laying on the ground playing with some truck, but he especially liked this one..

We got tuckered out by a fun Mother's Day visit with extended family at a big park not too far away..

We stuffed our faces with avocados..

We changed recalled parts on the buggy and felt very handy about it all..

Note, even Asher was with us in monitor form! Can you find him? :)

We LOVED watching Papaw mow the lawn..

We enjoyed ice cream outings and days at the park. Playing in the nursery at church and running in and out of the doors on the gazebo. There was much to be thankful for during our time without Daddy, but goodness gracious we were glad when we were all together again! 

Indiana Days: Fun Footwear

While spending his days with his - originally uncle's, more recently - cousin's room as his own, Aed discovered that he has an affinity for footwear.

Being that my sister's family lived at my parents' house for a year before we did, a lot of their things still reside there. Including my nephew's shoes. Aed found a couple of pairs of black shoes in his closet that he would often be wearing we when retrieved him after his nap. Always pants-less too, of course. He'd slide those things on any old time of day, including right after waking up.

He also commandeered a pair of boots that were his cousin's and wore those things for all occasions!

My personal favorite, though, was when he'd shove them on over his footy pajamas and go for a walk in his pajamas and boots. He is ever the trendsetter.

Then, we went on a little vacation with our extended family, and my sister's family joined us. My niece had a super cute little pair of crocs that looked like Mary Jane's that Aed couldn't get enough of! Every time we turned around he was wearing these things.

After seeing what joy they brought him, we started searching high and low for a similar pair in a boy color, but couldn't even find the style! But I thought he still might like the ease with which the crocs can be put on and taken off independently, so we kept searching for crocs for him. My mom found these winners and we never looked back!

Nowadays, he mostly wears sandals or his 'racing shoes' (tennis shoes) because of the climate, but the Lightning McQueens still get pulled out pretty regularly to play with or wear. And, I have no doubt that as soon as he spots those boots at Nena and Papaw's house, they will be inseparable. 

I'm happy to say, his brother has joined him in his love for shoes. His current obsession is 'SHSHGHSHEHSHGHOOOOES?' Asher is constantly putting them on and taking them off, and heaven help us if you put on his shoes and aren't immediately ready to walk out the door! Love these boys!

Indiana Days: Feeling Big

Asher! How big are you?

Whoa there, buddy.. no need to take it so seriously.

Phew. There we go.

(Just for the record, that first picture up there really was his genuine SO BIG face.. best ever)

We knew you were getting bigger when you started joining Big Brother in his adventures.

And we almost died from cuteness.

We took you to the zoo with your brother, and had a wonderful time with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins! Something we had missed during our time in Scotland.

Mama was even crazy enough to let you crawl around the dirty zoo so you could stretch your little limbs.

We saw seals..




And elephants! (There was even a baby :)

And, if you crop the picture just right, you’d almost think we went straight to Africa to find that elephant! Right? No? 

Worth a shot.