We boarded a plane bound for the great midwest a week ago and after the longest-ever four-hour flight, we landed in Minnesota for a happy reunion with the Schnell clan.  It was 10 pm when we rolled up to Shane’s parents’ house, so we tucked in a tuckered-out girl, did a little catchup with the family, and then fell into bed ourselves, exhausted but relieved to have made it through the journey with only minimal tears (alright, in truth, Jules cried a lot…but I only cried a little!).

After a Friday morning run into town to pick up a few essentials, we spent some time meeting the next door neighbors and Shane’s mom and dad’s new house.

20150515 minnesota1 sm

20150515 minnesota2 sm

20150515 minnesota3 sm

We went for a walk down the dirt road at the end of their driveway and Jules found a mud puddle she couldn’t resist.  I didn’t have any napkins or wipes on me, so Shane showed her how to wipe her hands on the grass.

20150515 minnesota4 sm

She thought this was a pretty great trick.

20150515 minnesota5 sm

20150515 minnesota6 sm

20150515 minnesota7 sm

20150515 minnesota8 sm

Shane’s sister and nephew came by later that afternoon – Avery warmed up to his uncle the moment Shane offered to toss the football around with him.

20150515 minnesota9 sm

20150515 minnesota10 sm

Shane’s dad thought Jules would love checking out his tractor, so we all walked down the road to his shop that evening.

20150515 minnesota11 sm

20150515 minnesota12 sm

She was a little skeptical when we first put her in there…

20150515 minnesota13 sm

20150515 minnesota14 sm

20150515 minnesota15 sm

But then Denny fired that thing up and let her hold the steering wheel – she loves being in the drivers seat.

20150515 minnesota16 sm

20150515 minnesota17 sm

20150515 minnesota18 sm

She looked on a little enviously when it was Avery’s turn to take it for a spin.

20150515 minnesota19 sm

Our nieces and brother-in-law joined us that evening – felt so good to have the whole gang together!

20150515 minnesota21 sm

20150515 minnesota22 sm

Shanay and Hayden were incredibly sweet to Juliette, doting on her, hugging her and reading to her and letting her play with their phones – this girl was in cousin heaven.

20150515 minnesota23 sm

We feasted on burgers and steaks hot off the grill for dinner and crashed hard that night, still a little weary from the previous day’s travel.

On Saturday morning we headed over to Hayden’s school to watch her softball tournament.  It was drizzly and a bit chilly that morning, but Juliette was happy to hang out in the rain and cheer on her cousin.  Getting to sit in the dugout was a major bonus.

20150516 minnesota1 sm

20150516 minnesota2 sm

20150516 minnesota3 sm

Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa that evening so that we could grab a drink with his sister and brother-in-law.  We did some quality catching up at Sixth Ave Wine and Ale and arrived back at the house just as the skies opened up and the rain started to POUR.

20150516 minnesota4 sm

And POUR.  I thought this was just a typical midwestern thunderstorm, until I heard the guys talking about a tornado watch – a funnel cloud had been spotted a half mile away.  Shane’s mom started pulling out blankets and pillows and piling them in their utility room, in case we needed to take refuge.  Jules looks awfully nervous, doesn’t she?

20150516 minnesota5 sm
We made it through the storm unscathed, but wowsers!  What a night!

We spent Sunday morning at church, celebrating Shanay’s confirmation – she was radiant.  She’s become such a mature, beautiful, kind young woman.

20150517 minnesota1 sm

Juliette sat through the service quietly and contentedly, happy to hop from my lap to Aunt Tiff’s to Grandma’s to Grandpa’s.

20150517 minnesota2 sm

We ate lunch at the church and then took advantage of the sunshine to romp outdoors before naptime.

20150517 minnesota4 sm

20150517 minnesota6 sm

20150517 minnesota7 sm

20150517 minnesota8 sm

20150517 minnesota9 sm

20150517 minnesota10 sm

20150517 minnesota11 sm

20150517 minnesota12 sm

Juliette loved the freedom of the wide open spaces – we spend a lot of time outside in Seattle, but this may have been her first opportunity to dance in the middle of the street.

And those horses!  She couldn’t get enough.

20150517 minnesota13 sm

Shane’s mom and I spent the afternoon rearranging furniture in the living room – it was fun for me to help them settle into their new place (they moved in just a few hours before we arrived on Thursday!).  The skies turned gray and we weathered another storm, but it passed quickly.  Those colors, though!  Gorgeous.

20150517 minnesota14 sm

20150517 minnesota15 sm

20150517 minnesota17 sm

We had an appointment for a family photo shoot at 6:00, but first, the obligatory stop at Big Ole, the town’s pride and joy (see Jules down there, by his foot?).

20150517 minnesota16 sm

We went back to the house after our photo session for pizza and ice cream – I came to love those big family dinners, gathering around the kitchen island while eating and drinking.  Our dining room table has felt especially quiet these past couple days!

Monday was cold – temps had been in the 70’s on Sunday, but had dropped to the 30’s overnight.  We did a little shopping with Shane’s mom that morning and then I told Juliette we’d make good on our promise to take her to a lake to throw rocks.  We hopped out of the car at lake L’Homme Dieu, felt the biting wind and saw the whitecaps on the water and then called it.  We tried.

20150519 minnesota1 sm

20150519 minnesota2 sm

20150519 minnesota3 sm

We spent the evening at Tiff’s house – Juliette was quite taken with Pinto Bean, their rambunctious shih tzu.

20150519 minnesota4 sm

20150519 minnesota5 sm


20150519 minnesota6 sm

20150519 minnesota7 sm

We let Juliette stay up past her bedtime to eat watermelon with Grandma and Grandpa.  My heart was fit to burst, watching these two love our daughter so openly and generously throughout our stay.

20150519 minnesota8 sm

20150519 minnesota9 sm

And then one last story…

20150519 minnesota10 sm

We said our good-byes early Tuesday morning and hit the road to Minneapolis.  The flight back to Seattle was smooth and completely tear-free, so we have lifted Juliette’s previously-imposed travel ban.  It felt good to walk through our front door Tuesday afternoon and settle back into home, but man, those Schnells.  They’re a fun, incredibly kind bunch.  I miss them.