Utah 2023 for ELLA FEST: Part 1

Wahoo! A trip recap! I love sharing these because its means I get to re-visit all of those fun vacation memories. Last week we visited my sister in Utah for a very, very special occasion.

She adopted her daughter, Briella! Ellie has been in our lives since early 2022 but I haven’t been able to share her face or name yet (although you probably saw her appear in this post earlier this summer). I am so, so happy to be able to share this beautiful little girl with you now. She’s the sweetest, cutest, silliest little firecracker.

Before I share anything, I want to start with this: we booked this trip several months ago when Courtney notified us of Ellie’s official adoption date. And then, a few weeks ago, Cara’s boyfriend Sayed was shot and killed. Needless to say, there was a wide range of emotions on this trip. It was the biggest joy knowing that Ellie is going to be in our lives forever; our entire family flew in for her adoption weekend so we could celebrate and love her! And there was also an excruciating pain throughout the trip because Sayed wasn’t there in Utah with us. He had booked his flight and airbnb and was supposed to be there with Cara all weekend. It was the strangest juxtaposition to feel that deep, dark grief while also celebrating the immense joy of welcoming a new family member. I’m really proud of how our entire family handled it, because it wasn’t easy. I’m especially proud of my sister, Cara, who still came on the trip, celebrated her new niece, and honored and grieved Sayed simultaneously. I know she was in pain the entire time, and she still showed up and celebrated Ellie. That’s the biggest love.

Ok, here’s a recap of our summer trip to Utah:

Day 1

^ Up bright and early to get to the Austin airport! We were out the door at 5:30 am to catch our flight to Salt Lake City. The boys were both SOO excited!

We had a bit of time to kill, so we found an empty-ish gate and the boys ran around on the carpet. Dayton is very into airplanes these days. He loves it when one goes by overhead when we’re playing at the park or pool, so having 30 minutes to watch airplanes out the window was an exciting morning for us.

While I watched the boys, Nate ran down to the other end of the airport to get a few breakfast tacos and eat breakfast. Then, he watched the boys while I ate breakfast.

Sausage/egg/cheese FTW! I have said it a million times y’all, but I am SO glad the Austin airport has a plethora of delicious local food options. I used to be the type of person who would try to get to her flight at the last possible minute, but in the past decade of flying in/out of Austin, I’ve started arriving at the airport super early so I have enough time to get a breakfast taco, a beer, a sushi roll, a coffee + pastry, or sometimes a full sit-down dinner at Second Bar + Kitchen before my flight.

Two elephants? Check.

Here we go!

^ I think this is a pretty accurate depiction of our flight to Utah. Milo sat quietly the whole time (he was absolutely thrilled to be able to watch shows on his iPad!) and Dayton literally never stopped moving. Not once.

Look at Milo’s face! He was so very thrilled to be riding on this “escalator.”

We got our rental car, loaded up, and headed toward my sister’s house. I looked in the back seat 5 minutes into our drive and saw ^ this. That 5 am wake up caught up to him!

Cousin play time! I had full intentions of putting Dayton down for a quick afternoon nap, but he was way too excited to play with all of Ellie’s fun toys. So we spent the afternoon playing instead, and I wasn’t mad about it at all.

It makes my heart SO happy to see these 3 cousins getting to play together!

In the late afternoon, our airbnb was ready so Courtney said she would watch all 3 kids while I went over there to check in. Side note: SO much easier to check in and unpack without the two little ones there! I’m the type of person who always completely unpacks her suitcase on trips, even if it’s just a 2-night stay. (This was a 5-night stay.) I love getting the clothes hung and de-wrinkled, the boys’ stuff organized, Dayton’s pack-n-play set up, the kitchen ready for us to make our coffee in the morning, and toiletries unpacked in the bathroom. I’d just rather spend the 30 minutes at the beginning of the trip to do all that so I’m comfortable and at home during the entire trip.

^ Also, our airbnb was lovely! It was a great size for our family of four to stay upstairs, plus it had a beautifully finished basement with another bedroom + full bath where so that Cara could stay with us, too. There was a big playroom downstairs, a laundry room, and a lovely view of the mountains. It was a very comfortable stay for us!

I walked back over to my sister’s house and found her with all 3 cousins in the backyard…soaking wet and having the time of their lives.

Lol at Dayton drinking to drink the water like a drinking fountain. We played a bit more and then walked back to our airbnb home! Milo kept asking “did we get a new house?!” My explanation that it’s not a new house, it’s just vacation rental for 6 days in Utah didn’t really make sense to him, so eventually just said, “yes, it’s our Utah house and we’re only staying for 6 days, and then we’re going back to our Austin house” was a more acceptable answer to his 3-year-old brain.

Exploring the “Utah house.”

^Checking out their aunt CC’s downstairs bedroom.

Dinner was at Ogden Beer Co. I was just at this Utah brewery 2 months ago, and I knew that Nate and the boys would love it so we came back!

We had a pretty big group at our dinner table so we got one of their large indoor tables.

(But the outside area is really beautiful!)

The boys will sit and eat/color for about 15 minutes, so during the rest of restaurant meals Nate and I typically tag-team. I ate first while he played outside with the boys, and then we switched places and I hung out with the boys outside for 30 minutes.

Exploring the outdoor rock garden!

See that bridge in the background behind Dayton? It’s a bike path that runs over the river, and every few minutes a biker would come by on the path. Dayton loved watching the bikes! Every time a biker would go past us, he’d look at me and say, “more? more?” Haha. As if I could summon more families of bikers at will. I appreciate that he has so much confidence in his mom.

We were having so much fun!

Cool Utah evenings and some outdoor play time? YES PLEASE.

This kid jumped and climbed and played so hard!

And I loved having cool weather and a view of the mountains.

We went home, got the boys to bed (they crashed hard after that long travel day!) and Nate and I sat outside in our yard and drank a beer. Templin Family Brewing is a Utah brewery that Nate had been wanting to visit, but Utah beer laws don’t allow people under 21 to enter breweries unless the brewery is zoned as a “restaurant” instead of a “bar.” Ha! It was so confusing to me coming from Austin where breweries are basically playgrounds for kids. Anyway, Nate grabbed a few cans so we could enjoy a drink together after the kids went to bed.

It was so lovely to pull on a sweatshirt, sit outside on a brisk evening, and share a beer with my man. We talked and enjoyed our view of the nearby mountains.

Cheers to the end of day 1!

Ok friends, it turns out that I have about 1 million photos from this trip, so I’m going to break this into several blog posts. I’ll share PART 2 of our Utah/Ella Fest trip next time! XO.



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Jess Barr
Jess Barr
9 months ago

Can’t wait for part 2! I love that you’re wearing your ABGB sweatshirt during beer tasting time 😍 a true enthusiast!

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