Utah 2023 for ELLA FEST: Part 3

This is the third and final part of our trip recap to Utah for ELLA FEST! What is Ella Fest, you ask?

Only THE festival of the year. Maybe of my life. That’s all. 🙂

I’m going to err on the side of privacy here and not share a lot of details (those are for my sister and my niece to hold!), but adoption and foster care have both evolved a LOT in the last few decades. I grew up in a family that decided to become a licensed foster home, and ever since the late 1990s both foster care and adoption have been a big part of my life. And the conversation behind family ties has changed a lot (in a healthy way) since then.

While the general idea of adoption used to be 1) to place the child in a new setting (family, country, culture) and 2) basically cut all ties with the bio family, researchers and psychologists (and families!) now understand better that keeping that connection to the family is important. Like, really really important. And while adoption is complicated, often messy, and creates a lifetime of big feelings that will need to be felt and processed again and again, it’s also a celebration of permanency and love.

It’s a lot.

And putting all of that ^ on an invitation would also be a lot (lol) and so my sister decided to call the entire day Ella Fest so we can all keep our attention on the main event: this precious girl, her life, and how much we ALL love her.

So in this PART 3 I’ll (finally) share about the adoption day itself! But first, if you missed PART 1 or PART 2 of our family trip to Utah, go back and read those.


On Monday morning we woke up, loaded the boys in the car, and drove to a city I’ve always wanted to see:

PARK CITY! Nate’s been here once for a bachelor party, but I’ve never experienced Park City. It is absolutely gooooorgeous!

First stop was a late breakfast at Saltbox. We got a picnic table outside for the group and soaked up the morning sun.

My beautiful sister. (Can you spy Milo in this pic?)

I love a good family breakfast! And I looooove some cool mornings. It’s hard to explain just how wonderful it felt to be sitting outdoors, drinking a chai, embracing the 65-degree weather after about 30 consecutive days over 100 degrees in Austin. This trip to Utah came at the perfect time.

Biiiig fan of the coffee mugs at Saltbox. I love this pink Himalayan salt color.

Everything was SO good!

I had a breakfast sandwich and some of Nate’s biscuits & gravy, and I’m telling you – when I come back to Park City, I’ll be eating breakfast here every day!

Milo and his auntie CC. 🙂

We spent the early part of the afternoon walking up and down Main Street, stopping in shops, and drinking coffee.

Cara told Milo he could pick out a toy in one of the shops, and he chose this bag of colorful rocks.

Look at how excited he is! ROCKS!

Jumping off the wall with Uncle Will. There was a LOT of jumping and climbing going on.

Dayton had stayed back at our airbnb and spent the day with my mom and dad, so it was just the three of us! It was really fun to get to spend some time with just Milo!

My sister and my beautiful aunt. I love them both so much! My aunt has always lived in a different state than me, so I’m really thankful for any time we get to spend together, like that aunt/niece trip we took to Glacier earlier this summer.

I asked him to smile so I could send a picture back to Grammy and Papa in Austin!

We walked, we talked, we window shopped…

So adorable! It was my first time to Park City, but I’ve spent lots and lots of time in Breckenridge, and this little Main Street reminded me of Breck. I can imagine how magical it all looks when it’s covered in snow.

Java Cow ice cream was a big win.

Blurry pic, but the butterfinger ice cream was delish!

Any other parent of a 3-year-old will relate to this, and everyone else will be like, “wait, THAT’S how you spent your time in Park City?” but Milo’s very favorite part of the entire day in Park City was this little fountain at the end of Main Street. I don’t think he was really supposed to be climbing up and putting his hands in the water (because it was a decorative fountain), but he was just so excited about it and it was a pretty empty day in Park City, so I let him play. He’d drop a rock in the water to “wash it” and then put it out on the sunny ledge to let it dry.

Again and again and again. !! He loved it so much that he and I made a special trip aaaaaall the way back to the very end of the street to visit the fountain again while everyone else walked back to the car. They picked us up at the fountain and then we headed to…

…Utah Olympic Park! Ooh, I was so excited to see this place! I figured it would be fun to stop by for 30 minutes and look at the museum and Olympic memorabilia, but I didn’t realize they also had this giant pool where skiers could practice their jumps! Holy moly, it was SO much fun to watch! Milo loved it too, and we stayed here for a good hour or so just watching the skiers go down the hill, fly and flip through the air, and then land in the water with a big THUD.

It was sooooo fun to watch.

They had this turf-covered hill where spectators could sit, and there was a nearby food truck with snacks and drinks. We got a few beers and chips and enjoyed the Utah sunshine while we watched skiers…in the middle of the summer.

I went inside to the museum, and it was giving me MAJOR olympic fever! It’s so funny how I remember so much of those 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics! Like the speed skating crash with Apolo Anton Ohno when all the major contenders fell and a guy from the back of the pack ended up getting gold. Or the figure skating doubles judging scandal when the Russians were given the gold medal, and then a few weeks later the Canadian’s silver medal was upgraded to gold when the scandal came to light. (I remember that all so vividly, even though it was 21 years ago!)

Biiiiiig Olympics person here. I am so excited for the summer Olympics next year! I’ll be glued to my couch for 3 weeks watching every minute of it.

Milo said “no thanks” to the photo, but here’s the whole group!

We watched the ski jumpers a little bit longer and then headed back home in the afternoon to get ready to meet up with everyone else.

Later in the afternoon we headed to a park! Cousin photo struggle bus…

I tried to snap a family photo but the boys weren’t having it (story of my life…) so I got a pic with my cute husband instead.

Playground time! Milo found some Easter eggs in Courtney’s garage and put one single blade of grass inside every single egg.

And Dayton just climbed.

My little man, leading the pack! He’s always running!

In the evening we went to a minor league baseball game, which was so much fun. I’ve been wanting to take my boys to Round Rock Express here near Austin, but it’s just so dang hot outside and doesn’t sound enjoyable at all! But the evenings in Utah are so lovely, and everyone had a great time at the ballpark.

My beautiful mama and sister!

We were a pretty big group of people, so we had 3 rows of seats. Everyone was up and down the entire game (with a 1, 2, and 3-year-old with us!) and so we were constantly switching seats and asking, “wait, is that my beer? is that your water? do you see my purse anywhere?”

I mostly just wish I was taking a picture of her sitting next to Sayed instead.

Haha. I’m so curious what Milo is telling Kylee in this photo. ^ I’m sure it’s very interesting!

One more sleep before her adoption day!

It’s wonderful bringing my boys to a baseball game where there are about 10 other adults around who all love them. I had plenty of time to sit, eat my food, drink a beer, talk with people, watch the game, and relax! I took a few shifts climbing around with the boys, but for the most part my family members were hanging out with them all evening.

I mean, I watched a little bit of the game. But I was very distracted when this cutie standing in front of me.

Ballpark franks and beer!! Name a better combo.

Sorry Round Rock, but this Utah ballpark has you beat in terms of views. I hardly watched the game at all because I was soaking up those gorgeous mountains in the background!

Haha, I love this picture so much.

The baseball game was a blast! We didn’t make it quite to the end, but the boys rallied and stayed up pretty late.

When Milo got this sleepy look on his face and asked to sit on Nate’s lap and snuggle, we knew it was time to get back home and start the bedtime routine.

Baths and jammies and books and snuggles. Goodnight!


Woohoo, Ellie’s adoption day!

We woke up to a few morning rain showers, which felt so lovely. It was raining AND the automatic sprinklers were on at our airbnb (which I didn’t love for water usage, but it’s not my property so I didn’t have a way to control it) and Milo just couldn’t resist.

Neither could Dayton. Both boys were having the best morning running around in the rain and the sprinklers!

For the next few hours Nate and my dad hung out with the boys while I was at my sisters house getting it ready for Ella Fest! We were all working together doing Costco runs, setting up tables and chairs, cleaning, and getting ready for a crowd of people who all wanted to celebrate Ellie.

And then the entire family was invited to the court house to attend her official adoption.

Oh Ellie baby, we love you SOOO so much. And we always will.

The adoption was scheduled literally exactly at nap time (haha, go figure) and you get what you get and you don’t give a fit. So I had two fussy and sleepy boys on me who weren’t interested in a group photo. All good though, because we’re planning on a lifetime of memories and photos with this precious girl.

When we all found out what Courtney was calling this day, we were SO excited to celebrate Ella Fest! And my sister’s boyfriend Tyler, who works in marketing, designed these cool t-shirts for the event. 🙂

We had a bit of extra time before heading over for the celebration, so Milo and I hung out outside. He played with his new rocks from CC and I read my kindle.

There might have also been some digging in the dirt. I don’t know.

I’d glance up from my kindle and he’d be somewhere around the yard. Pretty sure he’s digging dirt with a plastic spoon here.

Happy happy happy ELLA FEST!!!!

Ellie had some gifts to open, and Milo was (of course) ready to help out.

^ There’s a story behind this outfit. Sayed was planning to get Ellie a pair of Air Jordans for her adoption day. He had ordered a bright purple shirt with her initials on it, and Sayed and Cara texted picture back and forth to each other of how they planned to complete the outfit – little black ruffle shorts and ruffle socks and a bow. Sayed died two weeks before Ella Fest, and so Cara made sure to get the Jordans he wanted and the entire outfit. Ellie rocked that outfit all evening, and I know Sayed would have loved it.

Party time!

^ I guess I at a lot of hot dogs on this trip?

It was a perfect evening of food and drinks and hanging out and celebrating Ellie girl!

There were a lot of kids running around, so Courtney set up a few splash pads and bounce houses in her backyard. Milo was in heaven.

My dad did all the grilling for the group. I know that if Sayed had been there, he 100% would have wanted to be on the grill.

Yum. The irresistible taste of ketchup on a hotdog bun.

Dayton wasn’t feeling great, so Nate and I tag-teamed staying home with him. I went on a little walk with him and he was SO excited when we found a cat walking around the neighborhood.

And then a SECOND cat showed up. The excitement, you guys!!

When all the littlest babies had gone home at the end of the party, we stopped by so Dayton could say hi and eat some dinner. OMG one more look at the logo on these shirts, because it was SO good!!

Cousins forever.


We had just a little bit of time on day 6 to spend with family. The boys and I headed to Courtney’s house and Nate got us checked out of our Airbnb. (Again…it’s just so much easier to do check-in/check-out without the kids around, haha!)

^ Dayton said good morning to Courtney’s cat Sebastian.

And Milo discovered the excitement of Guess Who? and played it for a looooong time.

And then we started our travel day back to Austin.

Btw, if you’re ever at the Salt Lake City airport and need a meal, there’s a fast casual restaurant called Garbanzo and it’s delicious! I’ve eaten there a few times, and it’s always quick and fresh and healthy, which is usually what I’m craving at the end of a trip.

It was Dayton’s final flight as a lap baby (babies fly free until they turn 2) and this flight happened to be during nap time…and he actually slept! I zipped him up in his sleep sack and he fell asleep sprawled across all three of our laps.

Full heart.

And that was our trip to Utah. I officially have a niece now, and the boys have their first cousin. We’ll be back in Utah many, many, many times in the future to make sure these cousins get lots of time together.

For now, I’m off to transition into our back-too-school season! Milo is going to attend a sweet little 1/2 day Montessori school this fall. I’m so excited for him to begin!

Thanks for following along. I love sharing these travel recaps and re-living the memories. Have a fantastic day! XO.

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