Did you know that I lived in Ohio?

Yep… I did!  I lived in Ohio for almost 10 months in 2000.  At the time, I worked for a church in Norwalk (which is close to Sandusky… which is close to Lake Erie).  I was the Worship Leader / Music Director.

Of course… when you live and work for a church in a small community for 10 months, you’re bound to make friends… and I did!  And many of those friends have remained my friends… (in spite of my slow journeying away from my old religious beliefs).  I have friends in Ohio.  Good friends.

And so, after meeting the Millers in Indiana, we had to stop in Ohio for a visit.

First stop was Columbus.  

This is where the Michael Family live.  I made friends with Danielle when we were both still very single.  In fact, Danielle was one of the very first people who guessed that there was something deeper going on between Nick and I (than what I cared to admit at the time).

Also… when Nick and I visited Cuba in 2002… Danielle was there too.  So, we’ve had many deep discussions over the years and I’ve always loved her frank, interesting opinions.

These days, Danielle is happily married to Conrad… and they have 3 children.  Their girls, Isabelle and Grace are similar in age to Morgan and Joah… and their little guy, Hudson, is only a few months old.

Here’s a picture of Joah with Hudson:

IMG_1633

The family lives in a charming house in a neighbourhood outside of Columbus.  Here’s a picture I took through Danielle’s lounge window…  (of the house across the road).  It’s not Danielle and Conrad’s home… but theirs is fairly similar…

IMG_1635

Of course – Morgan and Joah were very delighted to meet Isabelle and Grace… and soon, the 4 of them were playing loudly and rambunctiously (and messily)… creating tents out of blankets and sliding down the stairs on their bums.

Oh… and did I mention that Danielle is not only a fabulous host – but a talented cook (I suspect she inherits this skill from her grandmother, Margie).  We arrived in Columbus to a kind of taco lasagne (very yummy!)… plus nachos with a homemade salsa… and freshly-baked cookies for afterwards.

After lots of catching up and late night chats – Nick and I slept comfortably in Isabelle’s room (while all 4 kids bunked together on the landing outside our door… in a giant nest they’d created out of blankets, pillows and fluffy toys).

The next day, the Michael Family took us to visit the North Market in downtown Columbus.  (It reminds me quite a bit of Joburg’s Neighbourgoods Market) …  artisan breads, all kinds of delicious, freshly-cooked food, spices, sauces, jams… and drool!Jeni’s ice-cream (with odd-sounding, yet DIVINE-tasting flavours like sweet potato with torched marshmallow)…

Here’s two North Market photos…

IMG_1630

IMG_1628

After our tummies were full, we attempted some sledding with the kids… but it was simply too cold and too icy to stay outdoors for long.

The rest of the day was spent warmly ensconced in the Michael Home… with food… hot Indian chai… Christmas lights… and a lovely warm fire.  Oh yes, and we watched Steel Magnolias!  (hehe!)…

The following day, Danielle drove us to a very posh shopping area just outside of Columbus (I’ve forgotten the name).  She wanted to show me around… and she thought we’d enjoy the experience of gawking at the American Girl Doll store… (and gawk I did… and blog I did too…!)

After the Girl-Doll thing… we walked around a bit.  The centre had a beautiful Christmas display with lights… mini-trains… and a giant tree.  If it wasn’t so bitterly cold, I think we would have stayed outdoors for much longer – there was so much to see and “take in”…

Big tree… and 4 happy kidlets...

Big tree… and 4 happy kidlets…

Joah checking out the trains...

Joah checking out the trains…

Afterwards, we all went to a lovely Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a very good… very satisfying meal of shared fajitas.  It was soooo good!

IMG_1675

And then… back to the Michael Home.  I sat at the kitchen table and blogged while Danielle (who is one of those super-productive super-organised women who never seems to rest) helped the kids to bake and decorate cookies!

IMG_1681

I had lots of happy moments bonding with baby Hudson… who, I must admit… made me feel very broody.  There’s just something about a little baby… their cute little grunts and squeaks and movements… that stirs the broodiness in me!  And Hudson is super-cute!

But… that said… I know what hard work babies (and especially toddlers!) are.  And I am happy and grateful that Morgan and Joah are out of nappies and able to bath / change / feed themselves (and wipe their own bums!)…

The following morning, we loaded up George the car and prepared to head northwards to Norwalk.  Danielle packed us a little box of decorated cookies to enjoy on the road.

The  Costaras / Michael kids were all upset about saying goodbye… and tearful protests were voiced.  Little did they know that we (the parents) had hatched a “Big Surprise” that I’ll tell you about in this post…  🙂