Welp, baby girl has done it again – gotten another year older, gotten braver and funnier and taller and awesomer.

Juliette officially turned four on Thursday, kicking off a veritable birthday bonanza.  I got up early that morning to tie a big balloon on her bed, then hovered outside her room waiting for her to stir.  She rolled over and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, her face slowly cracking open into a huge grin as she discovered the giant pink 4 bobbing just over her head.  I smothered her with kisses and birthday exclamations, telling her how four years ago at that time, she was so close to coming out of my belly, how I was at the hospital with Daddy and Nancy and the doctor excitedly waiting to hold her in my arms.  Feels like forever ago…

We breakfasted at Juliette’s favorite coffee shop and then I dropped her off at school with 20 mini-cupcakes, to be shared with all her classmates.  She was so proud, felt so all-important, strutting in with all that sugar.  When we picked her up that evening, she was wearing a birthday crown and clutching a gift from her favorite teacher.  Queen for a day!

We had asked her what she wanted for her special birthday dinner and without hesitation she requested meatballs and pizza and ice cream from Tutta Bella, so we met up with the Chens, happy to indulge her (and ourselves).

Happy Birthday to Youuuuuuu!

Juliette opened her gifts from Shane and me back at home and then we put a bow on Day 1 of the birthday bonanza.

On Friday we went to the coffee shop and the park and put together Juliette’s new Moana Lego set and then, magically, she spent nearly an hour quietly doing crafts in her room, happy to have her birthday balloon as her only company.  Dare I hope that we’re entering new realms of independence?!

We ended the day at the Rusts’ for our weekly family dinner, and while I forgot to get any pics of the birthday decorations Nancy had sweetly strung up around the house, I did get this photo of the kids poring over the Zelda manual.  All three of them, obsessed.

Saturday was the big event, the birthday bash that we’d been planning for the previous few weeks.  Juliette really wanted a party where she could play in the water and while I wasn’t sure that beach weather would stick around in Seattle through mid-September, we crossed our fingers and went for it, purchasing sand pails and beach balls and water squirters as party favors, planning a menu of bbq ribs and watermelon and cupcakes.  And Saturday at Gene Coulon was glorious.  A little hazy, but sunny and warm enough to go for a dip.  What a way to bid hello to Four and farewell to Summer.

There were no magicians or princesses or bounce houses, no Pinterest-worthy decorations, but this was everything we wanted.

The kids took a brief break from splashing around to join the grown-ups on the beach blankets for dinner.

So much lovely mayhem, with wet jeans and watermelon slices dropped in the sand and peanut butter and jelly smeared on toddler cheeks…this is our party scene now.

Juliette came down with a bout of shyness when I brought out the cupcakes and everyone gathered around, so we skipped the singing and let Shane blow out her candle.  I get it, kiddo…being the life of the party can be exhausting!

Buoyed by a sugar boost, Juliette wanted to go back in the water, but only to get her hair wet – not her feet.  Think I can pull off this stunt when she’s five?!

Nance wrote the kindest note to Jules and Isaiah read it aloud to her and I just about cried.  “We are so happy that you are part of our life and our chosen family.  You inspire all four of us with your bravery, your spunk, your enthusiasm, and your amazing laugh.  We love you SO much…”

And now, she’s four.  SHE’S FOUR.  And I’m fine.  I’M FINE.  Sweet Jesus, I miss my baby girl, and looking back over the past year’s photos and videos did send me into a tailspin of panic over how fast this growing-up thing is all happening, but there’s no doubt that we’re loving the journey.  Happiest of Birthdays, Juliette Grace.  You have given us so many reasons to celebrate.

Juliette woke up on Thursday morning eager to get back on her wheels, so we headed over to the basketball courts to let her practice her turns.  She did circle after circle around Shane and I while the Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces looped through my head.

A quick game of tag, a speedy ride home, and then high fives were due all around.  You rock, Jules.

We drove up to Bend later that morning for legit coffee at Strictly Organic and legit beer at Immersion Brewing.  Gotta stay hydrated!

And then we popped over to Farewell Bend Park for a romp on the playground and a walk along the Deschutes River Trail.

I love the terrain along here – feels like part desert canyon, part mountain woods.

We were dusty and tired after our riverside jaunt, so we pulled off at Paulina Creek on our way home to stretch out and put our feet in the calm, cool water.

This little oasis was just so…oasis-y.

Sometimes this girl refuses to have her picture taken.  And sometimes, this…

Juliette fished pinecones out of the water while I sat back and sealed this moment away in my happy PNW memory bank.

“Dips, Mommy, more dips!”

I closed out our final evening in La Pine with a sunset stroll through the neighborhood – I was ready to get back to Seattle but sure was going to miss this slow, quiet life we’d been living for the past few days.

We said goodbye to my mom and dad (and Bernie!) on Friday morning and hit the road to Portland.

First though, because you know I like to pack it in, a stop at Waldo Lake to see if the water there was as beautiful as we’d read it was.

IT WAS.

Seriously, this lake is something else, with water that ranged from the deepest cerulean blue to the clearest turquoise.

Dang it,  Jules!  Summer looks so lovely on you.

Shane asked me the other night if I’m more of a lake person or a beach person and at the time I said I was pretty evenly drawn to both.  But after taking another look at these pictures, I think it’s lakes for the win.

And with that, the paddle board was deflated and Central Oregon Bonanza 2017 was a wrap.  (Waaaahhhhh!)

We powered on to Portland for a one-night layover, where we were greeted by my brother with a couple of cold home brews.  Jack and La Verne coincidentally rolled into town a couple of hours later to begin their own Oregonian vacation, so they joined our party for a bit.

Together again and it feels so good!

 

Saturday morning was filled with cookies, cousin time, and a riverside stroll…

We got home late Saturday afternoon, dropped our bags on the floor, and ventured only as far as Costco on Sunday.  We were beat.  You’re just too good, Oregon.  Too good.

I have a tendency to over-do the sight-seeing and the getting-out when we vacation, but I made a conscious effort to lay a little lower during our week in La Pine.  Our mornings were always leisurely, with coffee and puzzles and maybe a short stroll around the block.  The espresso pickin’s are slim in my parents’ little town, but my mom and I did our darnedest to track down the best latte within a few-mile radius.  After discovering that the favorite neighborhood diner got rid of their espresso machine, we found ourselves at the coffee cart in the parking lot next to the gas station.  Desperate times, people, desperate times.

…And a post-latte morning walk (Jules hearts Bernie 4-ever).

Jules can lay low for only so long, so around lunchtime we drove up to Bend to check out the pool at the Juniper Swim Center, aka Juliette’s New Happy Place.

This place was magical, with pools and a splash pad and slides of all sizes.

After seeing that look of alarm on Juliette’s face as she blipped down the tiny slide, I was surprised to hear her say she wanted to do the BIG slide with Daddy.  I watched her excitedly wait in line, knowing this would end in either laughter or tears.

Loved it!

“Again, Daddy, AGAIN!”

The third time around she asked to go by herself – I waited near the bottom, a little anxious, but my worry was all for naught.  She shot out the end of that thing into the water, bobbed right up, and zipped back to the stairs for another round.

Getting Juliette out of the pool took no small amount of coaxing, but with the promise of french fries and a lollipop, we lured her out and headed over to Worthy Brewing for dinner.

We spent the evening chasing Juliette around the neighborhood on her bike – a couple of small wobbles, and then this girl was solidly off to the races.

I was trailing 50 feet behind her and Shane with the giddiest, proudest grin on my face when a neighbor called from their front yard, “You sure look happy!  Did you win the lottery or somethin’?”

I mean, she is one in a million…

On Wednesday we opted for an easy walk along the Deschutes River up to Benham Falls.

This river is so serene in places, so mighty in others.

Hiking with Jules can be the best of times or the hardest of times.  She can be an amazing little trooper or she can be whiny and stubborn and slow.  Usually she’s some of each within the same mile.  We’ve learned to roll with it.

We picnicked in a shady grove of pines and then Shane strung up the hammock as a makeshift swing for Juliette.

I was jonesing to get out on the paddle board that afternoon, so we went over to Crane Prairie for a quick row – it turned out to be super, super-smoky over there, but goodness, it was quiet.

My dad said there’s usually a beautiful view of the mountains from here.  I’m afraid I just had to take his word for it…

While Shane got out for his turn, Jules and my dad played a rousing game of “guess which hand”.  Three year olds can be so easily amused.

Almost apocalyptic, isn’t it?

Dip those toes while you can, darlin’.  Summer is waning!

Up next: more rivers, more lakes, more mountain zen.

AUGUST.  August was good.  I think we vacationed almost as many days as we worked this month.  Carpe summer, right?

We set out for La Pine to visit my parents two weeks ago, bags packed with swimsuits, floaties, and eclipse glasses.  We spent Friday night at a hotel in Salem to break up the trip, and let me tell you, we rocked that Hampton Inn.  The pool!  The Costco next door!  The brewpub down the street!  The breakfast waffle bar!  Suburban stays have their perks.

We grabbed coffee on Saturday morning at Salem’s finest cafe and then powered south.

Central Oregon has been pummeled by wildfires this summer, made apparent by the haze of smoke that hung over highway 58 east of Eugene.

We did a little sightseeing along the way, popping out to see gushing Salt Creek Falls.

We landed in La Pine around lunchtime, stiff-legged and a little tired of the Moana soundtrack, but hey, we made it!  Hi, Bernie!

My parents moved into a new house in December, and while they downsized their yard, they gained a great neighborhood park, complete with basketball courts and a soccer field and a club house.  It was the perfect place for Juliette to get her wiggles out.

Juliette (and her grandma, and her dad, and her mom) did dozens of laps around this soccer field over the course of the week.  “Chase me, Grandma!  CHASE ME!”  I’m done pretending I can’t catch her – I really can’t catch her.

Shane and I played a round of tennis (aka “fetch”) at the high school tennis courts that evening while my dad and Juliette took Bernie for a walk.  They spotted a family of deer in the woods and Shane and I managed to avoid twisting any ankles.  Wins all around.

Shane was bound and determined to make it to the path of totality for Monday’s eclipse, so he set out for Madras early Sunday morning to join some friends who had snagged a campsite.  My FOT (Fear Of Traffic) outweighed my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), so Juliette and I opted to stay closer to home, enjoying a quiet day at Twin Lake with my mom and dad.

It was smoky out there, but so still and serene.  For awhile, we had the whole place to ourselves.

We kayaked and paddle-boarded and floated the day away.

We super-duper love the lake life.

Some days, this girl literally lights up my world…

A lot of days, actually.

(I just told her that the general store down the shore sells ice cream.)

Our evening was a quiet bout of puzzle-mania back at the house.

Shane’s evening was quiet, too!

Madras was touted as Oregon’s premier eclipse-viewing location – everything I read projected total mayhem in the town.  Somehow, though, Shane found an introvert’s dream spot amidst the crowds.

The big event began around 9:15 Monday morning – we grabbed our glasses and walked over to the soccer field to spread out and wait for 10:30 am dusk.  Even as we were just getting started with a meager bite out of the sun, Juliette was waaaaay impressed.

Way impressed for a minute, that is.  Then it was all, “Chase me, Grandpa!  CHASE ME!”

In between bouts of beach ball soccer, we watched the sun fade to 99% coverage.  The light was eerily gray and suddenly it was so chilly that goosebumps popped up on my arms.  It felt kind of other-worldly out there.

Shane, though…he said the total eclipse blew his mind.  Texas 2024!

We chilled at home in the afternoon with puzzles and homemade coconut treats.

Shane rolled back into town in the evening and joined us for dinner at the local Mexican joint.  This kiddo missed her dad somethin’ fierce.  Together again!

That evening Juliette asked Shane to put the pedals back on her big-kid bike – he’d taken them off so that she could scoot around on it like a bigger version of the red balance bike she’s been rocking since she was two.  He obliged and held fast to the back of her seat, keeping her steady as she wobbled up and down the driveway.

And then, before I could tell him not to, he…let go.  And she…kept on going!

Oh, baby girl.  Ride like the wind.  Oregon’s a magical place.

I haven’t done one of these posts in ages as you’ve seen most of Juliette’s goings-on via my summer entries, but there are still a few other tidbits worth jotting down (for the grandmas and for posterity, of course).

She seems to be all big kid these days.  New big kid bed, new big kid class at school, new arenas of independence.  Everywhere we go, whether we’re hiking or shopping or walking to the mailbox, she’s five steps ahead of me, insisting “I wanna be the leader!”  She wants things done on her own her own way – I sometimes think Shane and I are just characters in the play of her life, as evidenced by this regular morning directive:

“Ok, Mommy, I’m going to get dressed in my room and then I’ll come in your room and say ‘Ta-da!’ and you say ‘Huh? Juliette, how did you get dressed so fast?’, okay Mommy?  You have to say ‘Huh?’ first, okay?”

While the constant script-writing can get old, I do love watching her make strides in self-sufficiency (incidents of early-morning yelling have gone down dramatically since she started dressing herself!).  Her teachers moved her up to the four year-old class six weeks before her fourth birthday because she really is so advanced (my words, not theirs…), and she’s handled the transition with bravery and grace.

It helps that some of her best pals have moved up with her.

These two love to compare dresses in the morning, thrilled when they coincidentally match.

And goodness!  Check out some of Juliette’s artwork!

Her tiger looks a lot like a duck, but that four-eyed jellyfish is the best!

She’s getting straight A’s in Spanish (my words, not theirs) and will carry on nonsense conversations with herself en Espanol, murmuring, “Que paso, amiga?  Ohhhh, agua, si!  Zapatos, por favor?”  She loves to pull books off my bookshelf and pretend she’s reading from them in Spanish – she’s pretty convincing.

In other big-kid news, she’s become quite comfortable at the salon, sitting alone (not on Shane’s lap) while she got her haircut last week.  Next stop: dentist!

She even sat still through this intricate braiding exercise (which actually only took five minutes – those ladies have mad skills).

She’s a nurturer through and through and often asks me to play the part of the baby so that she can be the mommy.  She’ll cover me up with a blanket on the couch, throw a tote bag full of toys over her shoulder, and say “Good-bye, Sweetie!  I’m going to England!”  as she heads for the door.  She’ll circle back 20 seconds later to stroke my hair, give me a hug and ask if I was a good listener while she was gone.  She has adopted the neighbor’s plastic yard owl as her other child and spends a sweet-but-slightly-weird amount of time patting it, cooing to it, and feeding it.

I drew the line when Juliette asked if she could bring her owl baby inside to give it a bath.

Despite our best efforts to keep the princess phase at bay, it seems she’s been bitten by the Disney bug and often tells me that I’m Prince Phillip and she’s Aurora, picking up a rock and gasping, “Look, Prince Phillip!  It’s the Crystal of the Crown!”  She adores Moana and requests the soundtrack daily.  Hourly, actually.  It’s gotten a little out of control.

We’ve done lots of good gettin’-out together this summer, but our favorite little trips are to ShareTea for boba.  If we’re due for a treat and I offer up the bakery, the ice cream shop, or the boba place, boba wins every time.  Girl after my own heart…

Girl after Daddy’s own heart, too (for no particular reason – it’s just that these two are the sweetest together!).

N continues to be her very best buddy – these two might go a couple of weeks without seeing each other, but once they’re together again, it’s somethin’ special, with grins and giggles and games.  And ice cream, apparently.  These kids consume a lot of ice cream together.

PSA:  The OK-To-Wake clock is money!  Give a kid a gadget, and they will stay in bed an additional 30 minutes, apparently.

There were a couple of lovely large horses at our neighborhood block party at the beginning of the month – Juliette hovered at a distance for a few minutes and then couldn’t resist the urge to reach out and give this one a pat.  She’d found her hair color twin!

Next time I do one of these posts, little lady will be FOUR!  I can hardly believe it.  Not necessarily because she’s growing so fast, but because it’s hard to fathom that this assertive, creative, self-declared big kid is still only three.  You are wise beyond your years, Juliette Grace.

Gracious, summer has been good to us, with pool days and lake days and a special Sunday at Safeco.  A few July snapshots:

Juliette and I spent a Friday last month checking out the Henry Moses Aquatic Center down in Renton – after all of our winter and spring visits to the Rainier Beach pool, swimming outside felt like such a lovely novelty.

I’ve always loved the warmer months, but experiencing summer through a child’s eyes really ups the ante.

We caught a Mariner’s game a few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon – Juliette asks to “visit the moose” every time we drive past Safeco field, so it was pretty special to finally grant her request.

That magic moment of watching the field open up before you after that painful slog of making your way to your high-up seats:

Juliette was amazingly engaged, asking Shane who each new batter was, cheering when the M’s got a hit or when they struck out a Yankee.  Granted, this level of engagement only lasted about one and a half innings, but still, she dug it!

After the game, we headed down to the field to run the bases with the kiddos.  While in line, Jack entertained Nico and Jules with his mind-melding tricks.

And, the crowd roars!!!

You’re an all-star, Jules.

And because these two just couldn’t get enough of each other, we gathered at Tutta Bella for dinner, rounding out the day with gelato and giggles.

Shane’s sister and her clan came to visit at the end of July and we painted the town red, hitting Pike’s Place Market and Bainbridge Island and our favorite neighborhood joints.

We spent a sunny afternoon at Lake Sammamish, taking turns on the paddle board.  Everyone managed to get up on it for at least a short row.  Almost everyone managed to not fall in.

Show-off!

These kids got along so splendidly throughout the visit – Juliette has seriously hit the cousin jackpot.

We headed up to Mukilteo the following morning to spend the day with Aunt Val and Uncle Doug at their beachfront abode.

The afternoon was a sunny blur of hopping back and forth between the swimming pool and the fishing dock.

We pulled up several dozen crabs in the span of a couple of hours – most of them were tossed back, but a few extra-large ones were put on ice to await a fateful dinnertime end.

Dinner was a veritable crab bonanza, as the gentlemen boiled and cracked our bucketful of that day’s catch.

We spent Sunday morning with the fam at Alki, where Seattle showed off its beachy blues.

And to round out the grand tour de Seattle, we rented a couple of four-person bikes for a ride down the boulevard.  I’ve forgotten how fun it can be to play the part of the tourist in our city!

Our legs were screaming a couple miles in, so we popped off at a dock to take a rest and take in the sights.

These girls!  The sweetest.


Our house was oh-so-full but oh-so-fun for those few days.  There’s a lotta love on that couch!

It was hard to say good-bye on Sunday afternoon…this photo says it all.

And now we find ourselves more than half-way through August, as this summer flies by with lightning speed.  I’m keeping my swimsuit handy, though – there’s still much to savor.

Saturday on the Canal was relatively quiet.  Juliette was sharing a room with her cousins and would get up and play with them for awhile before traipsing over to the boathouse to say good morning to Shane and I.  The luxury of sleeping until 8:00!

The girls spent much of the morning combing the low-tide beach, turning over rocks in search of tiny hermit crabs.

With each new discovery, there was applause and exclamations of Whooooooaaaaaa!

While they treasure-hunted, I slipped away for a long morning paddle on the smooth, calm water.

A seal kept me company along the way, popping his head up to say hello every few minutes, and an eagle crossed the canal just as I was turning around.  The gratitude and serenity I felt in those 45 minutes was palpable.

And except for my flying and flippered friends, I had that expanse of water all to myself!  Not a soul in sight until I neared the house and saw Mitch and Kathryn paddling toward me in the kayaks.

My zen was nearly killed when I returned to a cranky, whining three year old, so I packed a quick picnic lunch and asked Shane to throw Juliette in the car – after two solid days of intense cousin-play, I think she needed a chance to mellow out.  We found a perfect little perch on the shore of Lake Cushman and ate our sandwiches in relative quietude.

Soak up that Vitamin D, kiddo!

Reset and refreshed, we returned to the house to change out of our swimsuits and drive up the road to the Hama Hama Seafood Co for drinks and snacks.  Shane hung back at the house because, well, rumblies…by this point he was really questioning his decision to self-harvest oysters.  And gosh, he missed out – the rosé was crisp and refreshing and the crab cakes might have been the best I’ve ever had.

Plus, corn hole!

And a mountain of oyster shells.

We returned home with ample time for an evening paddle, so Juliette and I bobbed around the canal for awhile, photo-bombing a bride and groom that were taking their wedding pictures on a nearby dock.

And then we gathered on the deck for a riveting game of Clue – I haven’t played this game for years, but it holds up!

This is the point at which Morgan thought she’d cracked the case (she hadn’t)…

There were s’mores for dessert and gin and tonics for post-dessert and then…good night.

On Sunday we drove down toward Belfair to do some exploring at the Thelar Wetlands (again sans Shane, poor guy…).

The wetlands were warm and lush and bursting with blackberries.

Some of which were quite tart!

Juliette had a tough time keeping up with the group, as she couldn’t help but stop for a snack at each and every berry patch.

We spent the afternoon lazing and paddling back at the house, enjoying our beloved little stretch of beach.

Juliette adopted this mermaid statue as her baby for the weekend and spent a good while brushing its hair and feeding it grapes.

Elise monkeyed around and worked on her cartwheels…

And then there was an epic pre-dinner dance party, where Morgan and Elise taught us all how to do the Dab.

We ended the day at the Mexican restaurant down the road, feasting on giant burritos and jumbo margaritas (happy early birthday, Kathryn!).

Shane, thankfully, was on the upswing by Monday morning and played cards with the kids while I packed up the car.  Sadly, our time at our waterfront abode had come to an end.

First, though, one more dip!  We all headed over to the beach at Lake Cushman for more swimming, more paddling, more mountain magic.

This girl seriously rocked the paddle board.

And this one with the kayak!  Lake kids, through and through.

It took some coaxing to get Juliette off the board and into the water, but finally she agreed to give the donut a go and swim out to the “island” to do some exploring.

I snuck in one last long paddle session before it was time to let the air out of that thing – I’ve never the enjoyed our SUP as much as I did over those few days.  The whooshing sound as it deflated was almost too much to bear!

Board packed, it was time to say our good-byes.  Thanks, Jarrells, for the solid fill of water and wine and sun.  Oyster-induced toilet time aside (lesson learned!), it was magnificent.

My brother and sister-in-law have back-to-back milestone birthdays this summer and kindly invited Shane, Juliette, and me to do some celebratin’ with them for a few days at a lovely little cottage on the Hood Canal.  Within two minutes of rolling up to the house last Thursday, Juliette was shedding her clothes and digging in her suitcase for her swimsuit, eager to join her cousins at the oyster-littered beach in our front yard.  The girls splashed around while Shane got to work looking for an afternoon snack.

The oysters were smooth and briney and…apparently full of bacteria.  I’ll get to that later.

The afternoon was full of paddling and kayaking and cold drinks down by the water.  THAT WATER!  It was almost Caribbean-like in its color, kind of dreamy and mysterious in the haze of wildfire smoke that had drifted down from BC.

She’s my favorite first mate.

Paddle boarding doesn’t get much better than this…

All the girls loved being on the water, but Elise was particularly insatiable, wanting to hop from the kayak to the paddle board and then right into the canal, where she bobbed around in her life jacket.

When the late afternoon winds picked up, Shane looped the kite line around a log and let it flap in the breeze, hands-free.

Between the swing and the porch and the beach and the open lawn, it was like these kids were living in their very own playground!

 

Shane quickly found his favorite piece of playground equipment…

Mitch and Kathryn picked up a filet of fresh salmon for dinner and we all enjoyed a meal with a view from our respective kids’ and grown-ups’ tables.

Then it was back down to the beach for our three little fish!

Morgan!  I’ve missed you so.

Bedtime books were read in the front yard and then three salty, tired kiddos crashed out in the upstairs bedroom.

All was quiet.

Shane was up early on Friday for a smoky sunrise paddle.

He returned with a freshly-picked oyster and shucked it on the porch while the girls watched with skepticism.  If only he’d listened when they told him it didn’t look very yummy…  (Granted, no oyster looks yummy to a three year old.)

After breakfast, we piled into our cars and drove over to Olympic National Forest for a hike along the Skokomish River.

The shady woods were a lovely refuge from the heat.

And just as the chorus of are-we-there-yet’s was beginning, we arrived at the bridge near the Staircase Rapids, which was the perfect place for a lunch break.

And a refreshing dip.

Dads and daughters!

Once we’d polished off our PB&J’s and skipped a few hundred rocks, we hit the trail again.

Made it!

Shane had read about this particular rock at Lake Cushman as the perfect place for some low-risk cliff-jumping, so made a stop on the way back to watch him walk on the (conservative) wild side.

He hovered there at the edge for a couple of minutes and there was a moment when I thought he might turn back.

But, Ka-Bam!

Post-jump, we rewarded our little troopers with cones from the Hoodsport ice cream shop.

And then there was nothin’ to do but chill, with books and games and lemonade (and beer).

It’s a good vacation when you spend as much time in your swimsuit as you do in your clothes!

In another burst of daring-ness, Shane took the paddle board out in the evening for a very wavy ride.

And then did some canal gymnastics, to the girls’ delight.

After dinner, the fire pit beckoned…

A few sugar-induced laps were run around the yard, and again the kids (and adults) were completely tuckered out.  Life on the water is so wonderfully exhausting.

Up next:  more water-play, more cousin-love, and Shane’s insides explode.  Stay tuned.

The final installment on our Canadian adventures:

Friday morning was much like the others, waking up to a canopy of green overhead, reluctantly leaving the cocoon of our sleeping bags and then dragging our chairs into a patch of sun to eat and read and laze.

I bemoaned the burn ban in those chilly mornings hours, but Jules and Isaiah warmed themselves by their pretend campfire, assembling s’mores out of moss marshmallows and tree bark graham crackers.

We returned to Alta Lake with the Rusts after breakfast, as we couldn’t imagine a better place to lunch and  lounge.

Juliette might not have any idea just how special these places we visit are, but I like to think we’re instilling in her a lifelong love of being outside, showing her that the world is big and beautiful and meant to be adored.

Shuttle Shane…

I tried to get Jules to the dock sans paddleboard, but once I dipped her waist-deep in the cold lake, she begged for mercy – we quickly waded back to the shore for frisbee and snacks.

This place was a dream, I tell ya’.

And I love how those freckles on her nose get a little bit darker with each subsequent camping trip!

Having fully reveled in the goodness of Alta Lake, I asked Shane if we could swing by nearby Logger Lake on the way back to camp, just to see how it stacked up.  I had read that Logger Lake is small but special, as it sits atop an extinct volcano.

And as was the case with any sight we saw that week, it was worth the trip!

I’m not a big lake swimmer, as I like my water chlorinated and at a balmy 90 degrees, but I couldn’t resist taking a plunge.  Plus, after three days without showering, I needed a rinse.

Swimsuit, sneakers, and a dirty butt – such a good look on her.

Juliette spent the hike back down to the car pretending that Shane was a great big bear that she could keep at bay only through the powers of her magic wand.  Whatever keeps her moving!

I put Juliette into her pajamas early that evening, as it seemed she was on the verge of collapsing into sleep at any moment.  She was completely exhausted.

And yet…

Early bedtime be damned.  This kid was set on an evening bike ride.

We closed out our last full day at camp with tacos and wine and one last round of s’mores.  While I was feeling awfully antsy for a hot shower and a set of clean sheets, I sure was going to miss this place.  I loved feeling so away from it all, loved the happy chorus of goodnights yelled by the kids to one another as they were zipped into their respective tents, loved making do with less as I got dressed out of a duffel bag rather than an over-stuffed closet and cooked meals out of a cooler rather than a crowded fridge.

Even bedtime books were simpler, as Jules chose from a stack of three rather than a shelf of dozens.

We polished off the last of our oatmeal and yogurt and coffee on Saturday morning and lingered in our favorite sunny circle.

The kids harvested huckleberries while the grownups packed…

Saturday was Jason’s birthday and he was clearly intent on proving his youth, despite the added notch on his age belt!

And then, tents down and cars loaded, it was time to snap our obligatory group pics and hit the road.

(Shane, you really need to work on your funny face!)

We stopped for lunch at Watershed Bar and Grill in Squamish, which looked a little divey from the street, but once we walked up over the bluff to the restaurant’s front door, we were greeted with this tableside view!

 

These mountains!  That river!  So hard to say good-bye.

That said, hot showers and cold, bubbly wine certainly eased my post-camping blues.  We had booked a night at a hotel in Richmond, just outside of Vancouver, to do some big-city eating and drinking with Jack and La Verne.  After Happy Hour beverages at the Fairmont, we all gathered at the Richmond Night Market for a new kind of adventure.

This place was big and bustling and a little bit hokey – such a stark contrast to campsite #20.

I mean, seriously, it was crazy-town!

But it had all the meat on a stick a girl could ever want.

Happy Birthday, J!

And wow, happy early birthday to me, ’cause this mango shave ice was soooooo good.

We woke up late-ish on Sunday morning and went downstairs to Starbucks for a latte and a vanilla steamer.

Civilization has its perks, huh Jules?

We all stuffed ourselves silly with Dim Sum later that morning, oohing and ahhing with each new dish that would magically appear at the table.

And then there was nothing left to do but hit the duty-free shop and head for home.  Ohhhhh, Canada.  We knew you were good, but wow, we had no idea.

Mornings at camp are some of my favorite times, sipping coffee while stirring oatmeal at the campstove,  stretching breakfast into an hour-long affair.  Juliette gets a big mug of warm cinnamon milk and Shane fries up a pan of breakfast sausages and we do none of the rushing around that our typical weekdays entail.

I was just settling into my chair with my second cup of coffee on Thursday morning when I heard a ruckus from the other end of the campsite and saw Jason marching toward the bridge with a log hoisted over his head, the kids excitedly trailing behind.  I couldn’t help but follow.

This bunch of folks is just so good at the camping shenanigans.

Once we’d log-jammed the river, I headed back to my seat in the sun.

And the kids had a go on the slack line…

BUPS!

We rallied late morning and piled into our cars to head out for a hike up to Cheakamus Lake.  Shane hauled the paddleboard, because, well, Shane.

We weren’t the speediest bunch, per se, but that was ok, as there was plenty of scenery to savor along the way, from deep dark woods…

To lush, glowing thickets.

Juliette was a trooper, though when J offered to put her up on his shoulders two miles in, she was quick to accept.

Some risks are just too good to pass up.

We eventually made it to the lake and hunkered down on a tiny patch of lakefront while Shane paddled ahead to see if there was a larger place to spread out for lunch.

We were waved ahead to a perfect sitting log and ate our sandwiches while the guys took turns on the paddleboard.

This place was so worth the trek!

I got out on the SUP for a few minutes but turned back when the choppy, freezing cold water started lapping over my board.  Contrary to Jason, I find that some risks aren’t worth taking!

The hike back to the cars took some coaxing in the form of a perpetual game of hike and seek, where the kids would run ahead to hide behind trees and the adults would feign utter astonishment each time they jumped out.  Also, candy.

The rest of the afternoon was quiet, with a quick spin through Whistler village for wine and ice, followed by plenty of campsite reading, hammocking, and biking.

The kids tossed a few more sticks in the river…

And then goodnight hugs were shared all around.