Architecture has had it downturns and upswings for me over the past 11 years, but at the moment I’m flying high, ending most weeks feeling super-satisfied with the work I’ve done.  It’s a good gig.  And yet…this gig comes at a cost.  There’s a guilt-tax when Juliette has a particularly rough time saying good-bye to me in the morning and I have to thrust her into the arms of her teachers as she cries, “Just one more hug, Mamaaaaaaa!”.  I make deposits in the pity-bank most Sunday evenings, when I’d really love one more day with my girl but instead know that we’re facing four days of seeing each other only during our morning dash and our evening ritual of meal-bath-books-bed.  The anxiety toll can be steep, as we worry about how she’ll do in her new preschool or if she’ll catch the head lice found in her classmate’s hair.  Which leads me to question, over and over again, am I doing the right thing?  Wouldn’t Jules be better off spending her days at home with mama?

But really, would she?

I’ve spent the past two and a half years reminding myself that Juliette loves being around other kids and, despite the tear-filled drop-offs, seems to find a lot of joy in the classroom.  And as she starts to show interest in what it is I do during her days at school, I’m discovering the added bonus of being able to give her an early glimpse of what the professional world looks like.  Which is why I jumped at the chance to participate in my office’s “Take Your Kid to Work Day” – I was eager to show Jules the ropes, to start planting the seeds of ambition.

She clutched my hand tightly as the elevator doors opened onto my lobby on Friday morning, excited but clearly unnerved by the fact that she was treading in grown-up waters.  Soon enough, though, she loosened her grip on me and eased into the apparent luxuries office life.  I mean..twirly chairs!

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This view!

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Walls you can write on!

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A coffee machine full of buttons…

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And the fanciest little dollhouses she’d ever seen!

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Once we’d made the rounds, I settled Juliette into my desk so that she could “get some work done” while I checked in with my team.

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Once she’d caught up on email and marked up her floor plans, we joined the rest of the kids for some pre-lunch yoga and story-time.

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By noon, she was strutting down the halls like she actually worked there.  If it were up to me, she’d be hired (good thing it’s not up to me).

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Juliette’s mind was officially blown when they pulled out the Pirate’s Booty and Capri Suns at lunchtime (serious, serious thanks to the thoughtful folks that made the mundane seem magical for a day!).  We chowed down and clocked out.

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It was a great morning – completely unproductive, work-wise, but so much fun.  Shane picked us up and as Juliette exclaimed, “I was an archi-tek, Daddy!”, my guilt and anxiety was washed away in a wave of pride.  No doubt, I still wish I had more time with Juliette.  But at the moment, this work-life thing feels right.  Be an archi-tek, kiddo.  Be a teacher or a doctor or a contractor.  And be a mama, too, if that’s your heart’s desire.  You can do both.

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Our last couple of days in Minnesota were packed with more water, more family time, plenty of porch-sitting and sunset-gazing.  I had eased into country life, and it felt good.

We spent Sunday afternoon out on Blackwell Lake, floating aimlessly on Doug and Val’s pontoon.

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Shane, not usually one for swimming, couldn’t resist the chance to dive and swing and cannonball.

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With that life jacket strapped on, he was the perfect flotation device.

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Juliette loved being on the boat, especially when Doug put the pedal to the metal and the wind blew through our hair.  She’d laugh like crazy and yell, “Super-faster!  SUPER-FASTER!!!”

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I shutter to think what this kid will be like when she’s old enough to get behind the wheel for real.  Watch out, folks!

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I’m so glad we got to catch up with this crew.  It’s a special feeling, being with people that have known Shane and I since before we were “Shane and I”!

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Jules was wired from our boating bonanza, so I put her in the stroller for a walk when we got back to the house, hoping she’d chill out and doze.  But then we came across these dang cows and she was over the moon again!

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She eventually crashed, waking from her nap just in time to give Purple Baby a sunset bath on the porch.

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This porch swing was my happy place…

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Monday morning, it was Juliette’s and Grandpa’s happy place, too!  It makes my heart flip-flop, seeing how fiercely this guy loves his granddaughter.

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We had hoped to spend Monday afternoon back out on the water, but gray skies and drizzle kept us from putting on our swimsuits.  We settled instead for a trip to Carlos Creek Winery and a drink on the patio.

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We gathered with the whole gang for dinner at Zorbaz that night and then walked across the street to Lake Le Homme Dieu for one last water-fix and a quick family snapshot.

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The rest of the evening was spent…back on that beloved porch!  Shane staged his own version of the Olympics by pulling up the stopwatch app on his phone and challenging the kids to dart from one end of the house to the other in under ten seconds.  They took the challenge very seriously.

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Super-faster, Jules, SUPER-FASTER!

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A final sunset (a few final mosquito bites), a round of teary hugs, and…that was it.  We were off to the airport before sunrise on Tuesday morning.  I missed that place and those people before we’d even turned out of the driveway.  There’s a lotta beauty, a lotta peace, a whole lotta love in that little corner of the Midwest.

Saturday was sunny and warm – perfect parade-goin’ weather!  We staked out a spot on the sidewalk of downtown Garfield (I use the word “downtown” very loosely, with a town population of 350!) and settled in for Juliette’s first parade.

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The festivities began with some old dudes carrying flags and the singing of the National Anthem – at this point, Juliette had yet to be sold on the whole ordeal.

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And then…candy started flying out the windows of the trucks and tractors that passed us by.  Now this kid was on board!

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Shane’s special treat?  Gin and tonics from the pub conveniently located just behind us.  I mean, gotta stay hydrated, right?

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Hey…I know that face!

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27 tractors and 10 pounds of candy later, we threw our loot in the car and drove over to Lake Latoka to cool off in the water.

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All those years of visiting Minnesota of the dead of winter…I had no idea what we were missing out on!

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“I’m kicking, Mama!  I’m kicking so much!”

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After a post-swim PB&J and a round of frisbee, we packed it up.  Reluctantly.  I coulda hung out in the shade of that tree all day, but naptime beckoned.

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In the evening we gathered at Denny’s shop for his 60th birthday bash.  One pickup after another rolled up as half the town turned out to wish him well.  I was thankful for a few familiar faces and thrilled by the chance to catch up with Shane’s Aunt Val, as she and I go waaaay back.  Almost 20 years ago, she hired me as a baby-sitter.  I fell in love with her family, then really fell in love with her foxy Minnesotan nephew when he moved in with them for a summer internship in Turlock (Doug and Val should get a match-making medal!).  I was initially bummed when the Schnells left California for Washington, but when I landed a job in Seattle a couple of years later, Val took me under her wing, giving me a place to stay while I looked for an apartment.  She was there when I signed my first post-college lease and pushed the cart on my subsequent Bed Bath & Beyond shopping spree.  The countless meals I ate at their table did so much to ease my loneliness as I eagerly waited for Shane to move up to Seattle.  Doug and Val left Washington a few years ago and I realized Saturday night how dearly I’ve missed them.

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Hey, Birthday Boy!

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There was eating (so. much. pork!) and drinking and merriment…

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A few hugs for Grandpa’s tractor…

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A round of rides on the Gator…

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A pepper-hunt in Grandpa’s garden…

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And then, the sure-fire signs of a storm on the horizon.  That sky.

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The threat of rain wasn’t gonna get this crew down, though – there was still partying to do!

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I’m not entirely sure who this girl is or how her family knows Denny and Pat, but whatever – I turned around and Jules had a new best buddy!

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Eventually the skies completely opened up and everyone took refuge indoors while it poured and poured.  We let Jules run for a few minutes in the warm summer rain and then called a day.  Sun, sugar, swimming, Schnells…these are a few of her favorite things.

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I have fond memories of our many Thanksgivings in Minnesota – the snowfalls and the smoked turkeys and the Black Friday shopping with my mother-in-law – but since we had Juliette, we figured it’s best to visit the Midwest in the summer, to avoid the sub-freezing temps and let her run free outdoors.  And so last Wednesday we made the long train-plane-automobile voyage to Alexandria to visit Shane’s family.  Grandma and Grandpa, here we come!

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It was a long day of travel, but Jules held it together pretty well, protesting only when she was forced to put up her tray table during the plane’s descent.  We rolled up to Denny and Pat’s house around dinnertime, and once we opened that car door, this kid was ready to run.

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Shane’s sister and her family came over and we spent the evening catching up, enjoying grown-up conversation while Juliette played with her adoring older cousins.  Shanay French-braided her hair, Hayden read to her, and Shane’s mom fired up the blender for a batch of pina coladas.  We were officially on vacation!

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Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa on Thursday morning and jetted out for a quick run.  I like to think I’m a city girl, but gosh, I do love being out in the country, soaking in the unending stretches of green and wide open skies.

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I do not, however, love the 95 percent humidity.  Wowsers.

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We rushed home, not sure if Juliette was distressed over our leaving her.  Turns out, I’m not sure if she even noticed we were gone!

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We freshened up and then headed into town to run a few errands – these cool cats were ready to roll!

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The most important stop on our itinerary?  ICE CREAM!

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We enjoyed a lazy afternoon back at the house, and then dropped off Juliette at vacation Bible school with her aunt and cousins so that we could savor a kid-free dinner out with Shane’s parents to celebrate Denny’s 60th birthday.  What a luxury to eat my ribs and sip my wine flight without chasing down crayons that have fallen on the floor or listening to a toddler plead for one more french fry!

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We watched the sunset from Denny and Pat’s porch and then reconvened at the kitchen island, for what became our nightly ritual of laughing and drinking and reminiscing.

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Shane headed out early on Friday morning for a bike ride with Hayden and Avery.  Juliette was a tad young to join, so she settled for a bicycle breakfast on the porch.

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These poor kids had no idea what they were getting into when they agreed to go for a ride with Uncle Shane!  Avery really should have pumped up those tires and left the jeans at home…

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They made it, though, slogging through all 11 miles in the heat and humidity.  Their first words when they rolled up?  “We’re never doing that again!”

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We spent the afternoon across the road at Denny’s shop, tidying up for Saturday’s big birthday bash.

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When the kiddie pool lost its charm, a few of us drove over to Bergen Lake to hang out on the dock.

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Juliette got a kick out of seeing the swarms of bluegills circle below us.

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Shane had a Bear Grylls moment when he lured a fish into a baggie with a bread crumb.  Shane let Juliette give it a quick pat-pat and then released it back to its family.

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We went back to the shop for cold drinks and a final sweep.  Don’t mind the fact that Juliette is actually pushing all the dirt back inside…A for effort?

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I took Juliette back to the house for a nap and she fell asleep before her head even hit the pillow.  I dozed for a bit and then headed back outdoors for a walk, unable to resist the pull of the countryside – three miles logged and not a single car in sight!

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Elizabeth popped a bottle of bubbly on the porch (can you believe I used to baby-sit this girl as a wee little toddler?!) and we devoured several pizzas for dinner.  Shane’s cousin, Ben (who I also used to baby-sit), called us from Georgia, where he just finished his basic training for the U.S. Army.  As I watched everyone huddle around the phone, arms around each other, I was feelin’ the family love something fierce.  These Schnells are such a good bunch.

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We wandered back across the road to the shop after dinner to watch the fellas wrangle the pig into the roaster.  Think this looks intense?  I opened a nearby cooler in search of a drink and found a big bloody pig’s head inside!

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Hayden just got her learner’s permit and logged some driving practice by taking Jules and I for a spin on the Gator.

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Seriously, this farm stuff is just way too good.

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I really can’t get enough of this camping thing – it’s like a whole new world of week-ending has opened up to us.  The fresh air!  The campfires!  The…nostalgia!  (Yes, that’s me!)

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We set out Friday morning for Tinkham, a small campground on the Snoqualmie River just 45 minutes from home.  We staked our claim on the last two open sites and Shane got to work setting up the tent.  Meanwhile, Jules got to work harvesting huckleberries.

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We drove into North Bend around lunchtime to drop off Shane for a bike ride with the guys.  I couldn’t resist the lure of Scott’s Dairy Freeze.  But giving a soft-serve cone to a toddler on an 85-degree day?  Not my wisest choice.  This girl was stick-y!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon down by the river near camp, cooling our feet and throwing rocks.

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Shane and Jason made it back from their ride and forded the river with the kids, sunning themselves on the rocks like a troop of turtles.

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We cooked burgers over the campfire for dinner and capped of the evening with s’mores.  I’ve become pretty accomplished at preparing a meal with a roll of tin foil and an open flame!

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While dining in the great outdoors, pants are optional.

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Since this was our first completely rain-free camping trip, we decided to forego the rain fly and enjoy the view of the trees above.  It was such a treat to wake up to a canopy of green!

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I love Saturday mornings at camp, sipping coffee in the slight morning chill and lingering over a leisurely breakfast.

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We eventually changed out of our pajamas and drove over to Lost Lake to spread out our blankets and munch on our snacks.

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Our friends Lloyd and Viv brought their dog, Harper, and Juliette was smitten.  All weekend long, it was, “Harrrrrperrrrr, where arrrrrrre you?   Harper, come please!  HARPER!  COME!”

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Juliette volunteered to keep her baby warm when the wind picked up.

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Shane and Juliette dozed in the afternoon while I drank coffee with Nance and then took a stroll through the woods near our site.

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It was right around this point that I decided:  we’re never moving.  “Peace on earth” can feel so unattainable when you’re in the vortex of news feeds and social media and daily to-do’s, but gosh, this was certainly the quiet oasis I’d been craving.

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Jules and Shane had awakened from their 2-hour slumber when I got back to camp, so we walked back over to the river to soak in the warm, early evening light.

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Rocks.  They never get old!

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Meanwhile, the boys stood sentry at our site.  Who goes there?!

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We ate another campfire meal and then…s’mores.  Of course.  Juliette doesn’t know yet that a true s’more contains chocolate, as she’s thrilled with just the mallow and graham cracker.  Before this summer is over, kiddo, I’ll let you in on the secret.  Prepare to have your mind blown.

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We stayed up late on Saturday, playing a version of truth or dare that involved a jump-kick contest, some serious soul-baring, a little bit of awkwardness, and a lot of laughter.

Sunday morning was gorgeous and warm, so we put off breaking down camp and lingered by the river.

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The Rusts shared a zen family moment…

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Jules played with rocks (seriously, who needs Legos and blocks and Magna-tiles?!)…

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And then the guys set off on a ride to North Bend.  Catch you soon, fellas!

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Since I had some time to kill before meeting Shane at the end of his route, Jules and I headed to Bybee Nims with Nance and the boys to do some blueberry picking.

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Juliette was an exceptionally focused harvester, diligently picking only the bluest, plumpest berries.

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Ok, can we talk for a minute about how sweet these two are together?  You are killing me, kids!

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Photo cred for this one goes to Gryff!

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Five pounds of berries later, we were ready to head out and meet up with Shane and Jason.

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It was like our very own miniature version of the Tour de France, watching these two roll up while the kids cheered excitedly.

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Josh and Lloyd were right behind them.  I’m so thankful that Shane has buddies he can bike for hours with (Lord knows I can’t hang!).

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One last pic by the river, and then we jetted home, eager to unpack and shower and have someone else prepare dinner for us (thanks, Tutta Bella!).  Civilization has its perks.

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Shane and I aren’t the spontaneous type.  Never have been, really, and since we had Juliette, we’re even less likely to leave Seattle without at least ten days of careful planning.  But when Jason and Nancy asked us on Friday night if we wanted to head to the coast with them the next day for an overnight trip, we threw caution to the wind and said YES!  Somehow, in the 11 years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen Washington’s view of the Pacific Ocean.  We rolled into Westport shortly after noon and spread out our blanket on the sand at Half Moon Bay.

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Jason recently took up kite boarding and was eager to capitalize on the wind (I was thrilled just to feel the warm, soft sand between my toes).

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As we watched Jason zig-zag across the bay, Shane asked Nance, “Did you see that thing splash in the water out there?”.

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Indeed, there was some sort of water-borne creature circling the bay.  Something with a big flat fin and a long gray body.   After conferring with Google and some nearby beach-combers, we were pretty sure we were seeing a gray whale!  Wild.

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See that splash?  See Jason obliviously galavanting about the water?  This was the moment when Nance started yelling and waving her arms, motioning him to please come back to the safety of dry land!

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He came in for a bit, but was back at it once the waters had quieted…

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Isaiah scampered around the driftwood fort…

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And these two settled in for a snuggle.  Juliette has fallen into the role of Gryff’s sometimes-sweet, sometimes-completely-annoying kid sister.  She hardly let this guy out of her site throughout the entire weekend.  Whenever Gryff would try to break away for a moment of peace, Juliette would beg, “Gryff!  Hold my hand!”, at which point he would just sigh and say, “Oh, Ju-Ju…” and let her tag along.  He’s a softie, that kid.

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Ahhhh, ocean!  We’ve missed you!

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I see you, Bups!

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We checked into our condo late in the afternoon and scoped out the view from the living room and deck.

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There was a beautiful ocean-front paved path just steps from our condo, so I took Jules out for a walk in the stroller, hoping she’d grab a much-needed cat nap.

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She did!

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We spent the evening at the condo’s pool, swimming and jumping and hot-tubbing.

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We ate burgers on the deck and promptly sent the kiddos to bed – they were tuckered out.

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While Shane patted Jules to sleep, I snuck away for a sunset walk.

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That PNW beach wind makes for some awfully lovely terrain.

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I mean, seriously!

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Goodnight, sun.

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Jules was up a little earlier than usual, which meant I woke up earlier than usual and needed coffee, stat.  Juliette and I walked over to Tinderbox for a tall latte and a short milk.

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And then it was off to the pool to soak up that warm morning sun.

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Juliette became bolder and bolder with each passing minute, eventually jumping off the edge for a full “dunker”, gasping but smiling when her head popped up out of the water.

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We eventually hung up our wet swimsuits and took one last stroll on the beach.

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And then we headed back inside, packed it up, grabbed a fish n’ chips lunch, and hit the road.  It was a pretty grand 24 hours – we really should fly by the seat of our pants more often!

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We woke to the sound of raindrops on Saturday morning, which meant we stayed snuggled into our tent as long as Jules would allow.  I sighed at the thought of the mud and the chill and the weak, smoky campfire.  Once we emerged from our cocoon, though, I was consoled by the beauty of the misty, serene lake – this was worth getting damp for!

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And the rain was short-lived – a few minutes after I snapped those misty photos, the skies cleared and everything was bright and fresh and ultra-green again.  Camping has its challenges, but gosh – a view like this for $16 a night?  What a steal!

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Shane’s shoulders were begging for a break after Thursday’s and Friday’s hikes, so we decided to lay low on Saturday and take advantage of all the offerings right outside out tent’s front door.  Like Brian and Nicole’s hammock!

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Jason’s slack-line…

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Some miscellaneous sporting goods:

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The mud (Jules whipped up a lovely batch of mud meatballs):

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And, of course, more paddle boarding!

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Jules proved to be an excellent first mate.

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Jason’s paddle board gymnastics had the girls squealing with laughter.  “Fall again, Jason!  Fall again!”

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It was pretty idyllic, all of us just kind of wafting in and out of the water, maybe with a kid or two in tow, while the rest of the gang set up their camp chairs on shore.

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The Hickory’s needed to get back to Seattle on Saturday afternoon, so we snapped a group pic and then bid them farewell.  So glad their crazy clan could join us for a couple of days!

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The Rusts headed out for a hike after lunch and Jules and I joined them for about a quarter-mile.  Which took about 30 minutes.

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Back at camp, Shane and Juliette took a solid nap while I read by the lake.  Nance returned and brewed us a pot of coffee, sipped while we enjoyed a kid-free (chaos-free) conversation.  Those moments don’t happen too often anymore.

The rest of the evening was spent back out on the paddle boards (surprise!), but Shane and Nance upped the SUP game by doing some pretty impressive gymnastics.  It took all the balance I had just to get from kneeling to standing on the thing, so I bowed out of this little competition.  These two are studs!

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Saturday night’s sleep was fitful at best – we had some rowdy neighbors that partied until about 1 am, and at 3 am we awoke to a horrible screeching sound that sounded on and off for over an hour.  We’re pretty sure it was some kind of bird, but unlike anything I’d ever heard before – poor Juliette just laid there silent and wide-eyed and tightly clutching Shane’s and my hands until the dang thing flew away.  We awoke on Sunday morning definitively ready to head back to the comforts of home.  I had loved snuggling up with these two for the past few days, but I missed my bed.  My shower.  My walls!

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One last campfire meal…

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Once last gaze at the lake…

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One last ride on the paddle-board…

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One last dip in the freezing cold lake (these two must have been polar bears in another life!)…

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And then we packed it up and hit the road, making a brief stop at Ladder Creek Falls before putting the pedal to the metal (we were beat!).

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Sayonara, North Cascades!  You can bet we’ll be seeing you again next summer.

Shane, Jason, and Brian were up bright and early on Thursday morning to sneak in a guys-only adventure, hauling the inflatable paddle boards two miles up-river for a ride on the rapids.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the plan, given that parts of the river were pretty fast and log-packed, so it felt awfully good when I eventually saw these three floating back toward us on the horizon!

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Apparently there was a brief moment at a log jam when Shane feared for his life, but other than that, they nailed it!

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Meanwhile, back at camp, Jules was gettin’ her baby-fix with little M before he hit the road back to Seattle.

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I wish my hair looked like this after three days without a shower!

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We packed lunches and headed east late in the morning to check out the Washington Pass overlook.  I read this was one of the best places to take in the view of the North Cascades.  Not too shabby…

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All this beauty had these guys feelin’ the brotherly love!

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She fits right in, doesn’t she?

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From Washington Pass, we made the short drive over to the Blue Lake trailhead for another trek through the woods.  We got off to a roaring start, as Jules was determined to keep pace with Gryff (whose nickname is “The Mountain Goat”, since he’s such a stellar little hiker).

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Soon enough, though, Juliette was tucked into the backpack with a treat, where she could enjoy the view from Shane’s shoulders.  This was my favorite part of the trail, where we came out of the woods into this rugged, tree-lined meadow.

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Back out of the backpack and into my arms.

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And…back in.

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The final ascent to the lake took all we had, but finally, we caught site of the water.  And snow.  It was freezing up there!

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We all huddled together on a rock to eat a quick lunch, wolfing down our sandwiches just as raindrops started to fall.

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This guy (Gryffin’s namesake) watched us from a distance.

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We hightailed it down the mountain after lunch, eager to get to warmer, dryer ground.

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Juliette was pooped – by the time we reached the car, she had completely slumped against Shane’s back, out like a light.

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We made a quick trip into Newhalem for firewood and ice, and then spent the rest of the afternoon back at camp, out on the water.

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Friday happened to be Jason’s birthday, so we toasted to him with campfire margaritas.

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And s’mores, of course.  Shane’s eyes in this picture!  Can you tell that his marshmallows were whisky-soaked?

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Coming up:  a whole lotta pictures of us doing a whole lotta nothing!

Since our first attempt at family camping was a rather damp disappointment, we figured we needed a re-do.  Shane did some sleuthing on Washington’s most beautiful campgrounds and we settled on Colonial Creek in the North Cascades as our Take Two destination.  We turned on our out-of-office auto-replies, played a few rounds of cooler Tetris as we struggled to get all our gear into our car, and on Wednesday morning, we were mountain-bound!  We rolled up to camp shortly after noon and snagged one of the last water-front sites – this place was hoppin!  I mean, of course it was – check out the view…

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Jules and I scoped out the bathroom situation and paid our fees at the ranger station while Shane set up camp in record time – this guy was clearly Jonesin’ to get out on the paddle board we had borrowed for the weekend.

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Juliette was wound up with the excitement of it all, but quickly crashed once we settled into the tent for naptime.  Snuggling up to this sleeping kid has become one of my favorite parts of camping.

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I’m glad she rested, because that evening her buddies joined the party – all aboard the camp chair choo choo train!

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This girl looooooves the babies.

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And this guy loves the water.

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We cooked a mondo steak over the campfire for dinner and then capped off Day One with toasted mallows.  I figured we could push back Juliette’s 7:30 bedtime, it being vacation and all, but was a little surprised when I checked my phone as we tucked her into her sleeping bag – it was after 10:00!  Ah, well, carpe diem – how often do we get to completely lose track of time anymore?

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Thursday morning was sunny and glorious – the guys got back out on the water, the kids played in the mud, and I took my time drinking my large cup of coffee.

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Paddle board yoga!

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Once Shane and Brian were properly zenned, we packed up a few PB&J’s for lunch and hit the Thunder Creek trail right near our campsite.

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Jules can be a tricky hiking companion, often darting ahead or lagging waaaaay behind.  Hence the lollipop bribe to get her to hang tight in the backpack.

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Juliette asked if a dinosaur broke this rock:

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We told her yes.

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The woods were dense and lush, Shire-like with the abundance of moss.

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We were bound and determined to make it to the bridge, even if that meant carrying Jules the last half mile (see previous two photos).  Finally…voila!  The river and lake are this amazing aqua blue, colored by the minerals from the glacial melt.  Incredible.

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We grabbed a river-side log for lunch and took a much-needed load off – that may have been the longest two miles I had ever walked.

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The water was freezing, but too tempting to resist a quick little splash.

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Eventually I told Jules it was time to hit the trail back to camp.  She just shushed me.

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We eventually coaxed Juliette into the backpack and high-tailed it back to camp for naps, pausing only briefly along the way to take in these colors.  THESE COLORS.

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We dozed a bit in the afternoon, and then these speed-racers rolled into camp Thursday evening – welcome, Rusts!

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This is the face of a kid sister that just can’t quite keep up…

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Meanwhile, Shane was…

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We chowed down on another campfire meal and then walked/biked over the amphitheater for the 7 pm ranger talk, which turned out to be a rather dry discussion of the concept of wilderness, spiced up only by folk tales about salmon women and demon elk.  Not quite the bedtime story I’d planned for Jules, but we went with it, hoping the ranger’s monotone voice would tee us up for an easy bedtime.  No such luck – this girl was pumped!

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Up next:  a lookout, a goat, and lots more paddle boarding!  Stay tuned.

July 1st was the beginning of what turned out to be a pretty grand four-day weekend.  We toasted to the new month on Friday evening with beer and tacos at Chuck’s Hop Shop, and then headed over to Miller Playfield for a romp in the evening sun.  I couldn’t tear these kids off the swings…

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Until I muttered two magic words:  ICE CREEEEEEAM!!!  Meet Hello Robin’s happiest customers:

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The kids burned off their sugar rush with a quick yoga session on the lawn and a game of “Ding” Around the Rosy near the car, and then we called a day.

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Saturday held adventures of the indoor variety, as we met up with several of Juliette’s buddies for her very first movie.  She’s been a huge Nemo fan for awhile, so the chance to watch her experience Finding Dory on the big screen was pretty irresistible.  She sat through the whole thing, happily munching on popcorn and then exclaiming, “that was fun, Mommy!” as we walked out of the theater.  We hadn’t even hit the sidewalk before she asked to go again (not happening!).

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Mitch, Kathryn, and the girls rolled into Seattle on Sunday afternoon.  Shane grilled steak and veggies for lunch, I filled our glasses with white wine and beer, and then we settled into the patio chairs for a long, leisurely lunch.  Morgan and Juliette were thrilled to be reunited after several weeks apart.

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These girls and their babies!

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After a total naptime bust, Shane offered to haul all three kids to Seward Park on the bike.  Uncle of the Year!

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We spent a couple of hours down by the lake, tossing the frisbee and playing in the sand and eventually soaking a couple of pairs of pants.

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I know, I know, why do I wait until her clothes are soaked before putting on the swimsuit?!

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I ducked out in the evening for an art class I’m taking while Shane put our over-tired wound-up kiddo to bed (no small feat).  I met up with the guys after class for a late-night drink at Raconteur, followed by a late-late-night drink at Union Bar.  Mitch and I haven’t been out together past midnight in years.  Many years!

We spent Monday morning eating pancakes and watching Stage 3 of the Tour de France, then eventually rallying for a stroll through the Cheasty Greenbelt.

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We made plans to head up to Jefferson Park and Morgan begged Uncle Shane to take her in the bike trailer.  It’s quite a climb to the park, and we’d had those late-late-night drinks, so I wasn’t sure he’d be up for it.  But he channeled his inner Tour de France-r and went for it – somebody get this guy a polka dot jersey!

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We hit each and every piece of playground equipment in that big, sprawling park.

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Several times.

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We grabbed an afternoon cup of coffee in Georgetown and then the Jarrells hit the road.  Jules bawled her eyes when we said our good-byes.

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I barely held it together myself!

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Luckily, there was more fun to be had that day, as we spent the evening at the Rusts eating and drinking and playing.

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You’re cute, Jules.

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Brian showed up with a bucket full of fresh-caught live crabs.  We all had a good laugh while watching Jason ever-so-anxiously transfer them from bucket to pot.

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This scene looks so sweet and serene, doesn’t it?  It sounded like pure chaos.

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Isaiah keeps a pretty good beat, though!

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Happy Independence Day from this crazy crew!  Looking forward to more summer shenanigans with you all!

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