A few snaps from life in August and September, before we get on with the business of October…

While summer in Seattle typically feels far too fleeting, there were times over the past couple of months when it seemed unbearably long.  What to do with a social six year-old all day when Mom and Dad have to work?  Set her up with a pile of puzzles, a set of headphones, and an iPad full of podcasts, apparently!  This kept Juliette occupied for hours, days on end.  I know – stunned me, too.

Over 20 puzzles totaling over 8,000 pieces…signed, sealed, delivered.

I knew we were bordering on mania when Juliette decided one day that she wanted to try doing a puzzle with the pieces upside-down, “for a bigger challenge”.  It was then that I suggested that she take a break.

Thankfully, THANKFULLY, our neighborhood is full of playmates that have proven to be a good counter-point to this season’s dramatic increase in alone time.  Our small bubble of West Seattle buddies has been such a blessing. As has the neighbors’ pool.

There were times when summer felt almost “normal”, like when the ice cream truck rolled by and kids up and down the street joyfully emerged from their houses, parents trailing behind them with pockets full of dollar bills.

There was football, there was baseball, there was frisbee and ladder ball and water balloons and so, so many backyard snack sessions.

And most recently, jump roping.  Juliette’s record currently sits at 47 jumps in a row.  We found that the hat and cowgirl boots are actually not ideal jumping accessories (surprise), but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.

And sometimes the heart wants to wear the jump rope like a harness all afternoon.  You do you, Jules.

We shared several backyard meals with the neighbors across the street from us in either direction.  These folks have been our pandemic sanity-savers.

Our neighbor Yuiry found a pile of old fireworks in his garage and the kids were ecstatic to see that the sparklers still had some sparkle in them.

The pandemic seems to have brought on puppy-fever for several of our friends and neighbors, and these pics of Juliette with the Chens’ newest family member are too sweet not to share.

That ear!

Most notably, in what was surely the most anti-climatic first day of school ever, this girl started first grade!  Even though she wasn’t going any farther than our living room, I still made her pose on the front porch with her backpack.  Shoes optional.

Juliette was thrilled to find that her buddy M from across the street is in her class again this year.

And then, with a couple of clicks and zero hugs good-bye from Mom and Dad, class was in session.  The first few days were pretty rough – teachers constantly reminding kids to mute themselves, mass confusion over which Teams link to click for which activity, kids raising their virtual hands every 30 seconds to report that they can’t see the picture the teacher is sharing or they have to go the bathroom or “Do you know my cousin speaks Spanish?”  Juliette’s teacher is incredibly gracious and patient (though with a firmer hand week by week), but GAH!  I could hardly bear to listen.

Pretty quickly though, it seems that kids have fallen into line and Juliette is really rocking at-home school.  She certainly needs some oversight and encouragement, but she loves her online time with her teacher and is usually motivated to finish her independent work.  Plus, I super-duper love having an office buddy.

(Ok, full disclosure – she was my office buddy for about a week, and now she sits downstairs next to Shane’s desk, because my frequent conference calls were killing her concentration vibe.  But I still get visits and hugs on the hour!)

And now it suddenly seems we have gone from this…

To this:

Waterfront sunsets in tank tops and shorts are a thing of the past.  We get hot chocolate instead of ice cream when we want to go out for a treat.  Summer is Done with capital “D” and our family is working to strike that Fall balance of structure and fancy-free.  I think we’re still a little light on structure – Shane wears pajama pants 24 hours a day and I’m often handing Juliette her breakfast three minutes before her first class starts.  But if ever there were a year for me to give myself a little grace, 2020 is it.  Maybe we’ll find our Fall groove by winter.  Spring at the latest.

Birthdays in the time of COVID can be hard.  Especially for a kid like Juliette, who loves all the people and all the fanfare and all the hugs.  But when I gently told her that her party would need to look a little different this year, that we couldn’t invite her whole class to the bowling alley, she got it.  I asked her what she wanted to do instead and she said, “Maybe have a Zoom call with some of my friends?”  Ah, you sweet, exceedingly adaptable girl!  Mom and Dad can do better than that.

Juliette has been asking to ride a horse since we watched a couple of women unload their golden Palominos from a trailer at an Oregon parking lot a couple of months ago.  I wasn’t sure she’d meet the height limit at any nearby horse camps, but Shane reached out to a coworker that lives on a farm about an hour outside the city and asked if Juliette could take a spin on their pony.  Dad of the year!  We boarded the Southworth ferry on a Saturday afternoon, using the boat time to do some studying (on the encyclopedia of Zelda – these two are obsessed again).

The smoke was THICK that weekend from the Oregon wildfires, so my time on the ferry deck was short.  Gotta save our lungs for that pony ride…

We arrived at the farm and met the chickens and said hello to the assorted cats and dogs bounding around us, and then it was time to get this girl up on her pony!

(Which turned out to be really more horse than pony.)

Juliette did a few blissful loops on Rufus B. Ponypants (100% his real name) and then gleefully fed him peppermints right out of the palm of her hand.  I think most kids like animals, but lately Juliette’s love for all things four-legged runs deeper than ever.

We fed blackberries to the chickens…

And then hung out with Mickey and Minnie, the resident cats, before doing some serious trampolining in the front yard.  It was a mellow evening, but felt so wonderfully out-of-the-ordinary after six months worth of Groundhog Days.  Serious thanks to Shane’s manager and his wife for hosting us – they made this kid’s day.

I stayed up late on Saturday night decking the halls for a Sunday surprise and loved seeing Juliette’s face when she sleepily stepped out into the living room.

It was a chill-but-perfect morning at home.  Teddy bear pancakes, hot chocolate…

And PRESENTS!

Against our better judgment, Juliette’s big gift this year was a….

…skateboard!  With knee pads.  And a helmet.  And wrist guards.

Post-presents, we snuggled up on the couch and I felt over-the-moon grateful that Juliette still fits on my lap.

SEVEN!

We eventually rallied and headed outside to take the birthday girl’s new wheels for a spin.

She’s quite good, actually!

I…am not.

And then a lazy afternoon of games and a movie.

Juliette donned her twirley new birthday dress in the evening and stood by the window like an eager puppy while we waited for our crew to arrive for pizza and cupcakes.

They’re here!

We kept it small this year – just our chosen family – but there was still plenty of love to go around.

Wish big, kiddo.

And suddenly she looks…twelve?

Our friends left at sunset and then the beloved neighbor kids came over with a clue that took Juliette on a scavenger hunt for her present from them, ending in a wrapped box of Legos behind our grill.  I was feeling a little angsty about the absence of a big party this year, but our people showed up big for our girl.

Monday was Juliette’s actual birthday, but with school and work and the previous day’s multiple celebrations, we kept it low-key.  Just a few front porch pics and burritos for dinner (Juliette’s dinner of choice).

I left the decorations up for the rest of the week, which meant we could spend our lunchtimes playing balloon volleyball while rocking out to Billie Eilish.

Sweet Jesus, this girl…  She’s such a light in what have been some dark times for our family and our city and our country and our world.  She is the perfect amount of seven-year-old silly, but is kind and caring well beyond her years.  I had to go a meeting a couple of weeks ago that I was dreading, and when I came home and pulled into the garage, Juliette was waiting at the car door before I even opened it.  “How did it go, Mama?” she asked with the utmost concern.  I told her it was fine, better than expected, actually.  She responded with genuine relief, sighing “Oh, I’m so glad!” as she wrapped her arms around me.

How’d we get so lucky?

HAPPY!

SEVENTH!

JULES!

Love, Mama.

I meant to do a full photo tour of our house when we moved in here two and a half years ago, but I started slapping on fresh coats of white paint the same day we got our keys and then I felt like I missed the boat on capturing the true “before” state of things.  I decided I’d wait until we were done with our refresh and then just do final pictures – finish one room a month, nine(ish) rooms in the house, take a short break for the holidays and we’d be kicking back in our well-styled crib by Spring 2019!  Oh, Kel.  Silly Kel.  Two years later it felt like we still hadn’t really finished anything.  When we started spending all day, every day at home in March I resolved to give our house some love and get some shit DONE.

Pandemic Project 1:  Finish the dining room.  Let me take you back to the pre-purchase staged version (from our listing photos).  That chandelier was…fancy, but hardly the mid-century vibe we were going for.

We made good progress on this room when we first moved in with new lighting and new windows and new furniture, but the main white wall was a blank canvas begging for artwork or wallpaper or some kind of focal point.  After not finding anything on the inter-webs that sang to me, I decided to channel my inner DIY-ist with a Sharpie paint pen and a lotta foliage photos for inspiration.  Here she is…  Finito!

I naively thought I could just free-hand this thing right on the wall, but oh, Kel.  Silly Kel.  My first take was not so good, so I slapped another coat of white paint on the wall and spent a couple of weekends mapping out a full-size mockup of the pattern I wanted on trace paper, getting my leaves and overlaps just so.

I then traced the final linework on the back-side of the paper with thick pencil, taped the pattern to the wall, and transferred the pencil marks with a good rub.  Then the satisfying work of tracing those lines with a rich, black Sharpie.

So fun, you guys!  Seriously, I love a long, tedious task like this.

It was hard to know when exactly I should be done, but finally the wall felt sufficiently un-blank and I was able to call it a day.

In hindsight I wonder if I should have opted to draw magnolia branches and rhododendron leaves to carry in the patterns from our backyard, but nope.  NOPE.  The Monstera leaves are perfect.  This room is complete and I’ve got a big blank picture frame hanging over our mantle that’s calling my name.  Onward.

In this season of feeling iffy about hotels and airplanes, I’m exceedingly grateful for family that’s willing to host us when we’re desperate to skip town.  We spent a few days last month at Mitch and Kathryn’s house on the Oregon Coast, which has proven to be an ideal home-away-from-home.  Plenty of places to explore, but also plenty perfect to just sit back and chill on the deck.  Plus, the house comes with this:

We started each morning with a bike/walk down to the market for coffee and donuts.

And I mean, the beach is right there, so you may as well drop by…

After lunch we suited up and returned with full beach gear in tow…

We lucked out and were in Neskowin during the warmest weekend on recent record.  Almost hot enough to go swimming!

ALMOST.

Her face tells you how stinking cold this stretch of the Pacific is…

Mitch and Shane were the only two brave enough for full immersion – something about the icy cold water being good for blood flow and heart health?  I can’t quite remember, as I was passed out on a blanket in the sun.

Happy hour on the deck…

And a sunset stroll with my favorite kid and pup.

We ventured 15 minutes up the road on Sunday morning to do some very serene paddling on the Nestucca River.

Juliette spent a solid half-hour manning our SUP with paddle in hand, but then…this:

Afternoon shenanigans at the house…

And then one more mini-adventure out to Sitka Sedge to do some exploring.

I love a hike that will take you from dense, mossy woods to wide open beaches in a matter of minutes.

I believe this is the point where little legs started to tire and Shane had to launch into another retelling of The Lord of the Rings to keep Juliette moving.  Works every time.

Mitch headed back to Portland on Sunday evening and the older cousins seemed in need of a little space, so Shane, Juliette and I set out on our own Monday morning to grab breakfast in Lincoln City and check out Drift Creek Falls.

I was aware here of relatively how little time we spent in the woods this summer compared to years past.  Felt good to hear the wind whispering in the pines again.

It was an easy trek to the suspension bridge, where the three of us jumped up and down to see how much we could make it bounce.  I didn’t love that game (step back from that railing, Juliette!), but being the ultra-chill mom that I am, I rolled with it.

Seems that now even short stumps give this kid enough height boost to get her eye-to-eye with her dad.

Lazy afternoons…

And then an evening outing to Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City, which is my hands-down favorite spot in the area.

We climbed this sand dune when we were here back in June and decided the view pay-offs at the top warranted another slog.

Climbing uphill in sand is so intense!  I pretended I was stopping every few steps to take pictures, but really I just needed to catch my damn breath.

Here’s Shane pretending like he’s casually enjoying the view, but really he’s about to keel over.

The final push!  How she was still running at this point is beyond me.

Made it!

And worth it.

This view, with these two in the foreground, has got to be as dreamy as the coast gets.

The race downhill takes about 15 seconds compared to the 15 minutes it takes to go up.

We did a little anemone-hunting in the tide pools while we were waiting for our table at Pelican.

My best beach buddy:

The fog rolled in on Tuesday morning, which was our cue to hit the road back to Seattle.  I walked with the girls down to the market and the beach one last time so that we could bid a proper farewell to the ocean.

Adios, Coast.  You were a breath of fresh air.

Summer is breathing its last smokey gasps here in Seattle, but I’ve still got a couple of sunny hurrahs on the photo reel.  We spent a long weekend in Idaho back in July – I was eager for a change of scenery and wanted to leave Juliette there for a few extra days at “Grandma and Grandpa Camp” (we needed a break from being all at home, all together, all the time).  We spent our most of our weekend in Idaho lakeside, walking or wading or floating.

Juliette hasn’t been on a set of monkey bars for six months, so she was pretty pumped to see that the playground across the street from my mom and dad’s house was open for business.

With an ice cream truck to boot!

Juliette and my mom were always the first up in the morning – I rolled out of bed each day to find that they had already made their mug muffins and brewed their tea.  These two also apparently shared some good heart-to-hearts – my mom says Juliette is wise beyond her years…

But when the chit-chat ended, it was right down to business…

Juliette has been asking for awhile to go fishing, so we took advantage of Grandpa’s gear and the quiet little pond at Falls Park and spent Sunday morning with a line in the water.

No bites, but she was a good sport about it.

I was bound and determined to watch Juliette reel in a fish, so that evening we tried our luck on the Spokane River at Corbin Park.

Still no bites, but she got some excellent casting practice and the water cooled our heels after a 90-degree afternoon.

I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu, watching Juliette poke at the worms and take casting lessons from my dad – the childhood memories came flooding back.  It was like I got to vicariously be six again.

Juliette came up zeroes on fishing, but she and my mom blitzed that puzzle.  Success!

My mom and I took an evening walk around the neighborhood on Sunday and I got all googly-eyed over the wheel lines and chaff and barns.  Country stuff looks so good at sunset.

Shane and I worked from my mom and dad’s house on Monday while Juliette bopped around with Grandma and Grandpa, then all of us got out in the evening for a paddle at Black Bay Park.

Make a wish, kiddo!

Shane and I headed home on Tuesday while Juliette stayed back with my mom and dad.  It was nice to be able to focus on work for a few days without a bored six year-old as my office mate, but gosh, we missed her!  And I know it was a little tough for her to be away from us after so many months of being all together, ALL THE TIME, but she knocked out several more puzzles with my mom, caught two fish with my dad, and apparently devoured a pancake twice the size of her head at my parents’ favorite local breakfast spot.  She was in good hands.  In fact, maybe I need to make my reservation at Grandma and Grandpa camp?

This was not a banner year for camping, but we did make it out once in July for a glorious weekend at Cooper Lake.  The Rusts snagged a perfect lakefront site for us and we settled right in.  I love the sound of Juliette snapping tent clips onto poles.

Jules spent her first-ever night in a tent here at Owhi a few years ago and it rained and rained and rained, so we were thrilled to return in swimsuit weather.

Like, really thrilled.

And it felt so good to be back on the paddle board after a largely land-bound summer.

Juliette is in the midst of a bout of severe doggy-fever and spent much of the weekend coaxing Biscuit onto her lap.

Someone get this kid a puppy already!

Sunset paddle with my first mate.  NOTHING BETTER.

My heart aches a little looking back at these photos from just a few weeks ago…I’m sorely missing the evening campfire, the satisfying snuggle-in at the end of day, the reading by headlamp while sandwiched between my two favorite people.

We enjoyed our requisite 3-course leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning and then Juliette and I set out on the paddle board to follow J and the boys to the other end of the lake.

We rowed ourselves into a bed of fallen floating trees and hopped out to test our balance beam skills.

This is the point where I would have turned back, but crazy Uncle J kept on going, teetering across logs that mostly floated.  But just mostly.

“Let’s go tell Daddy what we found!”

Back at camp we spread out on our lakefront property to paddle and play.

We drove over to the river in the afternoon to take a half-dip in the freezing cold water.  Or maybe a quarter-dip?  It was frigid.

Though you’d never know it from looking at the way this kid kicked back.

Jordan asked if he could borrow our big floatie to ride the rapids, which I thought was a terrible idea, but curiosity got the best of me and we told him to go for it.

Hang on, buddy!

Nailed it.

Jason couldn’t resist doing some dare-deviling of his own.

And then we went “home” to eat and lounge.

And snuggle.

(Yes, that’s 20 flaming marshmallows on the end of Jordan’s skewer.)

We squeezed in one more long paddle on Sunday morning – I suspected this would be our only camping trip of the year and we were going to make it count.

Juliette and I made a quick paddling detour to rescue Jordan’s kite, which had dipped into the water, and then poof.  The tent was down and the paddle board was deflated and the car was packed and we were city-bound.  This summer was too damn short on time in the woods.  TOO SHORT.  But we’ll always have Owhi 2020.

More summer photos!  Despite our hunkered-down, socially-distanced mode of operation, there is a small handful of summer routines we’ve managed to uphold (with adaptations) this year.  Backyard pot-lucking and lawn-gaming is a summer favorite, and we had the crew over on the Third of July to celebrate Nance’s birthday with tritip and cupcakes and ladder ball.  These two have missed each other dearly these last few months – it felt so good to see them be silly together again.

Because it was Fourth Eve and all the larger fireworks shows had been cancelled, we busted out our own small arsenal of party poppers and sparklers and smoke bombs.

Dinky fireworks are perfect proof of how easily impressed children can be.

Given the exuberance over the previous night’s sparklers, I made a follow-up trip to the fireworks stand on the Fourth for another haul of explosives and invited the Rusts to come back on over.  First though, a game of Spike Ball and the requisite photos of Juliette.  She was looking so grown up in her cuffed denim jacket that I put her hair in braids in an attempt to make her look six again.  It hardly worked.

Let the festivities begin!

The fountains were a hit, as was Old Glory, which shot brightly colored sparks 50 feet up in the air.

And then someone started blaring Bon Jovi on their phone for reasons I can’t quite remember and a flash dance mob broke out in the middle of the street.  This is how white middle-aged folks bring the party.

Happy Fourth!

 

We agreed to forego a trip to the San Juans or Whidbey this summer, but we did manage to squeeze in the smallest of island getaways with a Sunday trip to Vashon.  The ferry terminal is 10 minutes from our house and the crossing is another 20, so the stakes were pretty low, but it succeeded in scratching my itch to get out of town.  We spread out our blanket on a sandy stretch of beach, read books and ate grapes and watched the tide come in.

Photo cred a la Jules.

Plus, the ice cream shop was open for business.  Score.

 

Though Juliette’s single home-grown strawberry was VERY tasty, we still felt it was worth making the trek out to Remlinger for an afternoon of picking.  The sun was shining, the raspberries were plump, and I was exceedingly thankful that this tradition with my girl lived to see another year (we’ve been doing this since she was one!).

Get in there, Jules!

Dang, summer tradition tastes so good.

This summer, for obvious reasons, has been spent much closer to home than usual.  We typically fly through July and August weekends on-the-go, camping and hiking, maybe island-hopping in the San Juans or eating mussels on Whidbey.  This year, not so much.  And it’s thrown us off.  Juliette came out of her room a couple of weeks ago, dressed to the nines with a backpack full of stuffies and books.  “Where are you going?”, I asked.  “Not sure yet…”, she replied.

However, we’re finding the bright sides to being “stuck” in West Seattle…home ain’t so bad.  Our backyard makes a great campsite, with clean bathrooms just a few steps away.

While the water parks and splash pads are closed, a sprinkler and a pack of water balloons suffices just fine.

I didn’t know if berry-picking would be on the docket, so we planted a strawberry plant in a sunny patch of our front yard in hopes it would bear a little fruit.  Juliette lovingly watered it every day and finally, in mid-July, she plucked one single, perfect, juicy berry.  Savor it, kiddo.

Biking continues to be a favorite family pastime and we have discovered the perfect loop – thrilling downhill runs to Alki, mellow water-side cruising to our favorite pier, and then a heart-pumping uphill slog that ends in a coffee shop where we can hydrate with iced lattes and Italian sodas.

I can usually coax Juliette into a lunchtime walk to the Junction to drop something at the post office or grab a coffee, but only if she can push the stroller.  She’s such a little mama.

This little corner of Genesee is my favorite.

The shady trails of Schmitz Park are perfect on hot days.

And the water.  We’re so thankful that we’re close to the water, where we can paddle board and skip rocks and hunt for crabs at low tide.

Early July held the Sound’s lowest tide of the year, which transformed some of our favorite beaches into miles of muck.  The rocks were rough on the feet, but the crab-hunting was very good.

And speaking of crabs, Shane recently took up crabbing and spends his Sundays shuttling his crab pot around the Sound near Lowman Beach.  He and Juliette headed out early one morning and I met up with them an hour later – as I spotted them snuggled together on what has become our favorite log, I had one of those breath-catching moments of deep, deep gratitude for love and beauty and home.

The paddle board has proven to be the perfect crab shuttle – Shane has yet to come in empty-handed!

And so crab has become the star appetizer to our Sunday evening backyard meals.  This is summer.

Juliette was a little crest-fallen when I told her that our favorite pools are all closed until Covid is under control, but she was thrilled when our kind neighbors invited her to take a dip in their backyard.  So THIS is summer.

In other momentous close-to-home news, Juliette graduated kindergarten with flying colors in June, via Zoom, which was strange and a little anti-climactic, but we rolled with it.

We joined a number of other neighborhood kids on the sidewalk in front of the school that afternoon to watch the principal and teachers drive by in a celebratory parade.

We’ll take it!

And then we made our own mini field day in our backyard with some neighbors. The kids had a blast doing frisbee toss and water balloon relays.

Juliette and I capped off graduation day with our very favorite beverage.  Thanks for being so adaptable, kiddo.

Later that month, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we joined thousands of other West Seattleites for a march down California Avenue to chant for justice and respect.  It’s hard for a six year-old to grasp the realities of racism, but she does understand her responsibility to be kind and to raise her voice when she sees people being treated unfairly.  USE THAT VOICE, JULIETTE.

Father’s Day was quiet and uneventful, but the breakfast chilaquiles were scrumptious and the love lavished on Shane by his baby girl was extra-special.

And now, here we are:  mid-way through August with still not a whole lot on our calendar.  I suspect we’ll find a way to make the most of it.

This summer has been rife with cancelled plans – day camps for Juliette called off, a trip to Minnesota postponed due to our concerns about a pandemic plane ride, campsite reservations forfeited due to rain…  I’m all for cozying up indoors in November, but June?  July?!  It’s painful.  I’m antsy.  SO ANTSY.  We’ve been looking for ways to safely leave our bubble and were immensely grateful when my brother and his family offered to host us for a long weekend at their vacation house down at the Oregon Coast last month.  Score!  We were able to pit stop at their house in Portland for a bathroom break and then powered through the final couple of hours to Neskowin.  It’s no small victory these days when you can endure a five-hour car ride without having to use a public restroom.

Made it!  And that view!

AND that long-lost cousin!  Together again.

We ditched our bags and then quickly walked/biked down to the beach.

I was afraid that “beach” would conjure up recent visions of Maui for Juliette and she’d be a little disappointed by this version of the Pacific, but I stand corrected.  Turns our she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sand and surf.

We balanced our beach runs with couch snuggle sessions with Bina.

I joined Mitch for one of his early-morning fishing trips and watched from the water’s edge as he cast into the waves.

My brother is so zen.

Hey, I know that guy!

We did some exploring near Depoe Bay and took in the views from above Devil’s Punch Bowl…

Then made our way down to the beach for some adventuring.

Miniature crabs and baby anemones for days…

Seriously, these girls were like little marine biologists-in-training.

Then, more snuggles!  Elise is 100% pre-teen now and seems to have little in common with Juliette, but these two are still so sweetly fond of each other.

I loved misty morning walks down to the neighborhood market for coffee followed by a beach stroll.

And then…you guessed it.

We struck out one afternoon to conquer the sand dune at Pacific City.  Kathryn had warned me it was quite a climb, but I had no idea.

NO IDEA.  This would have been tough climbing on solid ground.  But on silky-soft sand that sinks your feet with each step?  Grueling.

Worth it for the views, though.

Gosh, it felt so good to be out, exploring someplace new, taking pictures and seeing all the shades of blue, green, and brown.

The downhill climb was much more fun than the uphill one.

We were all warm from our hike and Shane jokingly offered to toss Juliette into the ocean to cool off.  She squealed and then agreed to just put her toes in.

JUST her toes.

Ok, and her ankles.

And…what the hell, kiddo.  Just go for it.

 

I know, this is entirely too many pictures of Juliette and Morgan playing in the water, but it gave me all the warm fuzzies to see them frolicking and fancy-free.

The grown-ups set up their own game of see-saw.

I love this picture of Mitch and Elise so much, but Shane, buddy…what’s goin’ on?

This is the look of a water-lover that wore leggings to the beach…

We stayed close to the house our last full day there, venturing down to the beach in the morning and evening, but taking a break mid-day for lunch and a patio painting session.

Shorts!  So much more sensible.

(But even these got wet!)

This little window seat was my favorite spot in the house and is where Juliette and I did our evening reading.

My little buddy and I packed in one final beach stroll on our last morning there, snapped a few photos, and then called it a wrap.

Travel itch scratched.  For now.

After months (years?) of feeling far too short on Jules-time, I can finally affirm that I’m getting my fill.  And I’ve mostly loved it, loved finding out that Juliette is even funnier, more thoughtful, and brighter than I realized.  I had to go to the dentist last week and when I told Juliette that I’d be gone for a couple of hours, she wrapped her arms around me and sighed “But I’ll miss you so much, Mommy!”.  We are eating all this togetherness up.

Mostly.

There’s been a day or two when we’ve driven each other straight-up crazy, when her high energy and extreme extroversion wear me out and I’d give anything to ship her off to her Kindergarten teacher for a few hours.  But always, without fail, when I sneak into her room around 11 pm to give her one last kiss before I head to bed, all is forgiven.  Ahhhh, there you are, baby girl…

I mean…cool kid?

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, back to early February when eating lunch in a steamy ski lodge packed with a hundred strangers still seemed perfectly normal…  We took Juliette up to Snoqualmie for a romp on the slopes one Saturday and rode the Magic Carpet with her a dozen times and left that day feeling very affirmed – this kid was ready for ski lessons.  Sans parents!

I dropped her off at ski school the following Saturday with her best buddy and though she was a little reluctant to say good-bye to me, she dug deep in her courage reserves and scooted right into line behind her teacher.  You can do this, Jules!

And when I picked her up, she was soaking wet but smiling – she said the day felt long and kind of boring, but she was clearly proud of herself for making it through.  Someone buy this girl a grande hot chocolate!

And then…week two.  Week two drop-off was rough.  There was crying and pleading and pleeeease don’t leave me’s and fear in her face like I haven’t seen in awhile.  I looked at Shane and mouthed “do we really have to do this?”, but he was resolute, certain that she just needed a push in the right direction.  Preferably down a nice, gentle, powdery hill.  I reluctantly agreed, gave her a half-assed pep talk (I was crying too at this point!) and sent her off toward the chair lift.  The chair lift!  My. Heart.

But dang it if we didn’t come back four hours later to find this kid bubbling over with excitement.  “I rode the chair lift, Mommy!  And skied down all by myself!  That was so fun!” Wonders never cease.

Let’s also go back to a time when real school was still in session, back when we celebrated Juliette’s 100th day of Kindergarten and she dressed up like she was 100 years old, with baby-powdered hair and a toothless grin to round out the look.  I volunteered in her classroom for a party, where each kid counted out 100 pieces of cereal from a common bowl and then ate them.  Together.  While licking their fingers.  Shudder…

Still, it was sweet.

And then…March.  In March we started living our new reality.  Is anyone else marking time by P.C. (Pre-Covid) and I.C. (In-Covid)?  Juliette has been putting some serious miles on her bike these past couple of months, and our lunchtime rides through the neighborhood or to the grocery store for a cold drink are often the highlight of my day.  On one of our first rides, as we cruised past cherry blossoms and sang silly songs, she exclaimed, “This is so fun!  I wish we could do this every day, Mommy!”.  And then I put a recurring “Out of Office” block on my calendar at 12:30 pm.  It’s a date, kiddo.

We ride uphill, we ride downhill, we ride with one hand (her favorite new trick!), we ride with neighborhood kids, we ride like the wind.

Sometimes, on Friday mornings, we ride to the bakery.

(One-handed.)

And then refuel at home with a cream-filled donut.

She’s taken a handful of spills and has the banged-up knees to prove it, but she’s never down and out for more than a few minutes.  I call her my rough and tumble girl.

We’ve had a handful of weekends that have almost felt like summer, when we’ve turned on the sprinklers and pulled out the paddle board.  Juliette’s spirit shines so bright on sunny days.

Piano lessons were cancelled in early March, but Shane has carried the torch and spends nearly an hour every morning helping Juliette learn new songs (with the assistance of the iPad).  A couple of weeks ago, we set up the keyboard in the living room and she put on a recital for Shane’s parents.  Shane liked the technical challenge of streaming the highest-quality video.  Juliette liked the extra attention.

One day, when she couldn’t find a human audience, she collected a ladybug from the yard, put it in a jar at the end of her keyboard, and spent the morning serenading it.  This kid will take companionship wherever she can find it!

Maybe it’s just a thirst for something to celebrate, but Juliette was pumped about Mothers Day and couldn’t wait to present me with a new pair of slippers and a new water bottle holder for my bike.

Plus, the loveliest backyard brunch with mimosas and french toast topped with fresh berries.  This girl and her dad really know how to come through in a clutch.

On days when we’re cooped up indoors and we’ve already put together all the Lego sets and done all the baking and exhausted our screen time allowance, Juliette asks if we can “get fancy” and paint our nails and do our hair.  Oh, girly…are you six?  Or sixteen?

Finally, a very (very) belated sixth birthday video, because there’s no time like quarantine to rifle through photos of us being out and about.  Look at those tiny little front teeth!  That curly hair!  How you’ve already changed…  But even in these pandemic times, your spirit is as vibrant as ever, Juliette Grace.