A little more October in November!  Gosh, I took a lot of photos in October, of pumpkins and costumes and autumn strolls.  Ok, photos of the kids, really, but the backdrops were awfully nice, too.

We tried out a new pumpkin patch this year and found it to be packed with activities (and photo ops…).  Knutson Farms for the win!  Isaac fell asleep in the car on the way there and kept snoozing for a good hour after we parked, so Juliette and I got the lay of the land while Shane sat with him.

Tether balls and corn mazes and rubber duck races and newborn piglets, OH MY.

The corn maze proved to be trickier than anticipated…

Finally, Isaac roused and joined us on our search for the perfect pumpkin.

Look hard, Buddy!

And lift with your legs!

Honestly, this place was just a series of perfect stages for the kids to perch and look adorable.

Once we’d picked our pumpkin, we joined the line for the train ride.  Goodness, to see Isaac hardly walking just a few weeks ago.  Time flies.

The train ride was cheesy and a total hit with both kids.

Isaac wasn’t sure what to make of his cow car until we really got rolling, and then he was all in.  The faster we went, the bigger he smiled.

And Juliette!  Bless your heart for still loving the little things.

Someone was very disappointed when the ride ended.

Would some goats cheer you up, Bud?

Juliette challenged Shane to a race through the pumpkin maze and I hated to let her our of our sight, but we found each other again, eventually.

Ok, this is the last photo of Isaac perched near a truck.

I promise.

For reals!

Juliette and I have a soft spot for ugly pumpkins, so we grabbed a couple of those on our way out.

Whew!  What a journey.

I love a good pumpkin patch, but our (2nd) annual Harry Potter Night is perhaps my favorite October tradition.  Juliette decided to be Hermione Granger for Halloween this year, so she was thrilled to get some extra mileage out of her costume.

We decided that Isaac makes a good Draco Malfoy, with his fair hair and mischievous demeanor.

I was without a witch’s costume, so I showed up as Professor McGonagall in cat form.

Sherbet polyjuice potion and chocolate golden snitches and pretzel wands…wizard treats are fun.

The Rusts showed up in full garb with the evilest of scowls, as Bellatrix and Draco and Crabb and Goyle.

I bought some remote control candles and Shane hid the remote in his pocket, turning the lights on every time Juliette waved her wand and shouted “Lumos!”.  We had the whole party fooled for most the night.  Magic, baby!

The raucous sorting hat ceremony…

And movie time!  Get cozy, friends.

It’s a friendship made in heaven, these two.

October is also good for a simple walk in the woods, away from the Halloween fuss.  We spent a quiet Sunday at Ravenna Park, another one of those places that feels infinitely more accessible now that the West Seattle Bridge is open.

Saturdays were for soccer…

And sometimes Sundays were for coffee shops.  Juliette and I have a new favorite spot and snuck away here a couple of times while our guys were napping.

Soccer and coffee shops are fun, but couch snuggles trump all!

Sometimes snuggles were just because, but sometimes snuggles were because Isaac was sick again.  He’d tote around his thermometer all day and just move from one lap to another.  It was the worst.  But also the sweetest.

But also the tiring-est.  I found this photo on my phone and didn’t even know Shane snapped it – Mama was wiped!

We carved pumpkins on a gray afternoon; Juliette was grossed-out by the guts as always, which only piqued Isaac’s interest.  He was dying to get in there!

And finally, Halloween.  Halloween was good this year.  And also somehow four days long, with festivities Friday through Monday?  There is in fact too much of a good thing, and I think we toed the line!  We started with some small business trick-or-treating at the Admiral Junction, where Juliette donned her witch’s get-up while Isaac tagged along as Crookshanks, Hermione’s fluffy brown cat.

Isaac was a bit confused by it all and stopped every few steps to look up at us with inquiring eyes.

If he knew about the sugar rush that existed inside the paper wrapper, I imagine he would have been much more pumped.

Still, though.  Cutest kitty-cub ever.

We met up with some friends on Saturday evening for a small carnival at a neighborhood church.

Roar, Buddy, ROAR!

We walked over to Juliette’s school one evening for the annual Monster Mash.

It was wonderful to see the tradition revived after a Covid hiatus, to watch the kids run wild together.  But it was also overwhelming – even Juliette, my social butterfly, tugged on my sleeve and asked to head home after an hour.

We reveled in the quiet walk home and then settled in for our annual viewing of E.T.  

Finally, Halloween evening, which felt like a long time coming at this point!  I rushed home from work to get the kids into their costumes and then we headed out to snap a few porch pics and let Isaac ring the doorbell of a few favorite neighbors.

This sweet woman scooped chocolate into the kids’ buckets until they were half-full.

I think Isaac was getting the hang of it?

Finally, his bucket was plenty full and he was ready to call it a night.

Juliette was just getting started, though – she met up with some school friends and we gallivanted around the neighborhood with them until our fingers were freezing and we wanted nothing more than some cozy time on the couch with fuzzy blankets and hot tea.  And some mini Snickers.  Halloween was a smashing success.

And that, friends, was October.  Traditions lived large, with a decent amount of hunker-down time in between.  November, though?  Give me all the hunkering!

October!  Much of October felt more summer than Fall this year.  It’s dark by 4:30 pm these days, so it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we were taking post-dinner sunset strolls, Isaac barefoot in his beloved plastic wagon.  But I’ve got the photos to prove it…

As we emerged from our September fog of fevers and coughs, we reveled in spending our weekends at playgrounds and parks.  Lincoln Park is always a hit on a sunny Saturday.

Isaac is less and less content to sit on the swings as he becomes more and more mobile.  Kiddo is everywhere.  Luckily, Juliette keeps up with him well after I’ve lost steam.

The Hiawatha playground is on the way home from Isaac’s daycare, so on a sunny afternoon when I manage to pick him up a little early, why not?

Juliette had a random Friday off from school and so we ventured out of West Seattle to spend a morning romping around Volunteer Park.  This playground was always one of Juliette’s favorites (still is, apparently!) and her brother is following suit.

And the trees!  The kids favor the playground, but the tree-lined path is my Fall happy place.

A quick pop over to Volunteer Park cafe for fizzy drinks and avocado toast…

And then to the tower!

Juliette and I have climbed these stairs many times over, but this was the first time I did it with a baby strapped to my chest.  Wait for me, Jules!

Enjoy the feel of fresh grass between those wee little toes, Isaac – socks and shoes season is coming…

The downside to 2022’s endless summer was the October wildfire smoke – our trip out to Luther Burbank was cut short by scratchy throats and watery eyes.

Bleh – that haze!  Makes me thankful for the rain that drenched Seattle today.

We celebrated my birthday last month with fancy donuts and a tall latte and cozy-time with my munchkins.  I suggested a simple bike ride after Isaac’s morning nap and Shane one-upped my request by loading all our wheels into the Subaru for a drive out to Redmond so that we could bike the Sammamish River Trail to Chateau Ste. Michelle for a picnic lunch.

Made it!

MADE IT!  Mama’s happy.

We spread out on the lawn and ate steak frites and sipped Sauv Blanc while Juliette collected hazelnut husks and Isaac attempted to eat a tangerine with the peel still on.

Tangerine, schmangerine…Isaac was all about the lemon tart once dessert was unveiled – I kept telling him, “last biiiiite…”, but that face!  I’m a sucker.

Oh goodness, Buddy…your joie de vivre…

It was a slow cruise back to the car, with full bellies and a sleeping baby.

We stopped at Westside Park on the way home to check out the playground and the pickleball court.

I laid down on the grass and enjoyed the feeling of the day’s final rays on my face – Isaac crawled over to me and climbed right onto my chest, stretching his little body out on top of mine.  He never stays there for long, but oh, that sweet few seconds when he really nuzzles into me…  A woman passing by said, “Oh, look at how that baby loves his mama!  You’re so lucky!”  You don’t know the half of it, lady.  Happy birthday to me.

And we haven’t even made it to the pumpkin patch yet.

A bit of catching up to do around here, as Fall flies by and winter barrels toward us at lightning speed.  With any luck, I’ll have our Halloween pics up before Christmas!

Juliette is thriving in Third Grade and Shane and I have jumped at the chance to participate in a couple of onsite school activities after over two years of the building being closed to visitors.  Juliette was an all-star tour guide at back-to-school night – we saw her classroom and the library and the gym and the music room and every poster in between.

She’s thrilled on the days Shane picks her up from school on the Rad Wagon, and her friends are thrilled on the days Isaac is there to say hello.

September brought soccer season and so Isaac and I now spend our Saturday mornings cheering on Sister from the sidelines.  The girls named the team Poison Ivy and have grown so much since they started playing together a year ago.  They’re finally doing some legitimate passing and are hustling their hearts out.  These games are often the highlight of my week.

They call Isaac their team mascot and dote on him during halftime.  He eats it up.

More Sunday rides to the library for books and to Good Society for beer…

The West Seattle Bridge reopened in mid-September and suddenly we feel like our world has expanded by 8X.  We can now pop over to SoDo on a whim for Saturday morning coffee and croissants!

Although we keep coming back to our hometown favorites when we want sun+water…

And then there were the days (upon days) at home.  I don’t think a week went by in September when one of us wasn’t sick – the nights were often rough (Isaac has the hair to prove it!) and the days were often spent just trying to muddle through.

Some days, though, we stayed home just because that’s where we’re happiest.

We hung out at Lowman beach on the last day of September and it felt like a fitting way to bid farewell to summer (though let’s be real – it was hot as heck for the first half of October!).

Bring on the pumpkins.

Oh, baby.  Baby, baby, baby.  Fourteen months old and definitely verging on toddler-hood, though clinging to a few vestiges of his younger days.  Like the bottle.  Buddy loves his bottle (and won’t turn down a chance to nurse, either, though I’m afraid I don’t have much left to offer anymore).  His pediatrician recommended moving from bottle to sippy cup, and we’ll get there soon, but right now he’s not ready (ok, Mama’s not ready!).

I mean, the only waking time that he’s mellow enough for a snuggle session is with a bottle in hand.  Juliette takes full advantage.

Isaac also sleeps more like a baby than a toddler, still waking once (maybe twice) in the night and always nuzzling in deep for a chair nap when Shane and I are feeling soft.

He’s gotten a bit better about going to sleep on his own at bedtime without copious amounts of rocking, but sometimes I throw him a little bone…

Wakeup time!  Still a ray of sunshine.

Kiddo was sick a lot in September, and I can see it here in his flushed cheeks and crusty eyelashes.  Gosh, that was a tough few weeks.  These photos are a little deceiving – I mean sure, he still flashed his contagious smiles, but the sick kid / working parents juggling act is no joke.

This is the doctor’s visit where he was diagnosed with a double ear infection after four straight days of fever.  You’re a good sport, Isaac.

Feeling better!  And playing cars, which continue to be his favorite toys.

He loves the book Little Blue Truck and there’s a line in it that reads,  “Honk!” yelled a dump truck!  “Coming through!  I’ve big important things to do!”  That’s Isaac to a T.

He still darts into Juliette’s room when left to his own devices so that he can bang on her keyboard.

Her daily practice is like a siren song – he can’t help himself!

I bought this rocking pony at the neighborhood consignment store and it was very popular for a couple of weeks, until he stood up on it and flipped over the front, landing on his head.  Make better choices, Isaac.

He’s not really into TV and pays very little attention when it’s on, except when he hears the theme song for Bluey, at which point he drops whatever he’s doing, starts clapping excitedly, and then tries to scale the credenza.

He’s opting more and more for ordinary objects over his bucket of toys and loves brushing his hair and pointing an old unfunctioning remote at the TV.  There was a week when he hardly let go of our thermometer, toting it with him everywhere and occasionally swiping it over his forehead.  Toys are for chumps, huh, Buddy?

And oh, the kitchen cabinet carnage.  Eighty percent of the fun seems to be in just pulling things out of drawers and throwing them on the floor.  The remaining twenty percent of the fun is found in stirring an empty bowl with a plastic spoon.  Whatever keeps him occupied, I guess?

He loves playing with doors and once I got over my extreme fear of him pinching his fingers, I just let him go for it.  It makes for a pretty sweet game of peek-a-boo.

He still doesn’t say much – there’s a lot of nonsensical chatter, but no real words yet.  Lots of pointing at random objects and exclaiming / questioning, “Dah?!  Dah?!”

Most notably, Isaac is walking!  A few weeks ago, on a quiet Friday at home together, Isaac let go of the edge of the couch where he was cruising, turned to me with his arms outstretched, and toddled right to me, stumbling into my chest.  I squealed in delight, wrapping him in the tightest of hugs as I shouted to Shane, who was working downstairs, “HE JUST WALKED!  Isaac just walked!”  I pulled him away from me for a moment to look at his face, and oh, the pride.  Parenting a baby can be exceedingly tedious, but gosh, the bursts of excitement…  He stumbled through a couple of steps at a time for a couple of weeks, and then in mid-October it really clicked.  He came home from daycare one afternoon and suddenly was spending way more time on his feet than on his hands and knees.

Today I don’t know that I saw him crawl at all!  Courting toddler status, I tell you…

Finally, a heavy dose of brother-sister love…

Isaac generally prefers my lap when looking for a place to sit, but no one is funnier than his sister.  Once Juliette gets him going, she’ll stop at nothing to keep the giggle train running.

More sweet and simple moments at home…

The extended summer temps were a Godsend when we were cooped up with fevers but just needed a backyard dose of Vitamin D.

 

And that’s a wrap!  Get your rest, Isaac.  You’ve got more walkin’ to do tomorrow.

I took the morning shift on Sunday and popped Isaac in the car for a drive into town – Mama needed coffee.

We walked along Walker’s mini Main Street and then went down to the waterfront.

Isaac likes lake life as much as I do!

Back at the cabin, the kids cozied up while Shane and I pulled our things together for a day out on the boat.

Sometimes, when you’re trying to get things done, you just gotta put the baby in a basket.

We eventually pulled ourselves together, stopped by the lodge where Aunt Tiff treated Juliette to a sweet new hat, and got settled on the pontoon.  Make yourselves at home, girls!

Oh, Isaac.  While sister contentedly stretched out in the sun, Isaac crawled circles around us all.  We should have brought that laundry basket…

Shane and I did our best to manage his mayhem, but that kid is just uncontainable sometimes.  Snack, Ergo, drive the boat, snack, Ergo…

…and SLEEP!  Finally.

We pulled into the Marina to hop out for a bit and grab some goodies at the general store.

Juliette picked up a book of Mad Libs which made for some afternoon silliness…

So easily entertained – I love her!

And now look who’s awake…

We docked again at a small stretch of beach so the kids (kid, really) could swim.  Get it, Jules!

Isaac seemed undecided about getting in the water, but eventually I stripped him down and let him just go for it.

Water?  Two thumbs up.  Sandy hands?  Not a fan.

Once Juliette got her swim fix, we all hopped back in the boat and motored over to another beach to do some exploring.

I know, Isaac, I KNOW!  Lake life, right?!

By the time we pulled ashore, Buddy was ready for another doze.  I put him in the Ergo and quietly sang You Are My Sunshine about 80 times while the water lapped at my feet.  Naps are hard-fought sometimes, but the effort involved isn’t always so bad.

While I worked on naptime, Shane worked on frog-catching.  When he was kid, he and a friend caught 100 frogs in a single afternoon, put them in a bucket, and put up a sign on the street corner hoping to sell them to passing fishermen.  100 frogs!  A sympathetic old soul stopped by and gave them five bucks for the lot.  Juliette and I have heard this story several times and figured Shane could easily snag a critter for Juliette to hold.  It took a few minutes, but finally he delivered, in the form of a little brown toad.

Juliette wasn’t so sure she wanted to hold it after all, but since Shane went to all that effort…  Check out the play-by-play!

A little green frog, though?  He somehow seemed much less icky.

The frog was set free and we decided we’d had our fill of water and sun and would head back to the cabin.  But…wait!  One more dip.  These girls can’t stop, won’t stop!

We did make it back eventually, Isaac still snoozing as we disembarked.  Don’t mind if I grab a few Z’s of my own…

We gathered that evening at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a late first birthday celebration for Isaac and an early ninth for Juliette.

Hayden was heading back home that evening and we hated to see her go!  Such a fun couple of days with this girl.

Know what goes well with birthday cake?  MARGARITAS.

Isaac loved the ice cream cake so much that he bit a tine off his plastic fork!  Making a mental note to use real silverware next time this kid gets dessert.

Juliette got over her toad aversion…

And then Shanay taught her the Boot Scootin’ Boogie.  All in a day’s work!

There were some Funky Chicken lessons…

And gifts for the luckiest kids in all the land.  What a perfect Minnesotan day…

We laid pretty low on Monday.  Shane went out in the side-by-side with his dad while the kids and I bopped around camp.  Isaac had been eying the small playground and sandbox on our walks to and from Denny and Pat’s and finally I caved – get dirty, kid!

Meanwhile, my clean kid…

Can I still hold her on my hip?  Why, yes I can!

We went to dinner in Dorset that evening, making a quick pitstop in Akeley to say hello to Paul Bunyan.  If this isn’t midwestern, I don’t know what is!

We said goodbye to Tiff and Shanay after dinner, as they needed to get home for work.  Tiff had taken such good care of us that week, stocking our cabin with groceries and cooking us breakfast each morning and goodness, the way she and Shanay loved on our kids…  We missed them the moment they pulled away.

Back at camp, we settled back into the porch and tried to snag a family pic.  Look this way, Isaac!

Or…don’t.

Denny offered to take Juliette and me out for a sunset fishing session that evening and we jumped at the chance.  It seemed a perfect way to round out a week on the lake.

Juliette quickly got the hang of watching her bobber and reeling in any slack on her line.

Success!  One sweet little perch.  He was tiny, but I hooted and hollered like she’d just snagged a 10-pound bass.

And then a second one to boot.  It was thrilling, really.

We motored back to camp as the sun dipped below the horizon, Juliette’s hair whipping in the wind, Denny smiling ear to ear with his favorite first mate at his side.

The best dockside welcome wagon!

I took Isaac in for bed while Juliette drove her Grandpa back to his camper.  Peas in a pod, these two.

Tuesday was go-day, which meant one last round of grandparent snaps and then some drawn-out, tearful good-byes.

Oh, good-byes are hard.  Like, really hard.

And the long trek home…again, Isaac reveled in the thrill of take-off, turning back to Shane with a grin like, “Can you even believe this, Dad?”  But the thrill quickly wore off and we did a lot of baby-juggling the rest of the flight.

Meanwhile, Juliette had a window seat in the row behind us and lived her best life, with unlimited iPad time and double Sprites.  You deserve it, Kiddo.

It felt awfully good to walk in our front door, but it wasn’t without a tinge of those post-vaycay blues.  We’re holding close a boatload of special family memories in that Minnesotan wonderland.

Our early-September trip to Minnesota already feels like a distant memory, but I’ve still got the warm family fuzzies from our few days there.  The Schnell love is strong!  Totally worth the four-plus hours on the plane and the four hours in the car.

Isaac did alright with the travel, though not without plenty of effort from Shane and I to keep him entertained.  He was thrilled by the sound and speed of take-off and quickly settled in for an hour-long nap, but at wake-up we were left with at least half the flight to fill.

Bring on the snacks.  And more snacks.  Sit in Dad’s lap.  Sit in Sister’s lap.  Play with the ice left over from my ginger ale.  Play with the thermometer I tucked into the diaper bag.  JUST BE STILL!

Juliette, on the other hand, was an A+ seat buddy.

When the flight attendant asked us to prepare for landing, I thought, “what do you think I’ve been doing for the last two hours?!”.

This year we opted to stay in a cabin at the lakefront resort where Shane’s parents and sister have campers rather than staying at their house in Alexandria.  Shane’s dad was at the main road waiting for us to arrive and Juliette was opening her car door to get to him before we’d even rolled to a stop.  See what I said about the Schnell love?!

We settled into our cabin that afternoon and spent the evening hanging out on Denny and Pat’s porch drinking hard-earned beer while Isaac pushed trucks around underfoot.

I walked Isaac back to our cabin around sunset, enjoying the warm evening and the pastel sky.

This was going to do just fine.

Isaac was up early and Friday (and also half the night on Thursday, little rascal…), so Shane took him out for a long morning run while Juliette and I grabbed extra Z’s.  BUDDY.  You can be something of a monster in the night, but in the light of day, you’re so forgivable.

We quickly settled into the week’s routine, convening at Tiff’s porch for hot coffee and home-cooked breakfast.

Isaac did some very sweet lap-sitting, but more often than not, he was diving out of our arms so that he could go play on the stairs or tip over chairs or make other sorts of mischief.  Never a dull moment.

Juliette became a Skipbo Queen…

While Pat introduced Isaac to all the sweet old neighbor ladies.

By noon on our second day there, Juliette had taken over the driver’s seat in Grandpa’s golf cart.  She wasn’t quite ready for the gas pedal, but her steering game was strong.

Afternoon swimming…

And a pre-dinner Corn Hole tournament.

There was so much room to roam – Isaac covered a lot of ground on this wide-open lawn!

Beverage break.

And back at it.  Gosh, this boy loves to climb.

Denny fried several pounds of fresh-caught Walleye for dinner and some neighbors sauntered over to partake.  There was a quick trip out on Grandpa’s boat, a moonrise stroll with Buddy, a little time around the campfire, and we were spent.  I wish I could say we slept like logs that night, but ISAAAAAC!!!

We were up and at it early again on Saturday.  There was a bottle in bed, another father-son morning walk, and a few quiet minutes out on the dock to enjoy the glassy water.

Time for breakfast at Auntie Tiff’s!

Things Juliette is thankful for:  1) Uncles that run to the neighborhood store to buy her a jump rope so that she can show off her new tricks.  2) Cousins that can braid!

After breakfast, Juliette and I joined Denny and some of his buddies for a trail ride.  I’d never been in a side-by-side, but when in Minnesota!

We climbed through birch groves and a grouse skittered across the path in front of us.  Grandpa reached out the window and picked wild violets for Juliette.  We bumped slowly through mud puddles and Juliette thought it was thrilling when we went through a puddle so deep that mud covered the side-by-side’s floor.

We rolled back into the resort and were greeted by the friendliest little welcome wagon.  Next year, Isaac, your turn!

You know what’s perfect after a dusty morning in the woods?  POOL TIME!

We joined most the neighborhood that night for a potluck at the main shelter.  Jello salads of every color in the rainbow!  It was sweet, the feeling of community among the crowded rows of picnic tables.

My word, these cousins.

That evening brought more Corn Hole (played one-handed as I struggled to keep Isaac from nose-diving off the stairs…),

More Skipbo…

And some Hayden-Jules shenanigans as they dropped acorns near where Denny sat down at the firepit.  He didn’t notice a thing.

S’mores!

And a sunset to boot.

Nighty-night…

A few August snapshots that should move from a folder on my desktop into the blogosphere, because first of all…

HAMILTON.  We bought tickets to the show several months ago when we heard it would be in Seattle and surprised Juliette in early August, and my goodness…HAMILTON.  It’s been a long time since we got dressed up and went…anywhere, really, and from the moment we turned onto Pine Street and spotted the billboard, we were swept up in the magic of it all.  Juliette oohed and ahhed over the lobby chandelier and held her dress pinched between thumb and forefinger like a princess making a ballroom entrance as she walked down the Paramount’s stairs to the restroom.  

The lights flickered and we found our seats and the whole place was absolutely electric with excitement.  I was captivated from the moment the first notes sounded, but couldn’t help looking over at Juliette every few minutes, wanting to freeze-frame in the my mind the way that she smiled from ear to ear with a little giggle at, “You are the worst, Burr”, the way she bobbed her head along to “Ooh ooh ooh, I do I do I do I doooo” as Eliza entered the stage.  Such glee and sorrow, such heightened feelings as we fed off the energy that comes with being in a room of thousands.  What an experience.

We left Isaac at home for obvious reasons and enjoyed our baby break, but it felt awfully good to be back home with our boy in our arms!

Hamilton is pretty freaking hard to top, but there were also some very sweet evening walks with my two favorites…

Lots of park time…

Evenings walks and park time as we strolled down to Ercolini…

Ercolini can look like a bit of a junkyard, with its collection of discarded riding toys, but it can also be a kid’s treasure trove.  Juliette and Isaac were pumped when this blue truck showed up on a random weeknight.

Is she too big to sit in this thing?  Probably.  But does she look adorable in it, as she radios for backup?  Totally.

There was a Saturday at the Lincoln Park playground…

Followed by one last Sunday at Coleman pool.  This place will forever epitomize for me the pinnacle of Seattle summer goodness.

There were weekend bike rides to the library, where we stumbled upon a concert in the street…

And a visit from my mom and dad for Isaac’s first birthday.

There were also some long, quiet days at home, when Juliette was on her own while Isaac was at daycare and Shane and I worked.  She’s gotten so good at entertaining herself (Covid gave her no choice!).  Her Barbie hair salon was next level.

Also, girl’s got mad puzzle skills – she put this together in an afternoon!

Way to sleep off those pool days, Juliette.  Summering is hard work.

Hood River has been on my PNW bucket list for a few years now, but I somehow always fizzle when planning the trip.  Too far, too many other things to do, too many excuses…  This year, though, I tossed out the idea to the Rusts, as they’re Hood River regulars, and then our friend Jordan wanted to join to celebrate his birthday and soon this getaway had taken on a life of its own.  The text thread grew and calendars aligned and soon a whole gaggle of us had booked a few nights down there in mid-August.  Best Western or Bust!  We settled into our hotel room on a Wednesday afternoon and Juliette spent several minutes pretending that the phone was ringing, then picking it up and saying, “Hello there!  Juliette Schnell speaking!”  Corded phones…the novelty.

But when I offered to take her to the pool, the phone was quickly tossed aside.  And look who we found there!

We laid low in the evening, eating at the hotel and then taking a soft serve sunset stroll.

More of our buddies trickled in late Wednesday night – we’ve missed these girls like crazy since they moved to Colorado a couple of years ago and it was so good to be reunited over Thursday breakfast!

Want to guess how Isaac slept that first night?!  Naptime couldn’t come soon enough.

We settled into vacation mode with pool time and park time.

And then afternoon nap / hotel bed shenanigans.

Everyone convened at the river before dinner for a paddle and a swim.

Our crew took over this little cove and goodness, it made me happy to see us all together again.

Isaac, Mama needs a canned wine sometimes!  You stop with that judgey look.

We picnicked at the nearby park for dinner, doing more catch-up while the kids frolicked on the playground.

The first baby of the group (who just turned FOURTEEN!) and the last baby of the group make for some very cute bookends.

I walked Isaac back to the hotel for bedtime and while I would have loved to hang out for ice cream with the gang, I did cherish this riverfront stroll with my boy.

Friday!  Group breakfast…

More pool time…

And an afternoon hike to Tamanawas Falls with the little mountain goats.

These kids were such good sports – I didn’t have to bust out the gummy worms until we were over two miles in!

I hear water…

Made it!  And so worth the trek.

We made record time heading back – these girls were pooped, but still smiling.

We all met at Ferment that night for hard-earned beers and burgers.

THE BOYS!  The best of the best dads and sons.

It was back to the playground after dinner, as it proved to be a great place for the adults to chat while the kids roamed freely.  Though let’s be honest, some kids (one kid) needed a bit more supervision than the others…

Isaac won’t ever have a biological big bro, but I gotta say, Gryff and Isaiah are the sweetest surrogates.

 

I took the morning shift on Saturday and Isaac and I got out for a sunrise stroll.  We walked along the river for a bit and then decided to head into town in search of coffee.

Found it!

Post-breakfast pool time…

And then a jaunt out to the Gorge White House for berry picking, cider, and a stroll among the dahlias.

This kid definitely isn’t a great nighttime sleeper when we’re not home, but bless his heart for still being able to nap on the go.

Jack and La Verne invited me to tag along for their 2pm wine tasting, and while I initially declined, saying I should really hang back with Isaac, Juliette nearly pushed me into their car, saying “Go, Mama!  You need a break!”  I mean, if she says so…

We spent another evening at the river, doing all the water things.

How many kids can you fit on a single paddle board?  A lot.

These kids have literally been hanging out since birth and are all of the age now that they want to/get to choose their own friends, but they still get along so splendidly.

Uncle Jordan won “Most Fun Adult” that evening, for sure.

We drove over the bridge to While Salmon for another picnic dinner.  The kids rabble-roused…

Gryff played airplane with Isaac while Nance did backup…

And we just…hung, in that easy-going, fun-loving way we have of being together.  We met these people in 2007, when we were all relatively new to Seattle and looking for community.  None of us had family in the Seattle area and we quickly became each other’s support system, holding each other close through highs and lows and lots of kids.  I still remember the night that Jason showed up at our small group wearing a sweater vest, looking extra mature as he shared the news with all us childless 20-somethings that Nance was pregnant.  We were having a baby!  And now that baby is a teenager and it feels like some of our other littles are well on their way…  And yet, the adults haven’t aged a bit.  😉

I took another morning shift on Sunday, wanting to soak in one more walk along the river.  I tucked Isaac into the Ergo and he fell asleep steps from the hotel.  We walked for miles, his face nuzzled into my chest; I watched the sun come up and highlight his wispy blonde hair and sheesh, traveling with a baby is hard but sometimes so, so good.

Buddy slept all through breakfast.  Making up for lost time, I guess…

He’s up!

We squeezed in one last pool session before hitting the road.

We kept saying, “We should go.  We should really go.”  But dang it, good byes are hard!  Such a special group of people in such a special place.  There’s comfort in knowing we can always pick up right where we left off, though.  Also comfort in knowing how fun we still are!  Some things never change.

We usually have a long Labor Day weekend at home and at least a week of school under our belts before September 14th rolls around, but this year we spent the first few days of the month in Minnesota and then rushed home to news of a teachers strike that delayed the start of school and indefinitely stretched out summer.  Finally, though, a resolution was reached and the dice fell so that Juliette started third grade AND turned nine on the very same day.  She was pumped, and I was pumped for her, but also my head spun as I hung birthday streamers and readied her backpack on Birthday Eve.  I had thought this was all happening much too slow (can we just get this school year show on the road?!), but suddenly it felt all too fast (can’t I keep my eight year old home with me for just another week or two?!).

With Isaac in a phase of life where you see marked changes in him week by week, Juliette looks so…constant by contrast.  She’s my steady Betty.  But that first day of being nine, that first day of third grade, the signs were there of a more mature kiddo.  It was evidenced in the extra time she took to pick out her outfit the night before, in the way she carefully laid out her clothes and considered her hairstyle.  It was there in the confidence she exuded on the walk to school, the absence of new-thing jitters as she talked about seeing her friends and meeting her teacher.  It was especially there that afternoon, when she got up from the living room floor where she was playing with me and Isaac and said she wanted to go do some Sudoku in her room.  Alone.  Goodness, she’s growing up, becoming so independent and thoughtful.  And stylish!

(For the record, there was just one brief moment before she passed through the gates when she looked back at me with those “help me, Mama” eyes, but it passed before I could even offer one more hug!)

She was sent home with a small paper bag that first day of school and was asked to put in it four things that describe her best.  I loved watching her deliberate over this as she gazed at our bookshelves and perused her dresser top for just the right treasures.  I especially loved when she picked up the small Eiffel Tower figurine I gave her several years ago and said she definitely wanted to bring that, so she could tell everyone how much she wants to go to Paris with her mom someday.  She also chose her Rubik’s Cube, a symbol of how much she loves puzzles; a softball; and a small Harry Potter Lego figure.  That’s her in a nutshell, though I imagine if she could have fit her baby brother in that bag, he would have made the cut.

We went over all the options for her party this year, grateful for the freedom from Covid-related limits, but still she decided she wanted something small – just her three best buds over for a sleepover.  I took her to breakfast on one of the strike-days and we made a plan:  pizza, cupcakes, nail-painting, a movie, and “spa vibes”.  Juliette inherited my love of a good plan, so we took our time setting the agenda over coffee and hot chocolate.  I really like sitting across the table from this kid.  Guaranteed good time.

Since her actual birthday was a school day with the added bustle of evening soccer practice, we celebrated that day simply, with treats and gifts and just our little family.  A maple bar for breakfast, her all-time favorite burritos for dinner, and root beer floats for dessert.

She is the best gift-opener, delightfully thrilled by each and every present.

Her favorite present?  A tie between a bottle of pink nail polish and her very first Kindle.

Party day followed on Saturday – the girls showed up before dinner so that they could spend some time playing Babysitters Club before diving into pizza and cupcakes.

(Isaac presided over the festivities.)

After cupcakes, sleeping bags were rolled out and more gifts were opened.  The girls are very into their dolls these days and Juliette was thrilled with the new accessories she scored for her doll, Molly.

I love when the gift-giver is just as excited as the gift-opener.  “I can’t wait for you to see what I got you, Juliette!”

Popcorn was popped, Parent Trap was put on, and the girls got comfy while I served snacks and offered pedicures.

Lights were out by 10:30 and I heard whispers until about 11:00, but then all fell silent.  They missed the memo about sleeping in at slumber parties, though – at 6:30 am they were getting their dolls dressed for the day!

We had breakfast together and the girls made up a dance to their school song and then it was time to pack it up.  Gosh, I remember my own slumber party era so fondly – it’s sweet to see Juliette getting her turn.

My girl.  MY GIRL.  What a privilege it is to be her mama, to get a front row seat to watching her grow.  There is a new girl at Juliette’s school who has yet to find her crew – she doesn’t speak much English and her one buddy was out sick last week, which left her on her own in the lunch room.  When Juliette saw her at a table by herself, she felt her heartstrings tug, got up from her seat, and asked this new girl to join her table.  There was a moment of awkwardness as they both fumbled over the language barrier, but hand gestures of “come along” were made, smiles were exchanged, and trays were scooted to make space for one more.  When Juliette told me that evening what happened, I hugged her tight and told her what a big, hard thing she had done.  She didn’t really think it was that big or that hard – kindness and inclusiveness are her default.

So year after year, Kiddo, birthday after birthday, keep being YOU.  Because you are remarkable.  Happy Ninth.

August and early September were chock-full of trips and bustle as we squeezed every last drop of playtime out of summer 2022 (though let’s be honest – traveling anywhere with a baby is equal parts work and play, if you’re lucky).  Our bonanza started small, with a weekend on Bainbridge Island to watch Shane and the Rusts compete in another pickle ball tournament.  I mean, since Shane was playing both mixed doubles and mens doubles and since pickle ball was founded on Bainbridge, and since I found the sweetest little AirBnB on an idyllic farm, I felt like the kids and I should tag along and make a getaway out of it.

Isaac and Juliette liked watching the ferry pull away from the dock, but the real excitement came when Juliette realized Nancy was on the same boat as us.

It was a quick float to Southworth and an hour drive to Bainbridge and then we drove along the prettiest little lane to land at what would be our front yard for the weekend.

We explored the grounds and met the animals and had a picnic dinner on the grass.

This place felt too good to be true when Shane discovered a pickle ball net in the garage to go with the striping that was on the parking pad out front.  He and Nance were able to get a little practice in, though having to maneuver around Casey, the resident dog, complicated the game a bit.

Saturday was game day for mixed doubles; the kids and I joined the gaggle of West Seattle ballers to cheer on Shane and Nance.  There were a couple of handy wins, a couple of defeats, and a couple of hard-fought victories.  They unfortunately landed just a couple of points shy of the medal round, but I was impressed by how much improvement I saw in their game since I last watched them play in June.

Isaac was mosly just impressed by the adjacent playground.

Until he wasn’t impressed at all.

I spent the afternoon back at the AirBnB  with the kids while Shane and Nancy cheered on some of their buddies at the tournament.  Isaac and I both took a much-needed nap (true to form, he took vacation as a cue to party / fuss all night), and then after waking we played a rousing game of How long can we keep Issac in bed?

Not long…

We bopped around the farm before grabbing pizza and ice cream in Winslow.

The owners of the AirBnb were super-friendly and gave Juliette a bunch of carrots to feed the horses.  She loved how popular she immediately became!

But she didn’t love the horse drool.

I had Isaac bathed and jammied by 6 pm, but he was still pretty bright-eyed, so we took another stroll around the farm.  He loved watching the chickens strut around their coop and once he got past the initial surprise of the rooster’s high-pitched crow, he smiled wide at each cock-a-doodle-doo.

Juliette came out to join us and snuggled up with Dusty, the resident cat.  We played a few lawn games and turned in early, while Shane played pickle ball out front with the owners.  He’s insatiable.

Shane got an early start on Sunday to meet up with Jason at the courts for mixed doubles while I took my time getting going with the kids.  Isaac had another hum-dinger of a night, but didn’t seem too sorry about it.

Sleepless nights aside, I was reluctant to leave this place.  The dahlias!  The farm-fresh eggs in our fridge!  The animals…we loved those animals.  Juliette spent a good 20 minutes saying goodbye to the horses, stroking Rose and Willow on their noses while murmuring, “You’re such a sweet girl…”.  No, Juliette – YOU’RE such a sweet girl.

She tried very hard to make sure each horse got equal amounts of love.

Meanwhile, Isaac really liked those chickens…

We arrived at the courts mid-morning to find Shane and J on a roll.  They won a handful of games, were immediately humbled when a couple of 60-something guys clobbered them, but ultimately made it to the medal round.

Silver!  Congrats, guys.

Once the medal pics were snapped, we were ready to jet home.  That much pickle ball is exhausting, partly for Shane, who was on the courts for all those hours, but also for me, who ran point on crowd control / baby patrol – Isaac has yet to learn the true art of spectating.  Still, though, so worth the trip, to see Shane play a game he loves with people we love.  And…horses!  Juliette and I are still thinking about those horses.