We’ve made a tradition of writing down our New Years resolutions and tucking them into our Christmas stockings, to be pulled out at the end of the year for a check-in.  By the time December rolls around we have only a faint memory of what goals we actually set, which means there’s an element of surprise when we unfold the lists we made 12 months earlier.  There are usually a couple of resolutions kept, a couple of shrugs over resolutions forgotten and unachieved.  And I’m ok with it this way – Schnell resolution-ing comes with a heaping load of grace.  We’ve accepted that it’s only the things we really want to do and really have time for that will bubble to the surface.

That said, even if we’re ultimately just gonna do what we’re gonna do, I still like this practice of taking stock and intention-setting.  I like having this record of evolving dreams and priorities.  I especially love hearing what comes to mind when I ask Juliette what she wants to do in the year ahead (“Go swimming a lot!  Snuggle with Mommy more!  Play cards!”).  Here’s my 2020 hopeful look-ahead:

Re-strike the work/life balance.  I’ve mentioned a few times how all-consuming my job has been lately and I’m ready to pump the brakes.  I’ll keep my laser-focus during office hours, I’ll work the occasional evening when duty calls, but I’m Trying (capital T!) to do away with work being the last thing I think about as I drift off to sleep and the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning.  Most of that late night pondering/worrying is completely unproductive, anyway – I have yet to experience a midnight epiphany that solves a budget crisis or gets a much-needed building permit.  So I’m going to limit the off-hours email-checking, bite the bullet and officially work Fridays again (I’d rather work on Friday while Juliette’s at school than work every evening after bedtime), and leave work at work.  Just think of the time and energy this will free up for me!  So I can…

Make art.  Sometimes with Juliette.  I’ve largely been on an art-making hiatus since Juliette was born – most of my creative energy (when I have it) and time (when I have it) has gone toward taking photos and keeping this blog current.  But I miss my sketchbook.  I miss the print-making studio.  I miss using my hands to MAKE.  I’m still putting together the framework for this one, but have a book of drawing prompts that Juliette and I have pulled out a couple of times on quiet evenings at home and the hour we spent doodling different bumblebees was incredibly satisfying.

Bang out at least five home improvement projects.  When we bought our 1950’s house a year and a half ago, we immediately put together a list of 30 projects we wanted to complete over the next few years.  I hopped to it and rolled A LOT of white paint onto our walls when we first moved in.  We fixed a leaky faucet, replaced our upstairs windows, got new gutters, cleaned up the yard, and then we…fizzled.  Transitioned into maintenance mode.  But I’m getting my second wind, ready to bid farewell to our pink toilets.  Eager to give our basement some love.  Eyeing a couple of unsightly shrubs that have gotta go.  Just typing out this list makes me giddy – home makeover round 2 starts NOW.

Play more board games.  Shane and I went out for a date-night/game-night during the holidays at a local game shop and I as I looked around at the small groups of people huddled around us, I was struck by how engaged they all were.  No one was checking their phones or sitting on the fringes.  People were laughing over their Cards Against Humanity or agonizing over their next move in Settlers of Catan and I thought, we should all do this more often.  Playing games forces a focused interaction that I feel like I’m lacking – with Shane, with Juliette, with friends…I hereby deem 2020 the Year of Qwirkle.

And I always include at least one warm-and-fuzzy self-care resolution that tends to fall by the wayside by mid-February, so in that tradition I’m committing to move with intention for at least 10 minutes EVERY DAY.  Take a moment before bed to breathe and to stretch.  Bring back the lunchtime walks.  Do Barre again.  On the very best of days, cross-country ski!

Cheers to a year of aspiration.  And so much grace.

 

(a 2020 Mama-Jules collaboration…)

The 2019 highlight reel!  These are a few of my favorite things…

Favorite book:

As per usual, I fell short of my annual reading goal, but finished 17 books and liked most of them.

Favorite fiction was Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.  I grabbed this one from the library on a whim while I was waiting for Juliette to pick out her books and it surprised me the very best way.  Woodson has a way of bringing you up close and personal with her characters in so few words.

Favorite non-fiction was Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber, because it challenged ideas of mine that I didn’t even know were up for debate.

And favorite of favorites, in a category all its own, was Devotions by Mary Oliver, because…Mary.  I lugged this book around on nearly all of our camping trips and have the fondest of memories of reading about nature and beauty and solitude while the waters of Priest Lake shimmered in the distance.

 

Favorite movie:

I was a year late on watching this one, but I caught Bohemian Rhapsody on one of my flights to San Diego and YOWSERS.  Totally brilliant.  I never really loved Queen, but suddenly found myself with a profound appreciation for Freddy Mercury’s creativity and talent.  Five stars.

 

Favorite TV show:

Again, I’m late to the party, but helloooooo Stranger Things!  I initially passed on the first couple of seasons, put off by the sounds of shrieking girls and screeching creatures as Shane binge-watched this show downstairs, but he finally convinced me to sit down and give the show an honest shot before Season 3 dropped this summer.  So we watched Season 1.  And 2.  And then 3.  And it was good.  So ridiculously, outlandishly good.

(Honorable mention to Succession!)

 

Favorite podcast:

I’m still faithful to my tried-and-true trifecta of The Daily, Reply All and Heavyweight (Heavyweight!  Listen to #27 Scott and try not to cry).  But I’ve got a new favorite, and it’s got very little substance, but WHATEVER.  I’m loving Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend when I want…a friend!  So light, so funny, so easy to imagine you’re in the room with Conan and his assistant Sona.  Best episodes include his chats with Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Colbert, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

 

Favorite song:

Oh boy.  This one is hard.  Especially now, when it feels like we’re stuck in an endless loop of Frozen 2 tracks.  We listened to a lot of Taylor Swift this year.  Hopped on the Billie Eilish bandwagon.  Juliette and I instated a Dixie Chicks revival.  But the song that probably got the most play is Some Type of Love by Charlie Puth – it’s poppy and sweet and perfect for belting out when Jules and I are cruising in the Subaru.

 

Favorite purchase:

We have a concrete pad in our backyard that’s been screaming for a fire pit since we moved in.  After searching high and low for something not-too-big and not-too-ugly, we landed on the Solo Stove and it’s been great!  Compact, burns crazy-hot, and the perfect reason for the kids to gather on the backyard on a summer evening.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

Totally stumped on this one, as I feel like 2019 was the year of “painfully minimal personal time”.  Work kind of sucked me dry last year.  But.  BUT!  The work travel that zapped me was also dotted with some pretty incredible beachfront evening strolls.  How lucky am I that my project site is a mile from here?!

 

Favorite family pastime:

Juliette has recently graduated from mind-numbingly simple games like Candy Land to board games that I actually want to play.  Ticket to Ride!  Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle!  Quirkle!  We’re in such a good game groove right now – I’m loving winter weekend mornings when we can crank up the fire place, pour a couple of mugs of hot chocolate, and open up the game cupboard.  (Again, though, as I say every year, camping ultimately for the win.)

 

And, favorite moments…

 

Show me whatcha got, 2020.

We eased into 2020 nice and slow – I love those few days after Christmas when the holiday bustle has subsided and we can be 100% on break.  Juliette and I hit the library and our favorite coffee shop and perfected Deck the Halls on her keyboard.

(That book!  She’s really rubbing in it with this whole growing-up-fast thing.)

Champagne and Sprite at our favorite Pioneer Square oyster bar…

Followed by a stroll through Occidental Square, which has never looked lovelier.

Juliette and the neighbor kids schemed up a sleepover one night and before I could even ask about the details, they were loading up their wagon with Juliette’s blanket, pillow, and toothbrush.  See ya later, I guess…?

Once all the kids had properly lined up their sleeping bags in the playroom, they spent the afternoon rehearsing a sing-along to Frozen 2’s greatest hits and then hopped back to our house in the evening for a special performance.  The parents were all politely asked to sit quietly and refrain from taking any videos – this was exclusive stuff.  (Photos permitted.)

Juliette’s solo was so sweet.

But the full quartet’s rendition of Lost in the Woods was my fave.

Once everyone traipsed back across the street for bedtime, Shane and I looked at each other in our quiet, empty house and wondered, “What should we do?”  So we went out!  We got super-crazy and ended up playing Quirkle and drinking beer at the neighborhood game store.

We invited the crew over for our annual New Years Eve bash, where we played charades and ate and drank and watched the ball drop in New York City before sending the six year-olds off to bed.

We busted out the Veuve and my grandparents’ antique wine glasses for the midnight toast.  Special champagne in special glassware for the most special of friends.

HAPPY 2020!

We rolled out of bed reluctantly on Wednesday morning, but rallied with the promise of Jack’s homemade bubble waffles.  Juliette put on her princess dress and grabbed a noise-maker and did her damnedest to keep the party going.

And then, as a grand finale to our holiday traditions, the Polar Plunge!  I love this event.  Such community, such euphoria.

One clarification:  I love being a spectator at this event.

Juliette thought about joining the guys this year, but only went so far as to take her shoes off.  I don’t blame her!

I took to heart that old adage about the first day of the year setting the tone for the rest of the year, so I made time to get out for a long walk and to hit the playground with my girl and to cozy up by the fireplace with tea and a book.

We took a family walk at Lincoln Park that evening to catch what will be first of many magic 2020 sunsets.

And then, on that final weekend before heading back to work and school, there was nothing left to do but CHILL.  Juliette and I got a head start on our new years resolutions and crafted and cuddled and spent one last night reading by the light of the Christmas tree.

What a break.  What a gloriously slow, restorative way to end one year and begin a new one.

Juliette went bonkers waiting for Christmas to roll around, because Christmas meant Portland, and Portland meant COUSINS!  We arrived at Mitch’s on Monday afternoon and were there all of three minutes before Juliette was digging her swimsuit out of her suitcase and dashing out back to hot tub with Elise.

Then Santa hats were donned and Parcheesi was brought out and these two officially attached themselves at the hip.

I tried to lure the girls out of the house on Christmas Eve for a hot chocolate run or a playground spin, but they really just wanted to hunker down and cozy up.  I didn’t fight it.

Elise is 11 going on 16 these days, but there were a handful of times last week when I saw the kid in her come through, when she couldn’t help but join the “littles”.  Gingerbread for the win!

And then, Parcheesi…so much Parcheesi.

Morgan, my kindred tradition-keeper, insisted on Polar Express before bed.

Plus milk and cookies for Santa, with carrots for his reindeer!  The excitement in the house that evening was palpable, with Morgan running through the living room with the iPad every 15 minutes to give us an update on Santa’s whereabouts.  The Tracker says he’s in Poland!  Now Norway!  Iceland!  Once Santa reached New York, it was time to put these kids TO BED.

I awoke to the house-rattling pitter-patter of children around 7 am on Christmas morning – by 7:30 Morgan was taking roll call.  Let’s get to it!  Santa came through, big-time.

Santa brought me boots and cross-country skis – so glad my wish list made it to the North Pole.

And Juliette’s very own Parcheesi board!  Looks like I’m gonna need to learn to love this game.

My mom wasn’t quite up to making the trek to Portland this year, so we did a post-gift recap with them over Facetime.

Grandma and Grandpa were missed (on both sides), but technology is a wonderful thing…

…and speaking of technology, Morgan and Elise’s Nintendo switch won “gift of the year”.

If only Santa hats and Christmas PJ’s were in style all year round!  Such a good look on you, Jules.

We pried the Nintendo controllers out of the kids’ hands late morning and rallied the troops for a short hike at Tryon Creek.

Rocket balloon practice consumed a good portion of the afternoon…

…and then we gathered in the living room for a round of charades, where we learned that Morgan and Juliette are quite the actors and that Mitch’s rendition of “toy car” looks a lot like a terrified child running from a bear.

We ended the day sweetly and quietly, with a flute recital by Elise and a serious bracelet-making session on Juliette’s new rainbow loom.

We wrapped up Portland Christmas-Fest 2019 with hot chocolate cheers on Thursday morning and then said goodbye to the beloved Jarrell clan.  To cousins!

The one Christmas to-do still on our list was Juliette’s and my downtown holiday tour and when I asked her on Friday morning if she wanted to take a spin on the Westlake carousel, she replied, “Of course I do, Mommy!”  Deal sealed.  Shane dropped us off at the Fairmont, we took our quick spin through the gingerbread house, and then headed over to the merry-go-round.

The lines were so short and the tickets so cheap that I let Juliette ride on it twice.

 

Oh, kiddo…you have no idea how much I love doing this kind of stuff with you.

There was hot chocolate and a little shopping and one last look at the Macy’s star and then we officially called it a wrap.

There’s a lot about this Christmas season that just felt extra-GOOD.  Juliette’s anticipation was bigger than ever, and beyond the going-bonkers over the presents and the lights and the parties, she’s starting to grasp the deeper concepts of gratitude and generosity.  Our home felt so warm this season, our neighborhood so friendly and festive.  I missed having my parents with us in Portland, but my mom’s strength and positivity through her diagnosis and chemo has buoyed us all.  Our little advent tree, laden with hand-written notes about what we’re thankful for, is out of bare branches.

’Tis the season for rituals and traditions and all things nostalgic!  I’m holding space for family slow-downs per my last post, but I’m also laying the twinkly lights on thick, because Juliette and I eat that kitsch up.  There are a handful of events that December just wouldn’t quite feel complete without.

Like Ladies Weekend!  Nance, LaV, and I hit up the Cedarbrook Lodge for the fifth year running and did all the essential LW things – hot tubbing and shopping and chick-flicking…  We carefully considered and curated our movies this year and opened Friday night with Pretty Woman, wondering if the Vivian/Edward romance would live up after all these years, and…affirmative.  They’ve still got it.

These are the thumbs-ups of ladies who just scored a slew of sweaters for 80% off.

Meanwhile, Shane did this.  Because he’s the best.

Juliette is increasingly interested in Santa and asked a couple of weeks ago if we could pay him a visit.  Luckily, he happened to be hanging out at the neighborhood brewpub!  Jolly old Saint Nick and a pint of my favorite amber to boot!

(This is where she asked him for puffy paint and he looked at her like, “I thought that was popular back in the 80’s?”

That evening we invited the neighbors over for wine and cookie decorating, which turned into a contest over which kid could pack the most sugar onto a single gingerbread man.

The girls closed us out with a flute/keyboard duet of Jingle Bells.

And though they missed a few notes, it was perfect.

We decided to forego the Nutcracker this year and instead spent a Sunday evening with the Chens at Lumaze, a “Winter Fairytale at T-Mobile Park”.  Fairytale, indeed – was this for real?!

The kids had a blast bounding through the forest of lights.  So much twinkle!

And then we strapped on ice skates and took a few wobbly loops around the rink.

The park is set up as a maze dotted with landmarks that kids can check off a list – this pony was my favorite.

…and Juliette loved this 20-foot doll.

Later, Lumaze!

Our annual Christmas dinner with the Chens and Rusts is always one of the merriest nights in December.  A feast (THANKS, JACK!) and presents and laughter and wine and sugar and so much gratitude.

I bought Isaiah a Minecraft beanie which he opened and then exclaimed, “This is perfect!  I just became a Minecraft You-Tuber today!”  Nailed it.

Shane and Jack shared a fitness theme, Jack gifting Shane pushup bars and “vitamins for the middle-aged”…

…and Shane gifting Jack a promise to register with him for the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride next summer.

This crew rocks.

We made our usual pilgrimage to the Menashee House last weekend, popping over there after dinner to take a quick gander at West Seattle’s finest light show.  This is as kitschy as Christmas gets!

And to close out our circuit du Santas, we spent Sunday evening at Snowflake Lane.  I’ll admit I felt a bit nuts, standing in the rain for a cheesy Christmas parade, but I don’t know…how many more years do we really have with a kid that thinks this stuff is magical?

“He’s coming!!!”

We’ll see you in Portland, Santa!

And finally…some pre-Christmas quiet.  Juliette and I kicked off Christmas break with a living room slumber party by the light of the Christmas tree. All was calm, all was bright as we reveled in this season of togetherness and anticipation and utter delight.

The message at church last Sunday was all about Joy.  JOY.  Seeking joy.  Sharing joy.  And pausing to fully revel in joy when you unexpectedly stumble upon it.  Be present in the spontaneous moments of mirth, “stop and snap a memory picture of them”.  This struck a particular chord with me – I pack joy into our holiday calendar in the form of tree hunts and Santa visits and Christmas light tours, but I’m seeing there’s actually so much extra goodness to be found in the in-between times, if I just step back for a hot minute and let life happen.  This past weekend was busy, with a company holiday party and a birthday party and a Santa visit and cookie decorating and a Christmas lights bonanza, but the moment that’s given me warm fuzzies all week long wasn’t a part of any Christmas programming.  It was a Saturday evening and I was feverishly cleaning the house before our neighbors came over for dessert and Shane was blaring Chicago songs on Alexa when You’re the Inspiration started playing and he grabbed me for a living room slow dance.

“You know our love was meant to beeeeee…the kind of love that lasts foreverrrr…”

I sighed at first, annoyed by the interruption (dishes to do!), but then channeled my inner romantic and leaned my head against his chest.  Juliette stood by and grinned at the sight of the two of us swaying together with our hands clasped in some kind of slow waltz, and then she did the same – put her left arm around an imaginary waist and raised her right arm to hold an imaginary hand and swayed right along with us.  She looked up at us both with twinkling eyes and then dashed to her room to grab her teddy bear to bring him back for the chorus.

“You’re the meaning in my life…You’re the inspirationnnn…”

Shane leaned down and kissed me on the cheek and then Juliette kissed her teddy bear on the cheek in just the same gentle way and I nearly burst into tears with the goofy tenderness of it all.

JOY.  I’m here for it.

By the third week of November, I’m typically easing into the holiday season with an evening listen of Charlie Brown Christmas and a pint of egg nog in the fridge…the longer we can stretch out this most wonderful time of year, the better.

This year, though, I just didn’t feel ready.  Too much other stuff going on, too many other things in my head.  In the third week of November, we’d just gotten around to tossing out our pumpkins!  But when we crossed these snowy mountains the Tuesday before Thanksgiving on our way to Idaho, I started to feel my shoulders relax.  I started to think about Christmas gifts and holiday decor and go over the words to “O Come Let Us Adore Him” with Juliette in preparation for our church’s children’s program.

And then we rolled up to my mom and dad’s house and books were brought out and I raided my mom’s stash of tea and it was official – I was ready for a late-November slow-down.

Eager to get our veg on, we spent Wednesday morning at the Spokane movie theater catching the matinee of Frozen 2.

Survey says…SOOOO GOOD, MAMA!

Santa sighting!  And I do love a good mall tree…

Back at the house, we cranked up the Christmas tunes and decked the halls. Juliette arranged the nativity scene on the mantle and baked cookies with my mom while I strung lights on the tree.

Christmas is coming, kiddo!

Thanksgiving day was wonderfully quiet – I got out for a crisp morning walk, we put the ham in the oven to warm while I made mashed sweet potatoes and my mom made biscuits, and we just…chilled.

We ate, we drank, we lounged, and then we brought out the pumpkin and apple pies.  When we sat down in the living room to take turns talking about what we’re thankful for, we found no shortage of things to put on our lists.

Shane and I took Juliette on a holiday cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene in the evening – word on the street was that this boat had the secret scoop on Santa’s whereabouts!

And sure enough, just as we were finishing our hot cocoa and buttered rum, we came upon this decked-out dock.

It was quite the production – Santa read his “nice-list” over a megaphone for all to hear (Juliette was thrilled to hear her name was on it!), there was a Jingle Bells sing-along, and then the fireworks let loose.

P.S.  IT WAS COLD.

My mom and I got out on Friday morning to hit the coffee shop and peruse the shelves at Pier 1 and then again, we just…chilled.  Juliette watched Little Women with me in front of the fireplace in the afternoon and wrapped her arms around me when I started crying about Beth and all felt right in my world.  I love sharing my favorite things with my favorite kid.

There were a few last snuggles for sweet, blind Bernie on Friday night, a round of hugs on Saturday morning, and then we were west-bound.  Those mellow few days with my nearest and dearest had been exactly what I needed.

We made a pit stop at our usual tree fam on the way home and did our usual spin through the Douglas and Noble firs before circling back to our tried-and-true patch of Grands.

It was chilly out there, but sunny and crystal clear.  This place never disappoints.

Shane and Juliette are usually quick to hone in on a tree, but I always insist on just one more loop.  Why rush through this place?!

We’ve got a winner!

Cider+candy cane vibes…

Back at home, the beloved Christmas bin was brought out and opening it up felt just like…Christmas.  Juliette was thrilled by each ornament and knick-knack she pulled out of the box.  I forgot about this!  Oooohhhh, I love this one!  My favorite!  My other favorite!

See?!  It seems she’s inherited my sentimentality…

Juliette insisted that we lay out each and every ornament before hanging any on the tree, and I loved seeing them all spread out on the table – we’ve amassed quite an eclectic collection over the years.

Perrrrrfect.

Ham it up, Juliette.  ‘Tis the season for being adorable and dressing up your stuffed animals and cranking up that fireplace till it’s 80 degrees inside.

Egg nog cheers!  It’s official – the holidays are here, and I’m all in.

Juliette and I have put In November by Cynthia Rylant into our recent reading rotation, flipping pages that speak to the quiet and coziness of this month.  In November, mice burrow into little barn nests and dogs curl up by fires and families share pies while sitting by crackling woodstoves. In November, in this book, all is well.

In reality, though, this month has been tough.  In November, the sun started setting well before 5 pm, which zapped me of my evening energy.  In November, my mom underwent her first round of chemo to treat her recent cancer diagnosis.  In November, I endured one of the busiest, most stressful seasons I’ve ever had at work while Shane struggled to find his footing in his new job.  In November, Juliette proudly presented me with a card she’d written out all by herself at school that said, “Dear Mommy, I wish you did not have to go to San Diego all the time.  In November, all did not feel well.

So I’m self-medicating with Vitamin D capsules and lots of water.  Some nights I’m allowing myself to fall asleep in Juliette’s bed with her at 8 pm.  And I’m getting outside.

I literally headed for the hills at the end of a particularly busy week and spent a Friday morning hiking up to Mason Lake.

The terrain was so diverse, alternating from closed-in woods to panoramic views.

I sat lakeside for a bit and savored every bite of my granola bar, recuperating from the steep 3.5-mile uphill climb.

I made it.  And it was good.

 

Even on gray days, I’ve been trying to rally and do a loop down by the water.  There’s solace in fog, like the weather is saying, “I know how you feel…”

 

The ultimate solace continues to be a walk through the leaves with Shane and Juliette – we spent a Sunday at Ravenna Park strolling and crunching.  Juliette insisted on wearing this rubber finger that someone gave her while trick-or-treating.  She’s so weird.  I love her.

(Juliette does not seem to be one for November blues.)

This grove is one of my favorite Fall spots.

 

We arrived in Idaho this afternoon for a few mellow days with my parents (my mom is doing phenomenal, by the way!), so it looks like we’ll be rounding out November with pie and fireside chatter after all.  In November…there’s still plenty to be thankful for.

It’s been a solid year and a half since we caught up with our California crew, so when a Bay Area work trip popped up for Shane earlier this month, I suggested he tack on a weekend a couple of extra plane tickets – Juliette and I were comin’ along!  We arrived at Amanda’s house on a Friday evening just before bedtime, so I figured it would take until Saturday for the girls to warm up to each other.  Clearly, I underestimated the social adeptness of six year-olds…there was a 15-minute coloring session, and then they were changing into pajamas together and snuggling up in Sadie’s bunk for bedtime books.  I heard a solid hour of chatter after we’d turned out the lights.  These girls take after their mamas!

Meanwhile, little Jack found a new best buddy in Shane, who went so far as to don an A’s hat for the sake of a smile.

Saturday was wide open, full of playtime and sun and a brewpub lunch.

Amanda is killin’ it as a mom of three now and spent most of the weekend with baby D asleep on her chest.

Shane and I took a walk together in the afternoon and strolled past my old house and my old school, memories popping up at every corner.  There was the stretch of canal bank where I ran my daily miles for cross-country practice; the park where my high school’s “Senior Assassination” water gun fight kicked off; the house that hosted my neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July party; the corner ice cream shop (now a Starbucks) where a boy I liked used to hang out after school to watch golf with the owner.  Meanwhile, Juliette played kickball in the street with Sadie and the neighbor kids.  A couple of old friends joined us at Amanda’s and by dinnertime I was feeling all kinds of small-town feels.  Turlock isn’t home anymore, but when I’m there I can’t help wondering, “What if we’d stayed?  Would life be…easier?”

We snuggled up in the evening with Kelly C. for movies and popcorn and then tucked three very tired kiddos into bed.

Juliette and I were up before anyone else on Sunday morning and walked over to Starbucks (I liked it better as an ice cream shop!) for a steamer and a latte.

The kids hit the local trampoline gymnasium…

And then I hugged my girls good-bye.  It was such a brief catch up, but was also an affirmation that we can always pick up right where we left off.

We drove over to Palo Alto on Sunday afternoon to spend one night there with Shane before his training started on Monday.  We walked among the trees at Rancho San Antonio Preserve to Deer Hollow Farm Park, said hello to the chickens and the goats, and then soaked in the golden sunlight for a bit before heading out for dinner and a dip in the hotel pool.

Seriously, golden.

Juliette and I hugged Shane good-bye on Monday morning and then headed for the airport.  She was such a stellar little travel buddy and took great pride in lugging around my suitcase and her booster seat.  So helpful!  I should start bringing her on my work trips.

I was feeling a bit blue on the flight home, bummed about leaving Turlock’s quiet streets for the hustle and bustle of the work week ahead, but as we began our descent and I caught sight of West Seattle with the Sound in the foreground and Mount Rainier in the distance, I was reminded:  we belong here.  Yes, houses are expensive and our jobs can be stressful and no one in this city can reminisce with me about Friday nights at the THS football games, but good God, it’s beautiful and it’s diverse and it’s home to people and a church and a landscape that all encourage us to be our best selves.  I love a good walk down memory lane (maybe too much?), but we’re building our history here now.  Feels good to be home.

Good golly, October was full.  Birthdays and skydives and a trip to Paris (someday I’ll get those pics up on the blog!), leaves galore, and some hardcore Halloween-ing.

Our morning walk (or bike) to school has been chilly as of late, but I’m loving that crunchy sound of leaves under foot (or tire).

I headed to the Arboretum on a drizzly Friday for some me-time and wandered among the golds and browns and reds – this place is an October staple in my Fall folio.

The Japanese garden across the street was nearly empty due to the rain, so I pulled up the hood of my rain jacket and took advantage of the quiet.  I haven’t been here for years, as the parking lot is chock-full on sunny Fall weekends.

These. Colors.

It was clear from this tree that I missed “peak” foliage, but no matter.  If only it were sunny…

And the next day it was!  Shane, Juliette and I found ourselves with an open Saturday afternoon and headed right back out to the Arboretum for more leaf-peeping.

“Autumn Jules”:  I love her.

Jack and La Verne treated Shane and I to a very special meal at Archipelago in Columbia City for our birthdays at the end of the month.  We filled half the seats in this 8-person restaurant and relished every course, each of which came with a heartfelt origin story from the chef.

Ah, and Halloween!  So good this year!  Juliette loved pumpkin-carving…

And decorating the mantle with the few glittery owls and spiders that we picked up from the dollar store.

A guy down the street spent the entire week before Halloween carving pumpkins and we walked by there nearly every day to check on his progress.  107 pumpkins all-in!

Juliette found a bumble bee headband, wings and skirt at the dollar store back in September when we were buying supplies for her birthday party and asked if she could please be a bee for Halloween.  Cheers to the cheapest, easiest costume EVER!  She got all decked out for her school’s annual Monster Mash on a Friday night and had a blast fluttering down the halls and around the gym with her buddies.

And the main event!  The October 31st festivities kicked off with Juliette playing a little ditty for a small crowd of kids at the community center where she takes piano lessons.

We darted home to eat a quick bite, do a little face paint, and then snap the obligatory porch pics.

Shane busted out his Matt Cain jersey and dressed up as Giant.  In jeans.

And no shoes.  Thanks for trying, though, hon.

Juliette buzzed outside the moment she saw neighbor kids emerging from their houses, eager to get her trick-or-treat on.

Let’s do this!

Our neighborhood felt so friendly and festive, with decorations on most porches and everyone stopping to compliment each other’s costumes.

Ok, this house hardly screamed “friendly”, but hey, they had candy!

And now our pumpkins have gone squishy and been thrown in the compost bin.  Juliette’s trick-or-treating loot is gone (sweet kid donated all but 10 pieces of it to her school’s candy drive for the troops).  The owls and spiders are tucked into storage.  Happy November.  16th.  !!!