I’ve found it!  The antidote to the post-Christmas blues!  It’s a fresh dumping of fluffy white snow.  We were thrilled to roll into our driveway after our Portland trip to find our neighborhood blanketed in a couple of inches of powder – kids were out with their inner tubes and sleds, the occasional cross-country skier was passing by on the sidewalk, and the air was thick with that particular brand of PNW snow-day giddiness.  We unloaded the car in record time and then Juliette was back out the door to tube with the neighbors.

Christmas lights and freshly fallen snow are two of my favorite things.

We spent one afternoon at the Rusts’ neighborhood, sledding down the somewhat treacherous hill near their house and then cozying up inside for card games and snacks.

I trekked with the kids to Starbucks one morning while Shane ran some errands.  This was some hard-earned hot chocolate!

I picked up some discounted Christmas decor from the art store during our outing and ended up with my hands fuller than expected, but I managed the mile-walk home.

Isaac, though, was exhausted by my efforts…

And…more sledding!  So much sledding.  Shane was off work that full week after Christmas and so we had beaucoup playtime.  We didn’t throw Isaac down any big hills, but he liked sitting in Juliette’s lap for a gentle skid along the sidewalk.

This girl, though, has a need for speed.

We spent one morning with Juliette’s best school buddies, cruising down the street in front of their house.

And then a cocoa elf appeared with a tray full of drinks for the kids (and me!).

I walked home with Isaac while Shane hung back per Juliette’s request to please do just a few more runs.  Teddy bear was tuckered, again.

Our neighbors passed off this baby sled when they were cleaning out their garage over the summer and we discovered that with a thick enough snow suit, Isaac could be wedged in there to stay fairly upright.

More snow toys emerged from the garage as the week went on…

More sledding fun was had…

There were snow angels…

And family walks…

And then a whole lot of lounging by the fireplace.

I don’t know that we’ve ever rested so well as a family – it became difficult to figure out what day of the week it was.  And it was amazing.

We ended 2021 in the same way we ended 2020, with a quiet evening at home.  We played some games, watched the ball drop, and toasted our glasses of sparkling cider.

One last sleepover…

And then we awoke on Saturday to a fresh new year!  Shane’s all about starting the year with a shock to the senses, so he was all in for the annual Alki Polar Plunge.  Juliette heard that a couple of her friends would be doing it with their mom and decided that she wanted to join in the fun, too.  I thought there was about a 55 percent chance that she would bail once she got to the beach and felt how cold it was, but she was quickly swept up in the adrenaline of the crowd and peeled off her coat with the rest of them once the countdown began.  No turning back now, baby girl!

Dunk, Jules, dunk!

And done!  I was so stinking proud of her.

“I can’t believe I just did that!”

Polar Bears:  The Next Generation…

Jason and Jordan also plunged and we found them down the beach afterward.

The gang convened at our house for hot chocolate and coffee cake.

And then there was an intense snowball battle in the backyard, during which Jason grabbed a shovel and just started pitching scoops of snow toward the opposing team.

We said our good-byes and cozied back up at our respective houses.

The snow turned to rain on Sunday morning and so Juliette took advantage of the super-sticky conditions to build a quick snow-lady with a neighbor friend.

They named her Angel and she lived a sweet-but-very-short life.

By Monday morning most of the snow had melted, Shane was back at work, and school was (almost) back in session.  Juliette and I took down the Christmas tree and we shelved our holiday music and movie playlists.  BAM.  The holidays were decidedly over and it was back to business as usual.  Which for me, for at least a few more weeks, means rocking chair naps with my boy, Project Runway afternoons with my girl, and regular family dinners (those I’m not giving up, ever).  January, I’m here for you.

We had such a sweet, festive December that Christmas itself kind of felt like icing on the cake. Twinkly lights and meals with friends and living room sleepovers and a trip to Portland to see the family?!  How lucky were we?  The anticipation was just so, so good this year.

We drove down to my brother’s house on Thursday, stopping once so that I could nurse Isaac in a Safeway parking lot while Shane and Juliette darted into a Starbucks for coffee and lemon loaf – gone are the days of “powering through” without a pitstop, at least for now. We were greeted by the cousins and my parents, who all remarked over how much Isaac had grown since they had seen him in the fall.  Juliette was eager to get her hands on Bina, Grandma was eager to get her hands on the baby.

Christmas Eve was lazy – games and cookie decorating and plenty of lounging.  Morgan and Juliette convinced my dad to play Mario Kart and then delivered him a solid whooping.  C’mon girls – have a little Christmas mercy!

The kids each got to open a Christmas Eve present…

There was the traditional viewing of the Polar Express…

And then cookies and an apple (we were out of carrots!) were left out for Santa and his reindeer by these two little elves.

By the time I came upstairs on Christmas morning, gifts had been sorted into neat little piles for each person – Morgan and Juliette were vibrating with anticipation and eagerly counting down to our 8:30 rendez-vous time (Elise likes to sleep in!).  Finally, the clock struck half-past, the family was gathered, and the wrapping paper started to fly.

(Isaac wanted to trade the cloth avocado I put in his stocking for the Skittles Juliette had in hers.  Fat chance.)

Juliette asked Santa for shoes this Christmas, and he came through with a pair of riding boots.

Juliette is so sweet and enjoys watching people open presents as much as she enjoys opening gifts herself.  She gives a friendly little clap after each unwrapping, like, “Wow! You’re so lucky you got that!”

Could it really be…?

A Hogwarts sweatshirt for our little Harry Potter fan!

Whew!  The calm after the gift-opening hurricane.

Being spoiled is tiring, huh, kid?

We got out for a short walk before lunch but the cold sent us back inside before long.  Morgan was desperate for a white Christmas and was thrilled to see a few flakes start to fall, though they quickly petered out.

Isaac threw the fit to end all fits that afternoon but eventually conked out in my arms.  I guess the excitement of it all was just too much.

Juliette played with Shane’s new Oculus…

Was wowed by Elise’s Illustration skills…

Played a very rambunctious game of hallway dodgeball with her uncle…

And this kid kept sleeping.

Isaac “opened” a couple more gifts once he got his second wind.

There we go, buddy!  Look alive!

Shane and Mitch took the girls to the school in the afternoon to test out Morgan’s new basketball and Elise’s new volleyball (sport-playing is Shane’s love language).

Then Juliette unwound in the hot tub.

And I unwound on the couch with my favorite guy and glass of Cabernet.

We had our traditional country ham for dinner and I felt exceedingly thankful for the people around the table but intensely missed the family not there.  Minnesota clan, you were held near and dear in our hearts!

We ended the night with more games, more togetherness.  Juliette and Morgan made up a game called “Tickle Doctor” and convinced my brother to play – it bordered on torture, but I watched from a safe distance and laughed till I cried.

We woke up Sunday morning to a day-after white Christmas – Juliette and Morgan frolicked in the front yard for a bit and I bundled up Isaac for his first romp in the snow.

My parents had hit the road early that morning, but the cousins got a couple of hours of chill time while Shane loaded our circus of stuff into the car.

And then we were homeward-bound.  I hopped into the backseat near Tacoma to soothe an antsy baby, which came with the added bonus of cozying up next to Juliette.

Almost there, Buddy!

And…made it.

The kids opened the last of their presents at home and while Isaac had no clue that half that stuff was for him, sister was awfully stoked on his behalf.

Gah!  The things this girl will show and teach you, Isaac.

Juliette made use of her fashion plates from Auntie Tiff…

Isaac modeled his new pajamas from Grandma Schnell…

The last 2021 ornament was hung on the tree…

And then it was onto New Years.  And SNOW.  The fun continues…

December. This month is never quite long enough for me. I could always go for about nine more days of twinkly lights and holiday movies and that magic, joyous advent anticipation. Being home every day did afford me some extra quality time with the Christmas tree, but still, the month passed in a flash. Are we really chucking the 2021 calendar tomorrow?!

Despite December’s apparent brevity, we were able to make good on most of our holiday traditions. This year I jotted down our favorite activities on slips of paper and tucked them into Juliette’s Christmas countdown garland so as not to lose track.

We made sugar cookies and dried orange garland…

(Juliette got creative with the leftover bits of dough…)

We visited the neighborhood’s beloved Menashee house, with all its Christmas kitsch.

And then Juliette and I took our own drive around West Seattle one night after Isaac was in bed, zig-zagging up and down the blocks in search of our very favorite lights and pit-stopping at 7-11 for hot cocoa.

(I had to bring Isaac back to this sweet little house on 48th during one of our evening walks.)

The rascally elf ran all over the house during the day and then played hide and seek with Juliette when she came home from school.

We shared a holiday meal with our chosen family, in the form of Saturday brunch at the Rusts.

Isaac was very comfortable in Nancy’s lap and eventually dozed off while the grown-ups yukked it up.

Isaac’s first Christmas present!

(He says thanks.)

We rounded out the morning with a game of hide and seek.  Jason…I SEE YOU.

Juliette has decided this year that the jig is up and she doesn’t in fact believe Santa is real, but she still jumped at the chance to visit him at a nearby real estate office on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Shane’s office mailed him a gingerbread kit and so I passed the construction baton to him this year, with Juliette running point on decorations.

And Juliette’s favorite tradition, our annual sleepover by the Christmas tree on the first night of winter break.

My body loves this tradition less and less as I get older, but my heart loves it more and more.

Isaac was not invited to the slumber party, but was welcome to join us early the next morning.

We added a few new things to our 25 days of Christmas, like a hot chocolate bar, with a specific request from Juliette to make it “extra-fancy”.

We’ve added peppermint meringues to our baking repertoire (followed by “take a treat a neighbor”).

And several days of super-simple to-do’s, like “take a picture of Isaac in a Santa hat” and “tell a family member what you’re thankful for” (I’m thankful for those chubby thighs!!!).

“Read a Christmas book.”

And “light a bunch of candles and relax by the fire”, which was done on the evening we were hit with an unexpected power outage.

In other December happenings, I snuck away for a night of kid-freeness with Nancy and La Verne while Shane held down the fort at home.  Long live Cedarbrook!  We hot-tubbed and soul-shared and watched Crazy Rich Asians and You’ve Got Mail while eating ice cream in bed.

No ladies weekend is complete without an outlet mall bonanza.

I bought the kids matching Christmas pajamas and sheesh, my heart.  They might be wearing these till February.  Or June, if Isaac stops growing like a weed.

It snowed for all of eight minutes right before Christmas and Juliette excitedly darted outside to catch a few flakes on her tongue.  She had no idea that we were in for several inches a few days later!

She was thrilled by watching Isaac experience his first snowfall.  He was…not as thrilled.  But he tolerated it.

Juliette dressed to the nines for her school’s Wacky Tacky Day to celebrate the last day before Christmas break.  Girl’s got style!  And an extreme fondness for the color pink.

She put on her Santa hat a week before Christmas and donned it everywhere, even wearing it to bed most nights.

And finally, these two have been so heart-achingly adorable over the past month.  Isaac hasn’t the foggiest idea what Christmas means, but Juliette’s excitement over sharing this season with him is so stinking sweet.  She’s my ultimate partner in magic-making.

Cookies baked, cocoa drank, garland strung…now onto the main event!

We usually wait until after Thanksgiving to bust out the holiday decorations and shift into Christmas mode, but this year we decided to start a little earlier – I had the time, Juliette had the will, and Shane had the…ambivalence?  This landed us at our beloved Mountain Creek Tree Farm the Sunday before Thanksgiving, on the hunt for a perfect 7-foot grand fir.  Get ready, Isaac!

Isaac patiently endured my hemming and hawing as I wandered back and forth between the top two contenders – he understands that certain holiday decisions shall not be rushed.

(Oh, Jules…)

Still hemming…

Still hawing…

Found it!

And she’s a beaut.

I snapped a few photos of the kids while Shane tied the tree to the top of the car.

Isaac was clearly thrilled by the whole spectacle.

THRILLED.

That last request for a photo is often a mistake.  Case in point:

We spent the afternoon decking the halls – Juliette and I strung lights and hung ornaments and blew the dust off our trusty Santa hat.

We followed up tree trimming with a quick jaunt down to the water to catch a stunner of a sunset.  So merry and bright…

Festivities continued with a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo the evening before Thanksgiving to check out the lanterns.  Shane stayed home with Isaac and Juliette and I enjoyed the vibe of a ladies night out.

It was a little strange, going to the zoo and not seeing any live animals, but Juliette dug it and I appreciated being off the hook for baby bedtime.

I was bound and determined to keep Thanksgiving Day as sweet and stress-free as possible.  Juliette and I did some prep the day before and checked cranberry sauce, apple pie, and a lime-cranberry tart off our list.

This freed us up to lounge late in our pajamas on Thursday morning.

No need to rush these moments…

I rallied around noon and got to work on the potatoes.

Shane brought out the Magna-Tiles, which Juliette hasn’t touched in months (years?) and she played with them all afternoon.  Much as I love seeing this girl with her nose in a book, there’s nothing like seeing her get lost in building and imagining.

Dinner was served late afternoon – brisket from our favorite bbq joint, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberry sauce, and double dessert.  Easy peasy!

This pie was so good and so pretty.

Cheers, little lady.

This sweet boy didn’t get to eat anything on the table, but was so content to watch us stuff our faces!

After-dinner lounging…

And then a family viewing of Little Women, which has become one of our favorite wintertime flicks.  Isaac isn’t yet enthralled by the March sisters, but he will be.

Someday.

Let’s hear it for holidays in the slow lane!

We declared the day after Thanksgiving a Family Fun Day and headed over to the downtown waterfront to check out the Seattle Aquarium.

And then we moseyed over to the Great Wheel – Juliette and I had planned on checking this out before Isaac was born, but he made an early debut and foiled our plans, so Jules had a rain check to cash in.

It’s a slow-moving ferris wheel with what I thought would be a very low thrill-factor, but there was a legitimate rush of excitement as our little pod took off and dangled over the water.

Juliette was pumped!

Isaac, again, not so much.

And now Christmas is just around the bend; we’ve got a few more festive favorites up our sleeves.  And of course, all the pajama time we could possibly hope for.

While life with an infant isn’t easy, per se, maternity leave feels slow and quiet and like a much-needed respite from the work-life hustle. We stay close to home and I spend long, lazy mornings in the rocking chair with Isaac, often the only thing on my calendar being pickup at Juliette’s school at 2:25. Sometimes that walk to and from school is the only time the baby and I leave the house, and that’s OK. I love the afternoons that Juliette and I spend on the couch, watching Project Runway and sipping hot cider while Isaac naps or nurses or makes imaginary snow angels on the floor nearby. THESE ARE THE DAYS.

But sometimes we get a little stir-crazy and so I head out with the kids for an after-school adventure (and I use the term “adventure” very generously). An hour at a park followed by a visit to a coffee shop is really all I need to tide me over for a few more days of hunkering down.

Camp Long was extra-lovely in early November, the ground a carpet of orange and yellow. Juliette scrambled on the climbing wall and Isaac dozed in his stroller and I snapped a hundred photos.

Isaac is not in his most photogenic phase, but no matter, Buddy.  Jules and I think you’re adorable.

And…Lincoln Park for the win. This place shines year-round, but the upper loop in on a late fall afternoon is my favorite.

(He’s awake!)

We’ve been doing the West Seattle coffee shop circuit post-park and have decided Cupcake Royale has the best balance of being cozy while still having space to spread out and maneuver a stroller with a napping baby in it. Isaac usually wakes up before Jules and I are ready to go, so he’ll join us for a word search or a little reading.

Somebody give this sweet boy a cupcake! (Ok, don’t, but it’s tempting!)

We try to get out together as a family on the weekends, but Saturday mornings are often spent like this (after Shane slips out for some early pickle ball)…

And Sunday afternoons are often spent like this (televised pickle ball makes me want to snooze too, Isaac)…

Sunday evenings are for dinner with friends…

And I’m already missing soccer Saturdays!  The season ended last month and Juliette learned a ton from the experience, not just about getting the ball in the net, but about teamwork and perseverance and shaking off the occasional bump or bruise.

Things have felt a bit busier with the onset of the holiday season (again, I use the term “busy” quite generously!), but we’re still finding time for plenty of this:

And this.  By the end of the day I can be a bit “touched-out” after so many hours of baby-holding, but when your three-month old falls asleep on your chest and your eight-year old has had a tough evening and really needs a bedtime snuggle, you lean in.

These slow, uneventful, long-but-too-short days. These are most definitely the days.

It’s been three months (plus a week), and I’m wondering what happened to my newborn baby boy?  I turn my back for a second and suddenly his long legs hang off the edge of my lap when I’m nursing him.  When did his toes start pushing at the seams of his six-month pajamas?  When did he stop making that squeaky sound with each gulp of milk?  And for Pete’s sake, when did this kid grow that irresistible belly?!

Month three brought the best of times and the worst of times. More good than bad, as a sweet toothless grin can right a thousand wrongs, but oh, when Isaac gets mad, his screams will make your eardrums whoosh. He’s thrown a handful of fits at bedtime that have rattled the windows and left us all in various states of angst (my default reaction is concern, Juliette gets sad, and Shane sternly asks him to just “Get it together, Buddy!”). Best not let this kid get overtired, and best not put him in his crib before he’s good and ready, or he will make you pay.

BUT, so many smiles!

And so many long stretches of awake contentedness, which is a welcome new development. He loves the little play mat of Juliette’s that we’ve held onto for all these years and will happily bat at the elephant and giraffe for 20 or 30 minutes while I hang out nearby.

His jabbering turns to fussing when he’s tired of that game and I’ll sit on the floor next to him and look into his eyes and suddenly his breath quickens with excitement and his limbs start flailing like he’s making a snow angel with his arms and riding a bike with his legs and he grins.  All it takes is a moment of eye contact, and he’s over the moon (which of course sends me over the moon).

And the crib grins!  I head into his room when he starts rustling around in the middle of the night or early in the morning and he looks up at me in the glow of his nightlight and smiles big, thrilled by the promise of snuggles and milk.  This face is worth getting out of bed for.

We’re in a good groove with nighttime sleep – Isaac is up around 3 am for a quick eat and goes back down again until 7:00 or 7:30.  Napping, though…  He’s a chronic daytime dozer and wants to sleep in my arms after he eats.  I can transfer him to his crib, but it’s rarely more than 15 minutes before he’s awake and wondering where the heck I went.  And so I hold him.

The hours I’ve spent in the tried-and-true gray rocking chair with this boy, studying his every feature while he sleeps and throws my to-do list to the wayside.  His light purple eyelids will flutter open as he snorts himself awake, then he groggily gazes at me, puts his hand on my chest and drifts back into his serene little slumber.  Don’t go anywhere, Mom.  Sometimes he smiles as he sleeps and lets out a soft chuckle, the corners of his eyes crinkling.  Sometimes he furrows his brow and pouts his lips with the saddest little whimper.  I’m here for all of it.

I will say, these drawn-out nursing and napping sessions seem to do his body good, though, as he’s become quite the solid little mister. He’s holding his head up like a champ and his doctor called and his neck strength “kind of unbelievable” at his two-month checkup.

Tummy time also gives me a chance to wipe clean those neck creases!  It’s the only time of the day that his head separates itself from his chest.

He loves to stand and seems to be counting the days until I cave and buy him one of those big plastic exer-saucers. Juliette will prop him up by his armpits and proudly declare him “Prince Isaac of the Heights” before lifting him into the air with a flourish – little bro might be an early cruiser.

Juliette continues to thrive in her role as big sister.  At first I wondered if she just enjoyed playing house with a live baby doll, but once I saw her put her cheek next to his and gush “I just love you so much, Buddy!”, I realized I underestimated her.  She’s feeling the real deal and could not love her brother any better or deeper or sweeter.

She still won’t change poopy diapers, but she does love to dress him and groom him and is often patting his hair down flat with a little bit of water, as she insists this makes him most handsome.  I think he looks like a used car salesman and prefer that tousled situation he has going on in those tummy time pictures, but whatever.

Some things just can’t be tamed…

Isaac loves the bath and so we’re often stretching out bathtime to get through that pre-bedtime fussy hour.

I like a warm bath and a good book too, Isaac.

A few other tidbits:  We’re still throwing around nicknames for Isaac and Chewbacca still pops up from time to time, but I also call him Sausage Toes (kid has some seriously chubby feet!), Sweaty Muffin (boy runs hot!), and Big Pooper (realizing now I may need to come up with some more affirming terms of endearment?).  Shane calls him Buddy Boy and Juliette calls him Little Rascal and BLB (Best Little Brother).

He loves the sound of the shower, the hair dryer, and the vacuum, which is great, as I can set him in his chair and get some housework done or get ready for bed while simultaneously soothing him.

His eyes have stayed blue and the jury is out on whether they’re just newborn blue or forever blue, but I’m hoping it’s the latter.

And…he’s maybe the sweetest baby ever?  I know, I’m a biased, smitten new mama, but seriously, kid…I adore you.

We had some family photos taken by a friend when Isaac was a couple of weeks old and I’ve been going through them this week, having some prints made to hang around the house. I wanted my faves to have a spot on the blog – I love them so much and Julia deserves a proper shout-out!  Also, not to saddle these pics with too much meaning, but I’m feeling some big emotions as I flip through these and am finding them to be a bittersweet bow to tie on our status as a family of four. Shane and I have decided (decided before Isaac was born, actually) that this is it. No more kiddos. We just don’t have the energy or the space in our schedules for another little one. I don’t have the will to play any more rounds of the infertility waiting game. We want time for our whole family to hit the slopes together or tour Europe together before Juliette is grown and leaves the nest. And let’s face it – we’re no spring chickens. Shane spends his evenings with a heating pad wrapped around his elbow and my knees crackle like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I get up from the floor.

Four is good. Four is perfect.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s hard to accept that I will never again experience the euphoria of childbirth or the other-worldly sweetness of those early newborn days. It’s hard not to wonder what might have been had we not waited so long to commit to IVF. It’s hard to part with all of Juliette’s precious little baby dresses, knowing they’ll never be worn by a child of ours. There’s a bit of heartache in the closing of this door.

Because dang, I love being a mom. I love being a mom more than I love anything else on God’s green earth. So I’m going to Mom the bejeezus out of these two kids. I’m going to do my rounds before I go to bed each night and lean over Isaac’s crib for a moment to just soak in the sight of his splayed-out arms (I don’t dare touch a sleeping baby) and then tiptoe into Juliette’s room to adjust her blankets just-so and kiss her on the forehead (sound-sleeping eight year-olds are the best). I’m going to kiss Isaac’s chubby cheeks each morning and then tuck his head into the crook of my neck after I scoop him out of his crib, cooing a dozen “I love you, Buddy’s”. And I’m going to smile as I drop off Juliette at her first school-friend slumber party this Friday, because there can even be joy in watching your kids grow and become more independent (or so I’ve heard).


Isaac is most certainly going to grow up faster than I want him to (already, I hardly recognize this skinny little babe!), and I’m going to get all weepy and sentimental at each birthday, but then I’ll remember that Juliette has shown me that there are always plenty of good times up ahead.

Oh, and I am 100% taking this girl to Paris someday.

And fingers crossed, I’m going to watch these two keep up this love-fest, which has already made for some of the happiest moments of my life.

Four is good.

Isaac has kind of taken front and center on my photo reel lately, but I do believe Juliette deserves the spotlight for a moment while I dwell on just how special her first couple of months as an eight year-old have been.

She sashayed into 2nd grade with all the grace and confidence in the world and has been rocking student life.  She’s loved every single day of in-person school and even moans a bit when Friday rolls around, because she won’t get to see all her friends again till Monday.  P.E. is her favorite subject, but she also thinks math quizzes are the most-fun thing ever.  Last night over dinner she explained cultural appropriation to Shane and me.  The world is her oyster and she is eating it up.

Girl is fancier than ever and wants to grow up (and dress the part) faster than I will let her. I put some mascara on her lashes as part of her Halloween face paint and she about fainted with excitement. Don’t get used to it, kiddo – best stick to unicorn headbands and feather boas.

Ok, and pink satin gloves for tea parties, of course…

I asked her the other night if she wanted to walk with me and Isaac around the block after dinner and she said yes, but first she had to “get ready”.  She’s got a headband and a pair of glasses for everything.

(This is her teacher eye-ware.)

And this is her telling Shane to go quietly to the bathroom and to stop disrupting the class (in a very convincing British accent, no less).

She’s fancy, and she’s funny. Like not just aww, that’s adorable, but like legitimately, creatively funny. There’s been a lot of pickle ball talk in our house lately given Shane’s recent obsession, and Juliette came out of her room the other day donning cowgirl boots and a straw hat, strumming her ukulele and saying in her twangiest voice, “Now gathah round for a little storah, ‘bout a game I like to call Pickle the Bawl…”  In her version of pickle ball, you see how many pickles you can jam inside a ball before it explodes, which sounds much more straight-forward than the rules that Shane plays by.

Shane and Juliette have always been close playmates, but lately I’m seeing them enjoy each other’s company more than ever.  Soccer, board games, tickle fights…they do it all together.

When she really clobbers Shane at a board game, she’ll offer him a consolation hug before they clean up – she’s the graceful-est of winners.  Losing well is more of a stretch, but we’re working on it.

And at the risk of letting Isaac inch in on Juliette’s blog post, let me wax poetic for a bit on what an unbelievable big sister she’s become.  I knew she would love having a baby around the house, but I figured there would be some jealousy and disappointment as she came to realize Shane and I couldn’t lavish her with quite the same level of attention.  None of that, though – when she hears anyone remark over how cute Isaac is, she’s quick to respond with, “I know!!!  Isn’t he the cutest baby you’ve ever seen in your whole life?!”  At which point I lean over and can’t help but whisper to her, “And you’re the sweetest big sister I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”.

The first few weeks were a lot of Juliette just oohing and ahhing over Isaac while he slept…

But soon he started to look a little more alive…

And there was a lot of these two gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes.  Slayed me.

She’s continually wanting to up her sisterly responsibilities and now takes the lead on bath time, the occasional bottle feeding, and clothing selection.  Poopy diapers are a hard no, though.

She couldn’t bear the sound of Isaac’s crying when we first brought him home from the hospital, but once she realized there are often some very sweet snuggles on the other side of that crying, she was quick to take shushing shifts.  He got really fired up one evening when he was a few weeks old and neither Shane nor I could get him to settle; I laid him down on the couch for a moment so that I could put on the Boba and take him for a walk.  Juliette scooped him up while I was suiting up and he went from shrieking to silent in a matter of seconds.  She and I looked at each other and couldn’t help but laugh.  “You’re such a little rascal, Isaac!”, she cooed in his ear.

(Rascal?  Him?  It’s true!)

The proud look of a sister that rocked her brother to sleep while Mom and Dad were distracted elsewhere…you go, girl.

Isaac is often in our bed for his morning snack by the time Juliette wakes up and she’ll bound into our room exclaiming, “Where’s the best little brother in the whole wide world?!”  On weekends she’ll snuggle in next to him; on weekdays she carries him into the kitchen so that he can sit in his bouncer while she eats her breakfast.  Either way, I’m left free to go make my coffee.  WIN!

This picture makes me laugh –  Issac is giving me that look that says, “Mom!  She’s telling me I’m adorable and squeezing too tight again!”

Just lean into it, buddy.  I couldn’t get her out of your arms if I tried.

GAH!!!  I’ll stop now, but seriously.

You’re something else, Juliette Grace.  As a big sister of course, but also as my clever, affectionate, fiercely kind firstborn.  Eight is great.

I really wasn’t quite sure what to make of Halloween this year – I didn’t know if trick-or-treating would resume as usual or if Isaac would tolerate being put in a costume or if we’d have the energy to make it to the pumpkin patch, but…I’ve got a girl that loves all things Halloween, so the show must go on!

First up: pumpkin carving.  Juliette has become a master with the little carving saw, but pumpkin guts still gross her out…

Carved in honor of Isaac, aka Grogu, aka Baby Yoda!

Some school friends invited Juliette on a scavenger hunt at Schmitz Park on Halloween morning – their dedicated mama got up early that day to hide dozens of small plastic pumpkins along the trail and then the kids were all released to hunt and find.

I love a crisp fall morning in the woods!

We ended the hunt with hot chocolate and a barefoot jog at Alki Beach.  Cold schmold!

Because I couldn’t resist the urge to maximize our fun on what was a rare sunny weekend, we spent that afternoon at the Spooner Farms pumpkin patch, wandering the rows of their famous corn maze.

And we wandered and wandered and wondered if we’d ever make it out of there!

You can sense Isaac’s mild concern…

Really, though, a good time was had by all.

We eventually emerged and then Juliette took a spin on the cart course, Shane did some target practice with the pumpkin sling shot, and we called it a day.

(Look alive, Isaac!)

We headed out at sundown for some neighborhood trick-or-treating with our little forest animals.  Juliette makes such a chic deer, no?

 

I had bought this fuzzy jumper for future winter outings, but figured that with a little black nose it would double as an easy bear costume for Isaac.

He looks very resigned to this whole dressing-up thing, like I can’t believe my mom is making me do this.

We met up with a couple of friends, hit up the neighborhood hot spots, and then after an hour Juliette responsibly decided that she had plenty of candy and so we headed home to tuck in the teddy bear.

Thumbs-up, October!

We’re in full-blown Fall and barreling toward winter as the days get remarkably shorter and the aisles of Target fill with Christmas decor.  It’s been a sweet season, these past few weeks of finding our new groove as a family of four and slowly emerging from our newborn cocoon to spend more time with family and friends.

Our parade of visitors began at the end of September when my parents trekked to Seattle to meet their one and only grandson.  My mom said she couldn’t remember the last time she had held a baby, but it seems her soothing skills came flooding back to her as she rocked and sang Isaac to sleep within hours of their arrival.

Motown, hymns, country…Grandma sings it al!

My dad also got some quality cuddle time…

…though I especially loved bearing witness to his playtime with Juliette.

We didn’t get out a whole lot that week, but it was nice to fold my parents into our quiet routine and to have some company as I picked up Juliette from school or spent an afternoon on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest.

My brother and his family joined us for a weekend in October – there was driveway basketball and a walk at Lincoln Park and several rounds of pass-the-baby.

Bina the dog is used to being the baby in the room and displayed a little envy early-on, but once she’d sniffed out Isaac and determined he wasn’t going to hop right into anyone’s lap, she decided he was alright.

I turned forty that Saturday and it was nice to have family around to toast to a new decade.

Plus, Mitch makes some mean spaghetti and meatballs.  He and Shane spent much of the afternoon planning and shopping and cooking and I MUCH appreciated it.

Cheers!

And to bookend grandparent season, the Schnells landed in Seattle a couple of weeks ago along with our niece, Shanay.

While Grandma and Grandpa doted on Isaac, Shanay was an amazing buddy for Juliette.  There aren’t too many 22 year-olds that will jump at the chance to do Play-dough, but she was so incredibly generous with her time and attention (plus, she can french braid, which essentially gives her Queen status with Juliette).

Lazy mornings…

Lazy afternoons…

Again, we didn’t get out much.  But we were plenty content to cozy up inside with the baby.  Denny wore his grandpa-heart on his sleeve and spent long stretches of time just gazing at Isaac’s little face and saying, “Grandpa loves you…you’re such a gift, buddy…”.

It was a tearful goodbye (not just for Isaac!), but those few days together were precious.

In other news, we inducted Isaac into the Giants fan club and cheered on our team during their too-short playoff season.

Gosh, it hurt to lose to the Dodgers.  Also hurt to hear that Buster Posey is retiring!  Juliette shed a few tears when the news broke…

Other October happenings included our first annual Harry Potter night.  Juliette and I spent the afternoon making Hogwarts-themed treats and then invited the Rusts over for snacks and a movie.

Sorting hats were chosen at random and the color of the jelly beans inside told you which house you belonged in.

Slytherin for J!  I knew he had a dark side…

But Slytherin for Nance, too?  I expected better.

I tend to overuse the word “cozy” in my Fall and Winter blog posts, but…it really was the coziest of October evenings.

Cozy vibes aside, sometimes we’ve just gotta get out, and Juliette’s Saturday soccer games have proven to be an excellent reason to leave the house.  This is her first year on the team and she is killing it!  I am so, so proud of her – she’s a force out there, scoring goals at every game, passing to her friends like a true team player, and shaking off the occasional bump or bruise.

Isaac doesn’t quite follow the action, but at least he keeps my lap warm!

On really muddy days, the girls line up during half-time and stick their feet out so that the coaches can scrape their cleats clean.  These dads get gold stars.

Morning walks are another good reason to leave the house, partly because I need the exercise, but also because Isaac needs the nap.

Bonus points if I can work my route to include a coffee stop.

Double-bonus if I’m joined by a friend!

Saving the Halloween pics for another day, and then it’s onto the business of November-ing!