Holiday Season 2016 went into full effect on Thursday morning as we rolled out of bed and into the kitchen to begin Project: Turkey.  This was our first year eating at home and I was eager to spread my culinary wings.  I pulled the bird out of the fridge, poked it a little, and then…left it to “rest” for a bit while I built up my confidence with cranberry sauce.  You really can’t mess up cranberry sauce.  Right, Jules?

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I spent much of the day in the kitchen, reveling in that coziness that comes with oven warmth and good food smells and the sound of daddy-daughter giggles.

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The Rust clan showed up late afternoon and Nance helped me with the finishing touches.  Turkey, green beans, sweet potato casserole, broccoli bacon salad, corn bread, two kinds of cranberry sauce, and mulled wine, plus mashed potatoes and onion soup and apple pie a la Jason.  LET’S EAT.

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There was a short moment of panic as we wondered whether or not the bird was fully cooked, but we decided we’d chance it and dig in.

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There is much to be thankful for.

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We spent Friday morning cleaning out the garage and then headed over to Seward Park for a breath of fresh air.

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Juliette is always thrilled by the sight of downtown Seattle, pointing and shouting “that’s Daddy’s building!”  (His office is in the one with the green roof).

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<<insert heart emojis here>>

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I don’t know that we’ve ever hit this park this hard, biking the loop and “hiking” the trail and sitting on the beach and running the dock.  There was even a romp on the playground to wrap it all up!

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We ate a leisurely, indulgent breakfast at Super Six on Saturday morning and then headed home to hunker down for what looked like would be a wet, wet day.  Shortly after lunch, though, the sky brightened and we got a text from Jack: “dudes. unexpectedly devoid of rain right now. should we go get a tree?”  Yes, please!  To Mountain Creek we went.

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Jules and N spent quite a while standing at the base of this tree and arguing, “I want this one!”, “No, I want this one!”  Move along, kids!

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We found a perfect 7-foot Noble Fir and Shane hacked it down in true lumberjack fashion while Juliette cheered him on.

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The Chens went big.

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I had to promise these kids apple cider and candy canes to pose for a quick shot.  Worth it.

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This place, though!  It never disappoints.  The same kind lady has been handing us candy canes at the register for the past 11 years, and I expect we’ll be here 11 years from now.  At which point Juliette will probably insist on just sitting in the car and texting with her friends while Shane and I pick out the tree…

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Better grab all those happy family selfies while we can!

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We spent the rest of the day stringing lights and sipping egg nog while A Charlie Brown Christmas piped through the speakers.  I think I say this every year, but this might really be our best tree ever.

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Oh, holidays…I’m so glad you’re here.

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Seattle was very somber in the wake of the election last week and by Friday Shane and I were ready to get out of town.  So we packed our bags and headed to the faraway land of…Portland!  Which was actually just as somber a city as Seattle, if not more so, but there was comfort in being with family.  We rolled up Friday afternoon and headed right to the playground, as Juliette was eager to run free with Morgan and Elise.

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Sitting on Mitch’s front porch and watching the kids play tag has become one of my favorite Portland pastimes.

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Juliette bunked with her cousins that night, and as soon as all was quiet in the kids’ room, the grown-ups gathered in the living room to crack open a bottle of wine and pour our post-election hearts out.  I don’t know that I’ve ever spoken so candidly with Mitch and Kathryn about politics and religion, laying bare my hopes and fears.  I so appreciated their insight and refusal to despair; my brother is ever the optimist, my sister-in-law level-headed and fair.  We ended with evening with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, which had all of us doubled over with laugher, tears streaming down our faces.  Gosh, it felt good to get goofy.

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The kids woke obscenely early on Saturday and all of us dragged a little throughout the day as a result.  We lounged a lot, napped hard, played Candy Land and did puzzles and took inventory of Morgan and Elise’s 200 Shopkins.  Shane and I snuck away in the evening for a drink at The Bible Club, a cozy little speakeasy in Sellwood, and recharged with stiff cocktails and some kid-free conversation.

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Sunday morning was gray and quiet; Mitch made a frittata and the girls did more Shopkin-trading.  Juliette pondered the future from her window seat.

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By 10 am though, the kids were over the whole lazy-Sunday thing, so we headed over to Westmoreland Park to ride bikes and climb trees.

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We grabbed a treat at Grand Central Bakery in Sellwood and let the girls burn off their cinnamon roll sugar-rush with a walk through town.

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With that, it was time to say our goodbyes and hit the road.  Juliette cried as we pulled away from the curb, begging to go back to Morgan and Elise’s house.  Soon, kiddo, soon!  Christmas is just around the corner.

Shane, Juliette, and I went over to Jack and La Verne’s last night to eat nachos and watch the election coverage, our moods hopeful as we pulled into their driveway.  I donned my “I Voted” sticker and Juliette asked if we were going to watch Hillary on TV.  The vibe was warm and cheery as we walked in, Jack uncorking a bottle of wine, Nance putting together a salad, the Rust boys giving us the NBC play-by-play from the den.  La Verne was wearing her Hillary socks.  Shane immediately popped open the laptop and glued himself to Nate Silver’s electoral map, but I paid little attention to the count until Shane announced with concern, “We’ve got a Michigan situation.”  We watched Hillary’s chances of winning drop from 80% to 60% and continue to spiral downward.  There was an enthusiastic cheer when the results from Colorado came in, but our joy was short-lived.  By the time we left Jack and La Verne’s house at 8:00, things were bleak.  Very bleak.  I was anxious and frustrated and frankly, baffled.  It occurred to me as we turned onto our street that come January, Juliette’s first inaugural experience would likely be watching Donald Trump take office as our president.  And I started to sob.

I know, I know, Hillary was far from flawless, but I fiercely believed in her message of inclusion.  And everything about Donald Trump’s message felt counter to the values we’ve tried so hard to instill in our daughter.

From the time she was a baby, we have told Juliette that she was wonderfully made, that she is strong and beautiful and capable.  And now America has elected a man who says horrible, vulgar things about women, who has been caught time and again treating females like objects to be judged and/or conquered and/or disregarded.

We enrolled Juliette in her current bilingual preschool because we wanted her to be part of a diverse community, for her to revel in the ways God has created his people with a variety of skin colors and languages and rituals.  And now America has elected a man who preaches that minorities should either be feared as thugs or terrorists, or should be disdained for taking advantage of an American “handout”.

We have reminded our daughter that she is blessed beyond measure, that it is her duty to speak kindly to others, to share her belongings openly, to offer a hug to a crying classmate or give up her swing to the little boy quietly standing by the playground.  And now America has elected a man who shows little concern for the people on the margins, angrily silencing anyone who dares not share his views.

With more fervor than ever, we will speak messages of love and unity and generosity over our child.  How it aches, though, to know our nation has elected a man that will not do the same.

We thought Juliette had gotten her trick-or-treating fill in Seabrook, but when I asked her if she wanted to head out on Monday evening for another round with the boys, her eyes lit up with that irresistible twinkle.  So we grabbed her costume, headed over to the Rusts, and fluffed her feathers.

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Jules was a little timid at first, but with the Hulk, a fearless fireman, an astronaut, a ninja, and a bird-creature-man thing (what exactly were you, J?) by her side, she quickly got the hang of asking strangers for candy.

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After each house, she’d peer into her bag and exclaim, “Look, Nancy!”, thrilled by her growing stash.

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It was chilly and wet that evening, but the kids weren’t the least bit deterred by the rain.  I found myself patting Shane on the back for his foresight in mixing a round of hot toddy’s for the grown-ups to take along on the walk.

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Bag full and feathers drenched, we called it a night.  Juliette picked out one treat to eat on the way home (M&Ms for the win, always), and with that, Halloween 2016 was in the books for our little flamingo.

Shane’s had a string of flex days and vacation days that have granted him several Fridays off in a row, and we’re reveling in the extra family time.  Also reveling in sunshine when it sporadically breaks through the clouds.  We spent last Friday romping around Carkeek Park, on a search for the biggest leaves and the best shells we could find.  This place has it all.

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I mean, come on.

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COME ON!

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Our super-sunny Friday was followed by a Saturday of relentless rain.  We passed the hours with some solid indoor activities, though, like a visit to our new neighborhood bakery for macarons and Kouign-amman’s.

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And storytime with La Verne at the neighborhood bookstore.

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Shane came through in a clutch when he offered to set up the tent in the living room.  Juliette was over the moon about the prospect of camping in November.

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She spent much of the day in there, watching a movie, (not) napping, reading books and tucking all of her stuffed animals into her sleeping bag.  The novelty wore off by late afternoon, but hey, we made it through a mostly-homebound day without tears, yelling, or anything getting broken.  That’s no small victory in our house!

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Rain or shine, November is off to a very good start.

October ended on the highest of notes, with a weekend at the coast with the Chens and Rusts.  Shane, La Verne, and I all had birthdays last month, and we were due for a getaway with the gang anyway, so helllooooooo, Seabrook!

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This is a porch view I could get used to.

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Since we checked in on Friday with only a couple of hours of daylight to spare, we dropped our bags and jetted down to the beach to maximize our time on the sand.

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These two haven’t seen a whole lot of each other recently – together again and it feels so good!

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The fellas set out for a brisk jog while the moms hung back with the kids.

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LaV has a knack for the action shots:

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I love these misty coastlines that seem to stretch on forever.

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Jules was incredibly proud of her “chocolate sand castle” (see pile of poopish mud at bottom right).

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“Daddy’s back!  Daddy’s back!”

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Nancy, LaV, and I took our turn jogging and then I snapped a few more pictures of our filthy kids before heading up to the house for dinner.

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Shane and Jason beat us back to the house, eager to crack open a couple of cold ones on the porch.

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Magic, I tell ya’.

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Friday was LaV’s birthday, so we raised glasses of champagne to her, gorged ourselves on Jack’s delectable pasta, and then closed out the night with chocolate cake and an epic sugar-induced dance party.  These people got moves.

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Saturday morning brought a foot-high stack of pancakes (thanks, Jack!), and cold, crisp sunshine.

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We had planned to hit the indoor community pool, but with blue skies like that, the beach beckoned.

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Muddy and chilled, we decided to head over to the pool after all and warm ourselves in the hot tub.

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By the time we got back to the house, the skies had clouded over and big fat raindrops started to fall (just as Jack threw our lunchtime burgers on the grill).  He still managed a perfect char, though, and we retired to our rooms for naptime with full bellies.

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We were tired.

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The town of Seabrook hosted trick or treating for the littles on Saturday night, so the kids donned their costumes and grabbed their candy bags.  Juliette’s flamingo outfit came together at the very last minute – that’s 20 feet of pink feather boas and a whole lot of safety pins!

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Seabrook is a funny little town, full of row after row of perfectly-kept homes with perfectly-kept lawns and a charming little main street with a candy shop and a pizza parlor, all relatively new but designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia.  It was a little eerie, like we’d landed on the movie set of Pleasantville.  The people sure were friendly, though!

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Biggest pumpkin ever!

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The kids made out like bandits – Juliette kept looking into her basket, eyes wide, like she couldn’t believe how lucky she’d gotten.

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She savored the one piece of candy she was allowed before dinner and then I hid the rest of her loot, hoping she’d forget about it (she didn’t).

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We shared dessert that night with some friends that were also in Seabrook for the weekend, tucked our exhausted trick-or-treaters into bed, and then stayed up into the wee hours of the night, polishing off a bottle of Port and covering a gamut of conversation topics.  These late-night chats are so few and far between.

We were all a little bleary-eyed on Sunday morning, but Jack perked us up with yet another home-cooked meal.  His chilaquiles are insane.  The kids busted into the game closet and did us the grand favor of entertaining themselves while we sipped our coffee.

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With only a couple of hours left before check-out, I was determined to breathe in a little more of that salty air, so Shane, Jules, and I headed outside to take the fat bike Shane had rented for a spin.  I felt a little silly on it, like I was riding a motorcycle with no motor, but dang, that’s a smooth cruise.

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I’m so glad we tossed Juliette’s bike into the trunk as were packing up on Friday, as she wanted in on the action.

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I LOVE THIS GUY.

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Eventually, regretfully, it was go-time.  We picked up coffee from the town bakery, visited a couple of random Seabrook landmarks, and bid farewell to our beachfront abode.

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What a glorious, friend/food/fun-filled weekend.  Kudos to Jack for feeding us like royalty.  Kudos to the kids for playing so well together.  Kudos to Nance for keeping the late-night chats hilariously spicy.  Kudos to my mom, Shane’s mom, and LaV’s mom for birthing the three of us in October.  And kudos to the Washington Coast for being awesome.  See you soon.

It’s been a dark and stormy month – when I went in at 7:00 yesterday morning to wake up Juliette, she rubbed her eyes and sleepily asked, “Is it still night time?”, confused by the sun-less sky out her window.  October has been full of wind and rain and only a handful of sun breaks.  But man, when that golden sun breaks

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The clouds cleared as we were leaving church a couple of Sundays ago, so we popped over to Ravenna Park for a stroll.  It actually started drizzling again once we’d wound our way down to the trail, but I insisted we press on.  These leaves won’t be around much longer!

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I know, Jules!  So lovely, right?!

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Shane had last Friday off, so the three of us headed over to Bellevue Botanical Gardens to take a deep breath after a very traumatic dentist appointment (just a check-up, but you’d think our girl was getting a root canal!).

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Run free, kiddo!

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We spent awhile bouncing our way back and forth across the suspension bridge, stopping every lap or two to toss leaves into the creek below.

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And then a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek in the woods.

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THIS.  This is why I’m so thankful that my work week ends on Thursday.

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Saturday was perfectly rain-free, so we seized the day and drove up to Snohomish for a day at The Farm at Swan’s Trail, on a quest for the perfect pumpkin.

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So many to choose from!

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We loaded up our wheelbarrow with three pumpkins and one three year old and called it good.

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Ok, ok, one more!

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We jetted down to Lincoln Park after the pumpkin patch to watch the Rust boys show off their fancy footwork on the soccer field.  Get it, Gryff!

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Shane had to work most of the day on Sunday, but we squeezed in a family romp through Kubota Gardens before he clocked in.  This place is most definitely at its autumn peak.

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I spy…

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Ok, so apparently October wasn’t so gloomy after all!  (Typed as the rain patters against our living room window.)

The older I get, the less exciting my birthday becomes – I know, wiser and deeper and yada yada yada, but really, I wouldn’t mind staying in my early thirties for a few more years.  So when I saw my 35th looming on the calendar, my first inclination was to keep it fanfare-free – maybe just go out for pizza and then come home to put on my stretchy pants and crack open a pint of ice cream.  That felt like a missed opportunity to do something special in such a lovely time of year, though, so Shane booked us a last-minute rental in Yakima and we set out on Friday for a weekend celebration in wine country.

We arrived a couple of hours before we could check into our house, so we spent some time strolling along the Cowiche Canyon Trail, peeling off our sweatshirts as the sun blazed overhead.

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No golden oak trees or bright orange maples here, but these scrubby fall colors were beautiful in their own right.

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We arrived at our Airbnb mid-afternoon and were greeted with this stunning view from the front porch.  Well done, Shane.

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We ate dinner Friday night at Cowiche Canyon in “downtown” Yakima.  I slurped down one of the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted and Juliette’s chicken and rice came with an unexpected side of french fries, so we both left there very happy.

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Shane went for a run on Saturday morning while Juliette and I stayed back at the house and enjoyed the view of that hazy early sunlight grazing the treetops.

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We grabbed breakfast and beverages at North Town Coffee…

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And then got on with the day’s main business:  WINE!  Yakima is chock-full of wineries and we kicked things off at VanArman Vineyards with sunshine, a glass of Merlot, and a hammock – SO GOOD.

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I wasn’t quite sure how we’d manage wine-tasting with a three year old in tow, but with lawn games and wide open spaces like this, it’s actually pretty grand!

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These rows between the vines were the perfect racetrack.

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Seriously, SO GOOD!

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Our second stop was Dineen Vineyards – I was worried we wouldn’t find another place nearly as kid-friendly as VanArman, but when I spotted this swing, I figured we’d be welcome to hang here awhile.

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Another bonus?  Wood-fired pizzas served right next to the tasting room.

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And soccer!

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This might be one of my all-time favorites:

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We were closing in on naptime and wanted to check out one more place, so we zipped over to Bonair Winery for a final taste.  No brick ovens or soccer balls, but this place had ducks!

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And all the grapes a girl could eat.

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I could have happily done another few rounds, but…

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So we headed back to the house to cozy up on the couch and doze a little.

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A snack with a view…

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We ate dinner at a small Mexican joint and spent the rest of the evening at the house listening to the Giants game.  They didn’t come through like we’d hoped, but still, it had been a perfect day.

Sunday was my birthday, which meant I was free to linger in bed as long as I pleased while Shane took Jules-duty.

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I eventually rallied, though, eager to do a little more exploring before heading back to Seattle.  We snapped a couple of last pics from the porch and set out for the day.

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Our first stop was the Yakima Farmers Market, for fresh-picked apples.  And Kettle corn.

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We ate a hearty diner breakfast and drove toward the mountains, stopping a couple of times along the Naches River to take in the fall colors.

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We had hoped to do some hiking up at the pass, but as soon as the road climbed upward, the skies turned gray and the rain started to fall.  So rather than mountaineering, we pushed through to Seattle and settled for a stroll at the Arboretum.

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Not a bad back-up plan!

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This little pond is one of our favorite spots, and I’ve never seen it look lovelier.

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Juliette drew pictures in the water with her walking stick while I sat back and counted all the different shades of green.

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We capped off the day with cocktails, chicken wings, and coconut sticky rice at Soi.  Happy hour, indeed.

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Cheers to a very promising start to year 35!

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OCTOBER, you trickster, you…always arriving before I’m quite ready for you, making me melancholy over the passage of summer but then wooing me with your color and crispness.  These first couple weeks of Fall have been good to us, with plenty of sun and just enough rain to save me from having to water the plants.

I’m afraid paddle board Sundays are a thing of the past, but bike rides are lovelier than ever.

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And gosh, these arboretum strolls…on a sunny evening, this place is magic.

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The kids harvested (inedible) berries one Sunday evening while the grown-ups cracked open a bottle of Sauv Blanc.

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MY WORD, kids!  Lay it on thick!

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It’s been a few months since I’ve had a work-free, kid-free day to myself, so I called in tired one day last week and headed out to Twin Falls for a little refresh.

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These gorgeous gushing falls are just 45 minutes from Seattle, and on this cloudy Tuesday, I had them nearly to myself.

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The sun peeked out as I was heading back to the car and the forest positively glowed.

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So I stretched out on a big smooth rock and read for awhile, savoring that rare feeling of taking my own sweet time.

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Me-days are grand, but Mama-Jules days have their own charm.  We spent past Friday at Volunteer Park, romping in the sun and taking in the view from the Observatory.

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Jules was having some…digestive… issues yesterday, so we stayed close to home, but by 4 pm we were all climbing the walls, so we headed over to Kubota Gardens for our annual leaf-fest.

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We were a bit early for full-on reds and golds, but hey, green is good, too.

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This girl was thrilled to be free!

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Oh, and how ’bout them GIANTS?!  Sunday afternoon baseball tea parties are a thing in our house now.  And October baseball is the very best kind of baseball, so don’t let us down on Wednesday, boys!

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Juliette turned to me when we were walking home from lightrail the other evening and said, “Mommy?  I’m sad because the leaves are coming off the trees.”  I feel ya, kiddo…it was indeed one heck of a summer.  In addition to the camping trips and the family vacations through the mid- and north-wests and that fun impromptu getaway at the coast, there was much savoring of summertime in Seattle as we made sun-soaking part of our weekend routine.

After years of insisting that I am not comfortable on two wheels, family bike rides became a new favorite pastime.  We did Lake Washington Boulevard and the Sammamish River Trail and the Burke Gilman and, on one gorgeous Sunday, a 6-mile stretch of the Green River Trail.  One of the advantages of hauling Jules in the bike trailer is that we can also load it up with a picnic lunch for a mid-ride break!

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Friday family dinners with the Rusts have become a mainstay in our calendar, rain or shine.  Shine is extra-good, though, when we can pick up BBQ and eat outside.

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Jefferson Spray Park continues to be the perfect place for a close-to-home cool-off.

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And oh, those evenings at Lake Washington…those are what I’ll miss most as the weather cools.  We’ve always loved the lake, but since we bought our paddle board, we’re enjoying it all the more.  This girl looks good in a life jacket!

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THIS.  I want more of this!

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But alas, seasons change and daylight wanes, so we’ll find new ways to fill our weekends.  Frisbee golf shows some promise as an autumn hobby – the three of us ventured out to Lakewood a couple of weeks ago and while I usually play the part of the observer so as not to embarrass myself, I took some pointers from Shane and after a few holes, my discs were consistently traveling in the forward direction!

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Still, I have nowhere near the power of this animal…

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After frisbee golf that day, we all headed over to Pioneer Square to check out some of the early happenings at the Seattle Design Festival.  I was perplexed when Shane said he really wanted to see the 10-ton ice cube, but I’ll admit, it was cool.  Ice cool.  I so appreciate this guy’s knack for finding out-of-the-ordinary ways for us to get out together.

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And now, all ten tons of that ice have melted and we’ve started wearing jackets when we leave the house.  Sayonara, summer 2016.  You were dope.

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That girl has gone and done it again, turned another year older in what feels like the blink of an eye.  What an emotional roller-coaster the past week has been!  And I’m not talking about Jules…  I’m feeling all the feelings – melancholy over how quickly time seems to be passing; pride in the kind, exuberant girl she’s become; joy in watching her revel in the gifts and the cupcakes and the special time with friends; total disappointment that tantrums apparently don’t end at age two…  But the over-arching theme has been one of gratitude, for Juliette and for sunshine and for friendship.

We partied at Jefferson Park last Sunday, celebrating with wiffle ball and pizza and a few of Juliette’s buddies.

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I think (or desperately hope, at least) that she has inherited her dad’s natural athletic ability!

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Juliette was just about to take a whack at another one of Jason’s pitches when she stopped mid-swing and cried, “my balloon!”

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Sure enough, that giant number 3 had come untied and was floating away to never-never land.  Juliette was super-bummed, but I promised her we’d do our best to find it later (and then I promptly ordered another from Amazon…).

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Holy crap, they’re cute.

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How do you end a perfect evening?  With a warm embrace from a cherished friend…

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I snuck into Juliette’s room the morning of her actual birthday and tied the new balloon to her bed – I’ll never forget the wide-eyed look of wonder on her face as she whispered in disbelief, “Mommy!  It came back!”

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Shane and I took her out for a bakery treat at Fresh Flours before dropping her off at school – I told her she could have anything in their beautiful pastry-filled display case, and she chose…yogurt and granola, which is what she eats at home every single morning.  Routine for the win.

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We walked over to her classroom and I spent a little extra time with her before drop-off, wanting to ease the good-bye and give her a tear-free start to her third year (sadly, it didn’t work).

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I may have left her bawling in the morning, but when I came to pick her up, she was livin’ large, strutting around her classroom with this giant birthday crown on her head.  I told her it was time to head home and she asked if she could pleeeease stay a little longer so that she could head out to the playground with her new friends.  I happily obliged.

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I eventually coaxed her home and we packed some snacks and our beach gear for dinner by the lake with Shane, La Verne, and Nico.

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Make a wish!

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I watched these two taking in the sunset together and it was almost too much to bear, knowing that not only had our girl’s second year come to an end, but also that these summer nights by the water are numbered as Fall quickly approaches.  SIGH.

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They clearly weren’t too broken up about it.

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Inevitably, we tell the kids sure, they can put their feet in, and one of them ends up soaked.  Poor N was much more distressed by his wet cupcake than he was by his wet clothes, though.

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Jules had a few gifts to open back at home, so we set up a throne for her on the back porch and let her tear into them.  Gift-giving is so much fun at this age, as she’s equally excited by a flashy new game and a practical package of underwear.

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Happiest of birthdays, Juliette Grace!

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I’ve been going through our photos and videos of the past year, putting together the highlight reel, and gosh, we played hard during age two – we sledded and danced and swam and camped.  I also read Parenting Without Power Struggles and made a New Years resolution not to scream at my child, but really, two was a blast.

And now it’s time to get on board with three.  THREE.  I expect three will hold more dancing, more hilarious chatter, more adventure.  More milestones, too – in the past few days, Jules has said good-bye to diapers and learned how to count to four in Spanish!  Yep, our daughter is THREE.  I’m liking the sound of that more and more.