Archive for September, 2014

A week later, it’s still sinking in that I’m now the mama of a ONE year old.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times people have stopped me as I’ve been out and about with Juliette to remind me that it goes by so fast, this raising kids thing.  I’ve always smiled politely and shrugged off the unsolicited bits of wisdom while gazing down at my wee little baby, but damn it, they’re so, so right.  Gosh, how this past year has flown by.  And now my baby is making her way into waddler-hood, daily asserting her independence as she masters a host of new skills.  I keep getting glimpses of the grown-up girl in Jules as she sheds her chubby cheeks and I wonder, can this possibly be the wrinkly seven-pound newborn we brought home from the hospital a year ago?

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The changes feel like they’re coming faster than ever – we’ve been doing some “walking”, and a couple of weeks ago she finally started putting one foot in front of the other.

A week later, I pulled out the little shopping cart a friend had let us borrow, just to see if she could make it more than a step or two on her own.  In the space of a couple of hours, she was motoring all over the house with that thing, even figuring out how to turn it around when she’d driven herself into a corner.  Our baseboards are taking a beating, but it’s worth it for the look of pride on her face.

She’s proven herself to be a fast learner in other ways, too.  I blew her a kiss just once and asked her to return the favor – and she actually did it.  I know, it’s just mimicking a silly gesture, but after working on waving and clapping for weeks, it was cool to see her pick this one up so quickly.

And there are the other times she’s surprised us – like how did she know exactly what to do with her new doll’s pacifier, especially considering Juliette hasn’t used a binky since she was a few months old?

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And ummmmm…she’s reading to herself now?!

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After months of tearing things apart, pulling toys out of her bin and clothes out of drawers and food out of cupboards, she’s showing interest in putting things back together.  Don’t get me wrong – she’s still a mess-making tornado when she wants to be, but she (and I) are enjoying more and more moments of quiet, contemplative play.  Today I watched her put a ball in a cup, shake it around, pull it out, and put it back in, about 40 times over.  Her stacking cups are her favorite toys – the day she figured out how to put one inside the other was a very good day.

And as she’s getting smarter and faster, she’s getting so much bigger – we ask Juliette nearly every day if she’s gotten taller overnight.  Her blue plastic tub has been relegated to the garage and she’s loving the freedom of the big bath.

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She’s still a champion eater – we occasionally have to duke it out over veggies, but for the most part, she’s loves food.  It’s easy to tell when she’s enjoying something, because she’ll make this nom nom mmm mmm mmmmmmm sound as she shovels whatever I’ve prepared into her face – almond butter on anything is always a hit.

She also still loves those swings, particularly when I run behind her and pop back out front in a little game of peek-a-boo.

I spent the last couple of weeks going through all the photos and videos we’ve taken over the past year, compiling them into a movie of the “greatest hits”, and while a piece of my heart aches to feel the weight of that milk-drunk newborn on my chest, a larger part of me is struck with how much fun it’s been to watch her grow, how exciting it is to bear witness to each new milestone.  Our joy has run so much deeper than I ever thought possible.  So cheers to your first year, Jules.  I’m so thankful for the ways you’ve turned our lives upside down.

It was a busy weekend at Chez Schnell, with visitors and sight-seeing and birthday festivities!  The good times started rolling on Thursday morning, when Shane’s mom and sister arrived from Minnesota.  We all convened at Columbia City Bakery for coffee and croissants – Jules took an instant liking to her Aunt Tiff.

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After letting our guests get settled, we headed to West Seattle to grab lunch and play on the sand at Alki Beach.  Summer is definitely going out with a bang here, with lots of sun and perfect temps.

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We celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday that evening at Tutta Bella – Jules is a big fan of their Happy Hour meatball special, and I have a weakness for their five-dollar glass of bubbly.

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We capped off the day with ice cream at Full Tilt – I don’t know if it’s the horizontal stripes or the fact that I can’t resist sharing my dessert with her, but Juliette is looking a little rounder around the middle these days!

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This was Tiff’s first time in Seattle, so we spent Friday afternoon downtown, showing her the sights.  We started with coffee on the 40th floor of the Columbia Tower.

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And then strolled through Pike Place Market, stopping for lunch at Steelhead Diner.

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We spent the rest of the day at home, eating and drinking and doting on the baby.  It was such a joy to watch Juliette soak up all that grandma and auntie love.

Saturday morning we drove up to Jefferson Park to while away the morning on the playground - Jules wasn’t so sure about this slide a couple of months ago, but now?  Total hit.  She’s getting adventurous, that girl.

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Grandma’s pretty wild, herself!

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We drove out to Woodinville on Saturday afternoon to do some winetasting at Novelty Hill and Columbia Winery.  I wasn’t so sure that bringing a baby to a winery was kosher, but we gave it a go and actually ended up a seeing a few other kids out for an afternoon tasting.  We found a shady spot in the grass at both places to stretch out and sip our whites.

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And while we tasted the menu, Juliette tasted the menu.  Seriously, this girl’s favorite food is paper these days.

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We had dinner that night at Big Chickie, our neighborhood’s newest hot spot.  The chicken was perfectly done and the outdoor seating area was hoppin’ – we’ll be hitting this place as often as we can while the evenings are still warm!

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Sunday was a big day – a pretty special little someone was born a year ago!  The birthday festivities started with bedhead and blueberry pancakes.

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And then presents!  Books and clothes, a soccer ball and a big bag of Legos – she tore into the wrapping and gift bags like a pro, stopping only momentarily to crawl into one of the boxes and eat the tissue paper.

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Grandma gave Jules her first baby doll – we’ve never seen her play with a doll before, but she was immediately taken with it.

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She pulled the baby Violet right out of the box and went to give her a kiss.

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Or…eat her face.  Mommas – keep your newborns away from this one.

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She’ll be stylin’ in her new peacoat this fall!

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We loaded up the car on Sunday afternoon with cupcakes and beach balls for Miss Juliette’s big bash at Seward Park.  Clearly, she was pretty jazzed about being the center of attention.

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She had a blast cruising around the lake with Gryffin.

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And then…cake!  She didn’t quite know what to do when we first set that mound of frosting in front of her.

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But once that first taste of sugar hit her lips, she wasn’t shy about digging in.  Enjoy it, kiddo – you’re getting a double-dose of broccoli for dinner every night this week.

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We felt so lucky to have our Minnesota family and our Seattle family present to celebrate the day.

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How old are you, Jules?

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And with that, my baby was one.  ONE.  I’m feeling all kinds of crazy about it – melancholy but thankful, nostalgic for what’s gone but also a little bit relieved that the newborn days are behind us.  Proud of the girl she’s becoming and excited for what lies ahead.  How quickly she’s changing (that’s a whole other blog post…).  Happy, happy birthday, stinkpot.

Shane is not one for moderation.  When he orders a pizza, he wants to eat the whole thing in one sitting.  When he decided several years ago that he wanted to take up running, he thought registering for a marathon would be a good place to start.  And when Jack asked him and Jason a couple of months ago to take part in a 100-MILE bike ride near Deception Pass, Shane jumped at the challenge.

I’ll admit, I’ve been slightly less than supportive about the whole thing.  All the bike gear purchases, the Saturday mornings spent pounding out the training miles while Jules and I were left to fend for ourselves, the post-ride aching back and muscle spasms that left him laid up.  I didn’t expect his race would be so tough on me!  And so all of us, die-hard bikers and hard-core mamas, decided to turn race weekend into a special little getaway at an incredible rental house in Bellingham.  We rolled up to the house on Friday afternoon – as we walked through the lush front yard, complete with a waterfall, I knew we were in for something good.

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And then…BAM!  We stepped through the front door and were greeted with a panoramic view of the water – the deck was insane.

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The kiddos were eager to explore the house, which meant pulling all the books off the coffee table and then pounding out a few tunes on the piano.

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We had our own little happy hour out on the patio with white wine and fresh oysters.  Once the kids were in bed, we popped open another couple of bottles to enjoy with Jack’s famous spaghetti and meatballs.

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As we watched the sun set over the bay, I realized I can’t imagine ever living anywhere other than the Pacific Northwest.

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We watched the stars come out and then turned in early on Friday, as the guys had to get an early start the next day.  Correction: some of us turned in early.  As Shane was laying out his race clothes before bed, he realized he’d left his bike shorts at home!  He and Jack made a 10:30 pm dash to Walmart in desperate hopes of finding a replacement; Walmart didn’t come through, but Jack did – he got in touch with a friend that was joining them the next day and asked him to bring a spare pair.  Crisis averted!

The bikers headed out at 6 am on Saturday and the rest of us spent a leisurely morning at the house.  After naptime, Juliette and I joined La Verne and Nico on a trip into town to check out the Bellingham farmer’s market.  We grabbed lunch from a food stand there and then swung by Fairhaven on the way back, treating the babies to a taste of our strawberry rhubarb ice cream.

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Nico has just started walking and is so adorably proud of himself with each step he takes.

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When the guys returned that afternoon, they were a little sweaty and a little stiff, but also giddy over their impressive pace – turns out they had finished in first place!  (Shane – this is where I apologize for not being more supportive and tell you that I’m really, really proud of you…).

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The kids ate their dinner out on the deck while we all put our feet up.

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And then Juliette ran shirtless for the evening, after painting her tank top with spaghetti sauce…

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Gosh, these boys are sweet to Jules – especially Gryffin, who is so quick to snuggle her and to make sure she always has an assortment of toys at her fingertips.

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Leave it to Jack to bike 100 miles and then cook dinner for all of us.

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Again, we dined on the patio and watched the sun set and chatted until the guys could hardly keep their eyes open.

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We were all up bright and early on Sunday.  Catching the misty pink light of dawn was decent consolation for not being able to sleep in.

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The childless dinnertime chats were pretty great, but I also loved the mornings as we all roamed around the house, drinking coffee while the kids played and read books in their PJs.  Felt so much like we’re one big family.

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And breakfast mimosas made the mornings that much better!

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I didn’t get to do quite as much quiet porch-lounging as I’d hoped, but I didn’t mind – Juliette was a lot of fun to hang with this weekend.

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It felt good to have our goofy, smiling little girl back after the tough time she’d had in California!

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The Rusts rolled out for a family hike around 11 and we headed out around noon, not wanting to leave a minute earlier than the required checkout time.  Thanks, gentlemen, for putting in all those miles on your bikes so that I could eat oysters and ice cream.  I suppose I actually made out pretty well in this whole deal.

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On Friday morning we picked up our rental car and drove like banshees to Turlock, knowing that Juliette’s back seat nap would only last so long.  I was so, so excited to reconnect with Amanda and baby Sadie, who was only 4 weeks old when I saw her in April of last year.  Amanda and I picked up right where we left off, as we always do, but my goodness, where was that newborn I had cradled in my arms 16 months ago?!

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Sadie is the sweetest, kindest toddler I’ve ever met.  She took an immediate liking to Juliette, lavishing her with hugs…

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And “helping” to rinse her hair during bathtime.

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We spent much of the weekend just hanging out at Amanda and Josh’s – Juliette was thrilled to roam so freely and play with such a variety of toys after five days in a hotel room with a water bottle and a single Hot Wheels car.  But there were a few people on our must-see list, so we scheduled a park date with Steve on Saturday morning…

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And then grabbed lunch with Marco and Lisa in the afternoon.

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Amanda invited a few of our friends over for dinner on Saturday night.  Shane picked up a heaping load of tacos from his favorite taco truck and we all hung out in the backyard while a tornado of children swirled around us.  I snapped this photo just as C (up front) was giving orders that Shane would play the part of Ursula in their game of The Little Mermaid.  Shane is amazing with kids, but she really had him stumped on this one!

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These two got along so splendidly…

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This was my first time meeting chill baby Kate, who snoozed so peacefully in the midst of all the mayhem.

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Hey ladies!

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Sunday morning came all too fast and it was time for us to pack up our things and head home.  It’s always hard for me to say good-bye to Amanda, but this farewell felt especially tough, and I know how much we’ll miss watching each other’s daughters grow.

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We made it to the airport in record time while Juliette snoozed in the car.  Check-in went smoothly, we boarded on time, and we were Seattle-bound!  Jules was a little squirmy at first, but eventually fell asleep in my arms.  Praise Jesus.

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I know, worst family photo ever, but it tells an important story:  traveling with a baby is exhausting!  We look so much worse for the wear after our “time off” than we did before it.

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Home sweet home was sweeter than ever – Juliette slept for 13 hours on Sunday night in the comfort of her crib and napped for a solid four hours on Monday.  I’m still trying to kick my dang cold and am happy to have my favorite tea and my coziest blanket at my fingertips.  Am I glad we made the trip?  Absolutely.  But I believe our frequent flyer days are behind us – it might be awhile before we have the energy for another vacation!

Wowwweeeee, what a trip.  The cold and flu fairies really threw us for a loop, but we pressed on and had a great, though exhausting, week in California.

Juliette awoke in a decent mood on Tuesday, so after saying good-bye to Shane we headed over to Mission Street to pick up a Blue Bottle latte and eat breakfast at this cool little plaza, next to a giant, “friendly” monster head.

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By 9:00, Jules was fading fast, so we jetted back to the room for naptime.  She woke up feverish and a little cranky, but perked up as I let her romp around the king-sized bed – all those pillows!  And that soft down comforter!  I think she really felt like she was getting the shaft in her little Pack N Play.

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Fever be damned, we set out together to grab lunch at Jane on Larkin and then trek through Japantown and up Filmore to Alta Plaza Park.  It was a slog, pushing that stroller up San Francisco’s hilly streets, but man, talk about a playground with a view!  Juliette and I played for awhile and then found ourselves a sunny spot on the grass to sit back and enjoy the lookout.

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We took our time winding our way back to the hotel, stopping to window-shop and pick up an iced coffee.  The only up-side to Juliette’s cold-induced lethargy was her willingness to contentedly hang out in the stroller as we walked circles around the city.  She’s usually a bit antsy if she’s buckled in for more than 20 minutes, but last week she quietly chilled out as we logged mile after mile.

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And man, I really loved showing San Francisco to her – all the colors and smells, the ornate fire escapes and the canyon-like streets between skyscrapers, the urban buzz that you can’t quite find in Seattle.  I hope she grows up to love the city as much as her dad and I do.

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We met up with Shane in the evening to grab a few tacos for dinner and then Jules was ready to call it a night.  Shane had a pretty packed schedule, with sessions all day and then parties “networking events” at night,  but I appreciated him always being around to help with bedtime, to give Jules her bath and read her a bedtime story.  Or the San Francisco Chronicle.  Whatever works.

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We got a slow start on Wednesday morning, as Juliette hadn’t slept all that well and still hadn’t kicked that dang fever.  But we eventually made it out the door, in need of fresh air and breakfast (and coffee, for the love of God, coffee!), and found ourselves at Red Door Coffee.  We found a great little table, my latte was perfect, and Jules quietly sat on my lap like an angel baby as she ate her yogurt.  Things were looking up.  Until the manager came over and very politely asked us to leave, as the coffee shop was a 21 and over venue, 24 hours a day.  We quickly packed up our things and walked out, feeling embarrassed and frustrated and a little bit homesick for our beloved Columbia City Bakery.  Thankfully, we found solace in the waterfall and a sunny bench at Yerba Buena Gardens.

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Our Park du Jour was Washington Square Park, about a mile north of the hotel.  We ate lunch on the grass there while watching some dogs run around and listening to a couple of guys in construction vests and hard hats play a saxophone and guitar.

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We packed up our things after lunch and walked further north to Fisherman’s Wharf.   I really wanted Juliette to see the sea lions, as this was one of my favorite San Francisco sights as a kid.  She was not impressed.

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But the carousel!  Now we’re talkin’.  We stood here for awhile and just watched the horses go ’round.  Anything for that girl.

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From Pier 39, we took a long walk along the waterfront, as I wanted to go back to the Ferry Building to pick up a vase from Heath Ceramics that I had my eye on.

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Again, Jules proved herself to be the perfect walking companion.

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So again, I treated us to ice cream!  Jules, hold the cone while I take a picture.  Or…just go ahead and stick the whole thing in your mouth.

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We ate dinner that night in the Mission at Pizzeria Delfina – this place has become an SF staple for us.

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As we tucked Juliette in that night, I started to feel a little tickle in my throat.  Uh-oh.  By 9:00 I was feeling feverish and achy.  Double uh-oh.  I had a horribly restless night as I struggled to cool down, then warm up, then cool down, praying in the midst of all my tossing and turning that God would please, please, please have mercy on me and make this a quick little bug.  Shane headed out at 6 am to pick up some cold medication and I quickly dosed myself up – we had tickets for a 12:45 Giants game and I was bound and determined not to miss it.  We all headed out for breakfast together once the meds kicked in and then Juliette and I went back to the hotel to grab a nap.  Thankfully, her fever had finally broken once she woke up, and the rash that was appearing on her belly confirmed what the nurse I’d talked to on Tuesday suspected – she’d caught a case of roseola, characterized by several days of fever followed by a non-itchy rash.  My own spirits and symptoms were lifted by Juliette’s upswing and the three of us set out for AT&T park for baby’s first Giants game!

Juliette was amused by the game for the first three innings, sitting quietly on our laps and staring wide-eyed at the people and the ball field and the cotton candy vendors.  She clapped when everyone else clapped and was only minorly alarmed when Shane threw her in the air after Gregor Blanco’s home run.  We’re going to make a baseball fan out of this kid!

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Shane had brilliantly bought us club level tickets, so when the game lost its charm, we headed inside for lunch.  Innings 4-7 were spent bouncing back and forth from our seats to the club level, as Jules became increasingly antsy.   Finally he strapped her into the Ergo – one loop around the park was all it took for this girl to be OUT.

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She snoozed through the end of the game, but we were thrilled just to have made it to the ninth inning.  And to see a win!  There’s nothing like being swept out onto AT&T plaza in a sea of happy fans in orange and black.

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We made it back to the room around 5:00 and called it a day.  Juliette and I were both completely beat – my cold was rearing its ugly head and Juliette was just plain worn out after four days of short naps and restless nights.  We did our best to keep her content until her normal bedtime, but ultimately tucked her in at 6:30.

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We said farewell to our room at the Grand Hyatt on Friday morning – we were certainly going to miss this view.  But the close quarters?  Not so much…

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I still curse the germs that got us sick, but we were leaving San Francisco with some incredible memories.  Even in the midst of the fevers and the tiredness and the cafe eviction, Juliette and I still had a blast together – as we were sitting along the waterfront on Monday, sharing our ice cream, I was struck by how much I enjoy hanging out with my daughter as she makes the transition from helpless babe to fun-loving companion.  And oh, how I love showing her the world, even when it’s tiring and inconvenient and upsets our schedule.  She won’t remember this trip, but I will, and I’ll tell her how she lit up when I handed her that ice cream cone, how happy she was to sit in the grass overlooking the city, how she clapped with the crowd when Petit struck out batter after batter.  I forgive you, baby, for the nights you woke up at 2:00 and wouldn’t settle until 4:00, popping up over and over while your dad and I tried (and failed) to ignore you from two feet away.  It was all worth it.  I think.

Next stop, Turlock!