We set out for Portland on Christmas Eve, our trunk loaded with presents and wine and assorted goodies.  Juliette napped about half the way and then patiently chilled in the backseat for the last eighty miles – dare I hope that we’re making a road-tripper out of this kid?

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We rolled up to Mitch’s house around 4:00, kicked off our shoes, and poured ourselves a couple of home-brewed beers from his kegerator.  Let the festivities begin!  It took Juliette about five minutes to warm up to her cousins, and then she was off to the races, following them from room to room, screeching with joy when they turned to chase her.  She settled down in her pack n play without a peep after dinner – a couple of hours of keeping up with the big kids had plumb tuckered her out.

We were up and at ’em early the next morning – the girls were thrilled to see that Santa had indeed stopped by in the night to fill stockings and leave a few extra gifts under the tree.

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The adults sipped coffee and politely exchanged a few presents while the kids delightfully tore into their loot – Juliette quickly got the hang of unwrapping and made quick work of lining up her new books and puzzles.

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Morgan and Jules were thick as thieves during our visit, hardly leaving each other’s sides.  Whenever Juliette fussed a bit, resisting a diaper change or reaching for something she couldn’t have, Morgan would come extra-close to her, murmuring “hiiiiii Juliette, it’s okaaayyy…” while gently touching her cheek.  It only had about a 25% success rate of doing any actual soothing, but damn, it was sweet.

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Once we’d opened all the presents and eaten our bacon and coffee cake, we set out for Mt. Tabor park to let the kids burn off any left over Christmas morning antsies.

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We made it home just in time for naps and then spent a quiet afternoon at the house, reading and doing puzzles and drinking hot chocolate.

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I took Juliette out for a short walk around the neighborhood after she woke up…

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And we found Santa!  Hey, if the kid doesn’t know any different, no sense in standing in that line at Nordstrom for two hours!

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We headed in when the sun started to set and Elise offered to keep Juliette entertained while the finishing touches were put on dinner.

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We shared a big Christmas meal and then all three girls piled into the tub for bathtime.  They streaked through the house when they were done, laughing hysterically as they left their towels in a pile on the floor and clamored upstairs to find their pajamas.  The sight of Juliette running behind Morgan and Elise with such glee, her dimpled bottom jiggling as she shouted and giggled – what a gift.

Friday was another day, another park – we spent the morning at Columbia Park, teeter-tottering and swinging and sliding.

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Shane and Juliette took marathon naps in the afternoon while I played Disney Frozen Bingo and Frozen Memory and Frozen Matching with the girls.  Elise got a microscope for Christmas and we spent a little while “doing experiments”.  That face!  She’s so grown up these days, but such a wonderful goofball at the same time.

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We went out for dinner at a local brewpub and then everyone grabbed a few last snuggles with Juliette before it was time for us to hit the road back to Seattle.

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I’m telling you, the 7:30 pm departure is money – Juliette fell asleep a few miles into the ride, we made record time in the absence of any traffic, and then she easily settled into her crib when we got home.  Shane and I played a couple of rounds of Mario Kart before heading to bed ourselves, thankful for a chance to veg after a busy couple of days.

I woke up a little blue on Saturday, already missing my family and feeling the funk of post-holiday letdown, so Shane suggested that we get out and do something special.  We decided to head downtown to take a whirl on the carousel in Westlake Plaza.  Juliette was a little skeptical when we first got on – she gave the pole a shake, found out the horse didn’t spring back and forth like the one at the playground, and promptly decided she wanted to get off.  But oh, the look on her face when the carousel started spinning and her horse started galloping up and down, she dug it.  She smiled like mad, exclaiming “whoooaaa, whoooaaa, whoooaaa!” over and over and over.  Add this to our list of Christmas traditions!

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From Westlake, we walked over to the Sheraton to check out the annual gingerbread house display.  I can’t believe the time (and sugar!) that must go into some of these!

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Juliette was mildly impressed by the gingerbread village – she was more excited about being allowed to run free in the lobby after just four short blocks in her stroller.  There’s no stopping this kid.

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We walked by the Fairmont Olympic Hotel on our way back to the car and decided to pop into their cozy lobby to say hi to Santa and check out the tree.

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Cheers to a holiday filled with very little naughty and SO MUCH NICE.

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