Archive for April, 2015

I packed away Juliette’s puffy gray coat last weekend – I was a little saddened by the fact that she’ll probably never wear it again, but mostly I was thrilled that winter is OVER.  Never have I been so desperate for being-outside weather.  I’m typically not prone to stir-craziness – I could happily pass an entire weekend without leaving the house, curled up inside with my Kindle and my tea and my knitting.  Jules, on the other hand?  She starts pin-balling off the walls after about 20 minutes of coloring or puzzles, heading to the door and asking “outside?  outside?  outside?” before we’ve even changed out of our pajamas.  In a lot of ways, staying indoors with toddlers is more exhausting than getting out with them.  And so we go out.  and out.  and out!

The warmer weather has been great, but the longer daylight hours feel like an all-out Godsend.  It’s so nice to get home from work/daycare and have the option to play outside for a bit – this makes the two-hour pre-bedtime slog fly right by!  The other night Juliette and I jogged up to Jefferson Park after work to meet up with Shane, who had biked from the office.  We did a few rounds on the slide and hung out on the swings for awhile before heading home for a quick dinner and bedtime.  It felt like a treat for all of us to be able to get some exercise on a weeknight.

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On the warm evenings when we don’t have the time or the energy to hit the park, we hang out in the back yard and dine al fresco, with fresh fruit smoothies for dessert.  Juliette’s a fan.

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Some friends of ours gave us their baby bike seat and Shane has been taking Juliette out for weekend spins around the neighborhood – every time he stops, she looks up at him, her silly pink helmet perched on her head, and asks, “more?  more?  more?”.  Until she decides she’s done, at which point she’s DONE being in the bike.  You have to hope this doesn’t happen when you’re miles from home (yes, that’s experience speaking!).

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We took a day trip out to Bainbridge Island a couple of weeks ago on a particularly sunny Sunday, excited to watch Juliette experience her first ferry ride.

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And…she was not so impressed.  This isn’t a flattering photo of either one of us, but it sums things up so well:  little lady was cranky and I was running low on patience (this particular day was at the tail end of her making-me-crazy spell).

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Eventually she got over whatever fit she’d been throwing and enjoyed the ride a bit…

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And when we made it to Mora’s for ice cream, she was quickly convinced that Bainbridge is heaven on earth.

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We spent most of the afternoon at Fort Ward Park, picking daisies and throwing rocks and walking down the tree-lined paths.

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And then it was time to head back to catch our 5:30 ferry.  We thought we’d play it safe and get there 45 minutes early, only to find a line of 200 cars waiting at the terminal.  We missed our boat by two spots and were told we’d have to wait an hour to catch the next one.  One whole hour in a car with our grouchy toddler?  Say it ain’t so!  But miraculously, Jules was a total delight throughout the wait.  She was super-stoked to be able to hang out in the front seat and push all the buttons on the radio.

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And the ride home proved to be much more fun than the ride there, even if it was ever-so-slightly windy…

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Plus, the golden hour was so golden out there on the water.

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We made it home just in time for bed and Jules crashed hard, waking up the next morning refreshed and fuss-free.  Must have been the ice cream.

Our new favorite close-to-home place to pass a sunny afternoon is in the greenbelt up the street from our house.  It’s pretty great – a five-minute walk and you feel like you’re buried deep in the woods.  This little bench has become our designated super-special bubble-blowing spot.  We sat here for over an hour one Friday.

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It’s fun to watch Juliette experience the squishiness of moss or the sound of birds calling to one another from the treetops.  My hope is that she’ll one day love nature and the city in equal measure.

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On days where the temps approach 70 degrees, we don tank tops and head out in search of water.  We spent this afternoon at Seahurst Park in Burien, dipping our toes in the Sound.

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And then Juliette got carried away dipped her bottom in the Sound.  So glad I packed that extra pair of pants!

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Sayonara, winter, huh Jules?

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Alright, alright…I’m sane again and ready to wish our fun-loving, adorable little girl a proper HAPPY nineteen months!  She’s the best!  This week has been sleep-filled and tantrum-free, so herewith, toddlerhood in all it’s glory!  (Too many exclamation points?  !!!)

Juliette is chattier than ever – a couple of weeks ago we were reading one of her favorite books together when she pointed to a squirrel in a tree and proudly exclaimed “squirrel!” (errrr…”shquell!”), seemingly out of the blue, as that isn’t a word we’ve ever pointedly worked on with her.  Her pronunciation needs some fine tuning, but she’s surprising us all the time with her expanding vocabulary.  And we can see she’s thrilled with her gradual mastery of the English language – she loves to “take role” when we’re in the car or at the dinner table, pointing to me and shouting “that’s mama!”, pointing to Shane and shouting “that’s papa!”, and then pointing to herself and shouting some form of her own name, like “Ju-Ju” or “Jet” or “Jjjjjmmmmmsssshhhheeeeettttte!”.  Words on constant repeat these days are “ach-oo” (“hold you”, which actually means “hold me”), “up-ease” (“open please”, as in take the lid off of my sippy cup/shampoo bottle/jar of animal crackers), “hair-pay!” (“airplane”), and “El-mo?  El-mo?  El-mo?” (said in the car when she wants to hear the Elmo song, at home when she wants to watch Sesame Street, in the shower or in bed or at the park when she just wants to proclaim her love for that little red fur ball).

Speaking of which, she loves music but really isn’t interested in singing anything but Elmo’s Song or the Sesame Street theme.  Case in point:

She’s increasingly adventurous, climbing and running and jumping with reckless abandon.  This used to drive me crazy, as I felt like I was constantly chasing her around while she traveled from one fall hazard to another, but I’m trying to ease up, to embrace her boldness and let her take an occasional tumble.  She’s pretty sturdy, after all.

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She loves being tossed around, getting thrown up in the air or or hung upside down by her feet.  Check out her sheer joy when her dance party with Dad got a little crazy (I could watch this video for daaaaays):

A new favorite pastime is blowing bubbles – she’s still getting the hang of it, often ending up with a mouthful of suds, but when she gets it right, her little gasp of wonder is priceless.

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I took her to Target for a bubbles run a couple of weeks ago and told her she could pick out one bottle of bubbles.  This is what she grabbed, clever girl…  (Who knew they sell bubbles by the gallon?)

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She is waaaaay into cups and mugs and glasses right now, refusing to drink out of her sippy cup or anything with a lid.  This makes for a lot of wet shirts, but whatever – at least she’s staying hydrated!

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She’s (usually) a good sleeper, but has become quite insistent that Shane or I hold her or pat her back or hang out in her room until she’s sound asleep.  Last week I told her NO MORE – little missy was going to spend a few days in bedtime bootcamp, crying it out.  I put her down in her crib at naptime while she was still awake, and she wailed until my resolve completely shattered…  This was our compromise:

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We’ll keep working on her crib independence.  And dang it, if I want to snuggle her until she falls asleep, I’ll snuggle her.  Because MAN, the way she looks at me and smiles when I start in on “You Are My Sunshine”.  And the way she gently touches and names the parts of my face, tapping my nose and ears and cheeks, pointing to my eye and proudly saying, “EYE!”.  I study and try to memorize every perfect feature of her sweet baby face, counting those three faint freckles on her nose, her light blond eyebrows, her still-chubby cheeks.

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And then this.  There will come a time far too soon when this just doesn’t happen anymore:

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More photos, you say?  You’re welcome.

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Happy, happy nineteen months, Jules.  I think I forgot for a moment how much I love hanging out with you.  But I remember now.

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Yes, I was melancholy about the passing of Spring’s peak, mourning the fact that it flees so quickly.  Toddlerhood, on the other hand, seems to be lasting damn near forever.  I sat down tonight to sort through the past month’s sweet photos and funny videos to herald all of Juliette’s latest developments, but I’m just not in the mood to gush – I’m going to save that stuff for another day.  I’d much rather complain.

Because this kid is making me CRAZY.

We have had an exceptionally tough couple of days.  I walked in the door Monday evening after a long day at work and Juliette excitedly ran toward my open arms…and then right past them, as she grabbed the door handle and whined, “outside?  outside?  outside?”, ignoring my replies that we couldn’t go out because it was pouring.  I told her we could go upstairs and play in the shower rather than out in the rain, but she wasn’t havin’ it, wailing as I undressed her and then streaking down the hallway as I tried to pull her into the bathroom.  We struggled our way through bathing and pj’s and hair-combing and tooth-brushing; she was exhausted by the time I laid her down, but still she fought sleep with a vengeance, crying and shaking her crib rails before finally collapsing for the night.

She woke up early today, still out of sorts – she protested when I tried to unzip her from her sleep sack, but then yelled and tugged at it when I gave up and left it on.  Despite the previous evening’s aversion to the shower, she threw a fit when she couldn’t climb in with Shane this morning, so I abandoned my own attempts at getting ready and took her down to the kitchen to let Shane bathe in peace.  Juliette headed back up the (forbidden) stairs while I got her breakfast ready, looking me in the eyes and defiantly taking another step each time I told her to come down.  She refused yogurt and cereal and didn’t want to drink her milk unless it was out of a mug and unless she poured it herself (uh-uh).  She cried when Shane changed her diaper, whined as I wrestled her into her clothes, and ran circles around the kitchen island as we chased after her with her coat and shoes.  I politely asked her to come to me, then pleaded with her to listen, and eventually resorted to yelling, my voice getting louder and angrier with each lap.  Shane caught hold of her and tried to get her jacket on, but she collapsed on the floor in that masterful rigid-but-limp posture that makes it impossible to thread an arm through a sleeve or get a shoe on a foot.  Shane’s head was about to explode by this point.  He grabbed his bag and said he was going to take lightrail to work – he couldn’t be around her anymore and needed me to handle dropoff.  I turned to Juliette and nastily snapped, “Nice job, baby.  You made daddy mad.”  Shane heard my tone (exasperation verging on insanity) and decided I couldn’t be trusted alone with her, so we all headed out together, two of us in tears and one of us silently fuming.  There was slamming of car doors and dramatic swiping of car clutter off of the seats and running mascara.  It was ugly, folks.  We drove to daycare in silence, the air in that car so thick with frustration and shame that it was hard for me to breathe.  Even Juliette had grown quiet – I’m not sure if it was out of remorse or fear, but she hardly made a peep on that painfully long 12-minute commute.  I felt guilty and embarrassed over losing my temper.  But also mad and annoyed and full of despair.  It was only 7:45 am and I was spent.  She’s only nineteen months old and I’m done with toddlerhood.

I think this is the point where I usually wrap up a gripey blog post with, “Motherhood is hard, but it’s also the BEST JOB EVER!  She fell asleep in my arms and as I gazed at her sweet, peaceful little face, all was forgiven!”.  Not today, though.  The wounds are too fresh.  I’m going to let myself sit with the fact that this is exceedingly hard sometimes.  We’re in the midst of a deep, cranky funk and I’m zapped, plum out of patience and positivity.  The best I can muster is a faint hope that tomorrow will be better.  This too shall pass.  Right?  RIGHT?!

Spring is in full-swing here in Seattle – budding leaves, fluffy blossoms, and quite a few of those sun-shiny teaser days that make you want to pull out your sandals and retire your winter coat (although I’ve learned by now that such days are often followed by 50 degrees and rain).  I’ve gotten into the habit of grabbing my camera when we leave the house, as these blooms (and Juliette’s joy over them) are too good not to capture.  Get your scroll finger ready – I went a little nuts!

We made it out to UW the third weekend in March, just in time to catch the cherry blossoms before they all fell to the ground.  It had rained that morning and the sunlight struggling through the clouds was extra warm, making the quad extra magical.

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Juliette ran wild in the blossom-littered grass – given our mild winter, this was as close as she got to playing in the snow this year!

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We’ve lucked out with a string of sunny Thursdays and have been celebrating our mama-Jules days with trips to parks and playgrounds.  The sand box at Whale Tale Park near Alki is a new favorite.

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Juliette and Nico spent a Thursday afternoon harvesting daisies at Seward Park.

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We went for a leisurely stroll through Colman Park a couple of weeks ago – I was disappointed to see that the p-patch was no longer planted with dahlias, but we did find a rogue tulip to admire.

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And so much lush, lush green!

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Juliette and I made a game of picking and blowing dandelion puffs – her first couple of tries resulted in a mouth full of fuzz, but now she’s got it down.

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We walked to the bakery last Thursday and stopped to fawn over these pink pom-poms near the library.

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And then headed over to Lake Washington Boulevard for a walk down the tree-lined sidewalk.

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And what’s even more exciting than flowers?  Springtime brings BASEBALL!  Juliette donned her cap for the Giants season opener and we let her stay up past her bedtime to catch the first couple of innings.

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We’re going to make a die-hard fan out of this kid.

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Each time I step outside, a few more blossoms have wilted and fallen.  That’s the downside to Spring – it’s so quickly fleeting, and try as I might to memorialize each flower, each angelic daisy-crowned grin with a photo, there’s no stopping the passage of time.  Before I know it, I’ll be waxing poetic about autumn’s golden leaves falling from the trees!  Then again, each day brings us closer to freshly picked berries and swimsuits and splash sessions in the lake.  And watermelon!  And warmth.

Consider me consoled.

It’s getaway season!  The Schnell clan hit the road again last Friday, loading up the car for a weekend on Whidbey Island with the gang.  It was raining cats and dogs when we pulled up to our waterfront rental – waves roared and crashed just 50 feet from the living room windows while Nico and Jules pounded on the sliding glass door and shouted “Wa-wa!  Wa-wa!”.  But just as I cranked up the heat and poured myself a hot cup of tea, the clouds parted and the sun shone – suddenly it was rock-throwing weather!

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Isaiah was particularly excited to dip his toes in the water.

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We wolfed down a couple of pizzas for dinner and then whisked all of the kiddos upstairs for bedtime.  La Verne and I caught an amazing sunset together while Jack and Shane got the little ones to sleep.  The sound of the smooth, polished rocks clicking against each other as the waves receded was the stuff of dreams.

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Juliette heard the ocean calling her name at 6:30 the next morning – Shane took her out on our bedroom’s deck to enjoy the dawn while I took my time crawling out from under the covers.

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We ate a leisurely breakfast while the kids colored, stacked Legos, and played trains.

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But the mid-morning stir-crazies inevitably set in, so we headed into Coupeville to check out the (tiny) farmer’s market and walk the pier.

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We went back to the house around lunchtime, where Nico and Jules each waged epic naptime battles against La Verne and me.  Once all was quiet upstairs, I poured myself a cup of coffee and went outside to happily recline in one of the porch’s Adirondacks.

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Shane used his “quiet time” to build a tide marker with the boys.  Thick as thieves, these three.

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And Jason went for a spin in the kayak that was propped against the side of the house.  I, on the other hand, sat some more.

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Juliette sensed there was fun being had without her and only slept an hour – she was eager to get out on the rocks with Gryff.

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Such mutual adoration!

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My Mother Goose moment:

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This sweet kid can’t resist jumping into a family photo (even if it’s not his family!).

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Jules and I sat on the rocks together for a solid thirty minutes, looking for birds and watching the boys play while we chatted and snuggled.  I forgive you for those pre-nap hysterics, baby.

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We eventually made our way to the porch for snacktime and happy hour.

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Juliette compared her grapes with Nico’s and ultimately decided his were more desirable, though they came from the same bag.  Figures.

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We drank champagne, munched on steamed mussels, and caught the day’s final rays before throwing the kids in the tub and tucking them into bed.

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Jack made his famous spaghetti alle vongole for dinner and then we stayed up late, drinking and talking and asking increasingly personal questions as the night wore on.  Felt good to really get real with these folks, without the distraction of kids under foot.  It had been too long.

Gryffin’s first comment when we all stumbled downstairs on Sunday morning was, “Oh.  Looks like you haven’t had time to brush Baby Jules’ hair!”  ‘Fraid not.

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Jason took Isaiah out for a spin on the kayak while Nance baked breakfast scones.  Shane put our favorite praise playlist on the speakers and as I sipped my coffee and looked out at the incredible view, I took a deep breath, filling my heart with the smells and sounds and sights of all God’s goodness.  I missed being part of our church’s Easter service, but in that moment, I was still so acutely aware that He Is Risen.

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“Hey kids!  Smile for the camera!”  Nailed it.

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Once the scones had been devoured and the eggs had been found and the cars had been loaded, it was time to hang up the ol’ kayak and say Sayonara to our beachfront abode.

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But first, one last hug!

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We drove through Skagit Valley tulip country on the way home and when we heard that the flowers were in full bloom, we decided to brave the crowds and take a peek.  Gryffin and Isaiah showed Jules the way.

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And ho-ly tulips, Batman!  It was gorgeous.

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I’m not sure where Juliette picked up the concept of flower-sniffing, but she couldn’t help herself.

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A final good-bye to our friends and we were back on the road.  It had been an atypical Easter Sunday, but no less joyous than any year past.  Thanks be to God.

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A few weeks ago at one of my Friday morning mama/baby play dates, we started talking about how fun it would be to all get away for a weekend together.  I know – two days in one house with fourteen adults and seven toddlers?  Could be fun.  Could also be complete mayhem…  But Adrienne found us some huge kid-friendly digs in Port Townsend and everyone else jumped at the idea, so Shane and I decided we were up for the adventure.

And while I’d hardly call the weekend relaxing, it was indeed full of laughter and play and lots good food.  As we all sat down for dinner on Friday, I was struck by how incredibly blessed I feel to be part of this crew.

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Once the kids were all tucked into bed that night, the grown-ups headed out for s’mores and stories at the backyard firepit, huddling together until the rain drove us inside.

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We were up bright and much too early on Saturday, but it was nice to look out at the early morning fog with a cup of coffee in hand.

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Once we’d all eaten and properly caffeinated, we drove over to Fort Warden State Park to hang out on the beach.  The kids contentedly played in the sand for nearly an hour – such focus!

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And when all that scooping lost its charm, there were rocks to be thrown.

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We went back to the house for lunch and a little pre-nap storytime with La Verne.

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And while the kiddos slept, we assembled three big pans of lasagna for dinner – cooking for 21 is no joke!

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When everyone was back up and at ’em, we herded the little ones out back for an Easter egg hunt.  On your marks, get set…

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Juliette made quick work of filling up her basket.

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And then emptying her basket, putting all of her eggs into N’s little bunny.  We were so proud of her for sharing!  Until she reached over and tried to yank N’s whole basket out of his hands.  I’m afraid her generosity only comes in quickly-fleeting bursts.

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Oh, Jules!

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Once the last egg had been found, we worked out the last of those afternoon wiggles in the house’s ball-filled garage…

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And the crazy upstairs playroom, which was piled with giant foam blocks.

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photo by Adrienne

The house was equipped for plenty of toys for the grown-ups, too!  Seriously, it was like an 8-bedroom amusement park.

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photo by Adrienne

We chowed down on our lasagna, did the bath-time/bed-time circus, and the house was quiet by 8 pm.  Amanda popped popcorn, the last few beers were pulled from the fridge, and we all sat down to cap off the day with a rousing game of True Colors.

Everyone slept soundly that night (a minor miracle!) and then we gathered in the kitchen for Sunday breakfast as our weekend in toddler town wound down.  Juliette and N pounded out a few tunes on the piano while Shane and I packed up our things.

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There were times when the house crazily rang with sounds of thuds and laughter and cries and squeals, and there were times when a kid or two went temporarily missing, but really, the weekend couldn’t have gone better.  We partied hard, pigged out, played and played and played.  No doubt, we’re a fun, wild bunch.

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