Archive for May, 2015

Happy 20 months (+9 days), Miss Jules!  The scoop:

Favorite developments this month mostly have to do with Juliette’s expanding vocabulary and the sweet (often nonsense) chatter tumbling out of her mouth.  She’s mastering longer words and phrases, like “opp-o-sus” (“octopus”, shouted enthusiastically when the octopus picture rolls around on the little nightlight projector she loves to play with); “besh you” (“bless you”, said to herself after she sneezes or coughs); and “mama-see” (said over and over and over, usually chanted and clapped like some sort of song, though I still for the life of me figure out what she means).  We’ve been working on colors and numbers, but right now everything is “BUE!” and attempts at counting usually begin and end with “twooooooo?”.  She loves rattling off the names of her classmates at daycare and is apparently quite smitten with her buddy Emmett.

The word of the month is “HI!”, said with much enthusiasm whenever she enters a room or rounds a corner or just wants to get your attention.  She says it to family and friends and to strangers walking down the street – I came across this video last night when I was doing some iPhone album cleanup and chuckled to myself.  Such a friendly kid…

We still love our weekly outings with our little buddies – we passed a rainy Friday morning at the aquarium and Juliette had a blast, darting from tide pool to jellyfish tank and back again.

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She’s a water-baby through and through, thrilled when the sun comes out and she’s allowed to ditch her pants for a romp in the lake.

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We spend a lot of Thursday mornings at Alki beach, throwing rocks and scooping sand, spreading out a picnic blanket on warm days and chomping on watermelon slices.

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Shane bought a bike trailer a couple of weeks ago and Juliette’s new favorite pastime is taking a spin around the ‘hood with dad.

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Even better when a buddy comes along for the ride!

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Bubbles, thankfully, have yet to lose their charm – we have passed many a long afternoon at our special bubble-blowing spot in the greenbelt.

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There have certainly been moments this month that have left me at my wits end, when Juliette has brazenly disobeyed me or swatted at me or reached her hand into her poopy diaper.  But there have been more moments in which I’ve been delighted at the ways I’ve seen her personality take shape and really shine through.  She’s so wonderfully exuberant, with her bounding gait and slightly devilish laugh.  She’s goofy and adventurous and affectionate.  She’s also chock full of surprises – I can’t wait to see what else this girl has up her sleeve…

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We boarded a plane bound for the great midwest a week ago and after the longest-ever four-hour flight, we landed in Minnesota for a happy reunion with the Schnell clan.  It was 10 pm when we rolled up to Shane’s parents’ house, so we tucked in a tuckered-out girl, did a little catchup with the family, and then fell into bed ourselves, exhausted but relieved to have made it through the journey with only minimal tears (alright, in truth, Jules cried a lot…but I only cried a little!).

After a Friday morning run into town to pick up a few essentials, we spent some time meeting the next door neighbors and Shane’s mom and dad’s new house.

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We went for a walk down the dirt road at the end of their driveway and Jules found a mud puddle she couldn’t resist.  I didn’t have any napkins or wipes on me, so Shane showed her how to wipe her hands on the grass.

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She thought this was a pretty great trick.

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Shane’s sister and nephew came by later that afternoon – Avery warmed up to his uncle the moment Shane offered to toss the football around with him.

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Shane’s dad thought Jules would love checking out his tractor, so we all walked down the road to his shop that evening.

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She was a little skeptical when we first put her in there…

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But then Denny fired that thing up and let her hold the steering wheel – she loves being in the drivers seat.

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She looked on a little enviously when it was Avery’s turn to take it for a spin.

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Our nieces and brother-in-law joined us that evening – felt so good to have the whole gang together!

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Shanay and Hayden were incredibly sweet to Juliette, doting on her, hugging her and reading to her and letting her play with their phones – this girl was in cousin heaven.

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We feasted on burgers and steaks hot off the grill for dinner and crashed hard that night, still a little weary from the previous day’s travel.

On Saturday morning we headed over to Hayden’s school to watch her softball tournament.  It was drizzly and a bit chilly that morning, but Juliette was happy to hang out in the rain and cheer on her cousin.  Getting to sit in the dugout was a major bonus.

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Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa that evening so that we could grab a drink with his sister and brother-in-law.  We did some quality catching up at Sixth Ave Wine and Ale and arrived back at the house just as the skies opened up and the rain started to POUR.

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And POUR.  I thought this was just a typical midwestern thunderstorm, until I heard the guys talking about a tornado watch – a funnel cloud had been spotted a half mile away.  Shane’s mom started pulling out blankets and pillows and piling them in their utility room, in case we needed to take refuge.  Jules looks awfully nervous, doesn’t she?

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We made it through the storm unscathed, but wowsers!  What a night!

We spent Sunday morning at church, celebrating Shanay’s confirmation – she was radiant.  She’s become such a mature, beautiful, kind young woman.

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Juliette sat through the service quietly and contentedly, happy to hop from my lap to Aunt Tiff’s to Grandma’s to Grandpa’s.

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We ate lunch at the church and then took advantage of the sunshine to romp outdoors before naptime.

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Juliette loved the freedom of the wide open spaces – we spend a lot of time outside in Seattle, but this may have been her first opportunity to dance in the middle of the street.

And those horses!  She couldn’t get enough.

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Shane’s mom and I spent the afternoon rearranging furniture in the living room – it was fun for me to help them settle into their new place (they moved in just a few hours before we arrived on Thursday!).  The skies turned gray and we weathered another storm, but it passed quickly.  Those colors, though!  Gorgeous.

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We had an appointment for a family photo shoot at 6:00, but first, the obligatory stop at Big Ole, the town’s pride and joy (see Jules down there, by his foot?).

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We went back to the house after our photo session for pizza and ice cream – I came to love those big family dinners, gathering around the kitchen island while eating and drinking.  Our dining room table has felt especially quiet these past couple days!

Monday was cold – temps had been in the 70’s on Sunday, but had dropped to the 30’s overnight.  We did a little shopping with Shane’s mom that morning and then I told Juliette we’d make good on our promise to take her to a lake to throw rocks.  We hopped out of the car at lake L’Homme Dieu, felt the biting wind and saw the whitecaps on the water and then called it.  We tried.

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We spent the evening at Tiff’s house – Juliette was quite taken with Pinto Bean, their rambunctious shih tzu.

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We let Juliette stay up past her bedtime to eat watermelon with Grandma and Grandpa.  My heart was fit to burst, watching these two love our daughter so openly and generously throughout our stay.

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And then one last story…

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We said our good-byes early Tuesday morning and hit the road to Minneapolis.  The flight back to Seattle was smooth and completely tear-free, so we have lifted Juliette’s previously-imposed travel ban.  It felt good to walk through our front door Tuesday afternoon and settle back into home, but man, those Schnells.  They’re a fun, incredibly kind bunch.  I miss them.

Let’s hear it for the mamas!  And for Shane, who got up with Jules and let me stay in bed as long as I wanted to yesterday morning.  And then gifted me with a fancy new blender (just in time for smoothie season!).  And then fetched me a strawberry danish from the bakery.  And then planned a perfect family outing.  I was just going to ask for a couple of free hours to run some errands, but sheesh, that guy goes big.

We set out for Rattlesnake Ridge after we had breakfasted and dressed – we thought we’d give the trails a go with the stroller and embark on a short family hike.  We didn’t make it far as the terrain got rugged pretty quickly, but we found this gorgeous little path off the main trail where we could let Juliette run around and look for caterpillars.

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Seriously, that girl was digging those caterpillars!

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Once we had terrorized enough insects, we walked down to the lake to spread out a blanket, throw rocks, and blow bubbles.  Juliette ran to the water’s edge and back, returning to me to stuff a couple of crackers in her mouth and gulp down some water before setting off again.  I stretched out in the sun, basking in the opportunity to just be still, which happens so rarely these days.

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And when the water lost its appeal, Shane was on bubbles duty!

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I eventually took a turn, because, well, I actually love having her nestled into my lap…

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We hit the road around noon, worried we were cutting it a little close to naptime, but Juliette spent the whole ride home happily chattering in the backseat.  She must have gotten the Mother’s Day memo!

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We all snoozed in the afternoon and then puttered around the house before heading over to Jack and La Verne’s for a pizza feast with the gang.  Jack enjoyed some quality time with G…

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And then put him and Isaiah to work, offering to pay them each a quarter for each bucket of weeds they filled!  I’m not sure this constituted a fair wage, and judging from Jack’s face, I think he knew he was making out like a bandit.

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Jules stood by and watched, pigtails askew, face sticky with watermelon juice, and belly threatening to burst out of her tank top.  It’s her “summer look”.

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And goodness, she was feeling the love for Nico that night, reaching out to give him a squeeze whenever he got within grabbing range.  Usually he stands stock-still and looks a little startled when Jules comes at him with one of her bear hugs, but on this particular evening he actually reciprocated!

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Or is he pushing her away?  I can’t tell…

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Hugs aside (or included?), these two have so much fun together.

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And speaking of fun, Shane and Jason busted into Jack’s liquor cabinet while Jack supervised all four children on the other side of the yard.  Shameless!

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I’ve learned so much about being a mom from these two ladies, felt so supported in the midst of craziness or fatigue, so inspired by the ways they love their kids.

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There was a rousing game of “toss the boys”…

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And then, finally, we were all tuckered out.  I had a hard time prying Juliette out of Jack’s arms, as she looked ready to fall asleep on his chest.

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We washed the dirt from between Juliette’s toes and then she crashed in my arms after only a couple of rounds of the sunshine song.  She’d played hard.

When we’re in the depths of toddler tantrums or early wake-ups or seemingly endless whiny requests for Elmo, I try to remember the good times, to call upon memories of joy and laughter and sweetness.  So I’m tucking yesterday away for a rainy day – the motherhood-scale is feeling very much tipped in my favor at the moment.

Since our last visit to Portland at Christmas, Elise has turned 7, Morgan has traded in her training wheels for a big-girl bike, and Jules has officially left baby-hood behind and become a full-fledged toddler.  Time flies.  Thankfully, no matter how much has changed, it seems these kids pick up right where they last left off.  When we rolled into town on Friday afternoon, it took all of three minutes for the girls to start playing and laughing and carrying on together.

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I was a little skeptical on Friday evening as to whether or not all three of them would still fit in the bathtub together, but Elise and Morgan were willing to fold up their legs and give it a try!  Jules was thrilled.

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We got a slow start on Saturday morning, letting the girls run around the house until Juliette started doing her “outside?” chant.

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We headed down the street to the neighborhood playground, where I watched Juliette go down the slide that Morgan and Elise have traversed hundreds of times.  I’ve been snapping photos from this very same spot for years now!

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The playground has apparently lost its charm with the big kids, though – they’ve moved on to new adventures.

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After getting our wiggles out, Shane, Jules and I drove over to the Pearl District for an REI run and a stop at Barista for a perfect latte.

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And then we popped over to Portsmouth Park to watch Elise play soccer.  That girl’s got hustle.  And wow, she looks old here, huh?

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When Morgan and Juliette tired of sitting on the sidelines, they kept each other company on the playground.

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We napped for awhile in the afternoon and then soaked up some rays in the backyard before heading out once again, for a picnic dinner at Cathedral Park under the St. Johns bridge.

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We ate chicken wings and blew dandelion puffs and bubbles and ran races and stretched out on the grass in the late evening sun.  I’m so thankful for family.  And 70-degree weather!

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After waiting for nearly an hour for a train to pass and let us out of the parking lot (patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue), we jetted home to get the kids to bed, crack open a bottle of port, and do some distraction-free catching up with Mitch and Kathryn.

We found ourselves at the neighborhood playground again on Sunday morning, so that the girls could ride their bikes.  Or so that the boys could ride their bikes?

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We packed up our things and set out for the beach later that morning.  First, though, I wanted to snap a photo of the Jarrell clan in front of their house – they’re moving to the other side of Portland later this month, and while I’m super-excited for them to settle into their sweet new digs, I’ll miss this place!  We have a lot of memories here.

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No time for nostalgia, though, when you’ve got kids rearing to get to the beach.  Onward!

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As per usual, the sand and water seemed to imbue Juliette with an extra dose of already-plentiful energy.  The running!

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We said our goodbyes around lunchtime with hugs all around.  Morgan got an extra-long embrace from Jules – those two had been thick as thieves all weekend.

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No more of this more-than-4-months-between-visits business – see you in July, Jarrells!