Archive for December, 2015

We’ve been to Portland, we’ve opened gifts, Juliette has mastered the first two verses of Away in a Manger, and now I’m making my peace with the fact that it’s time to take down our increasingly droopy Christmas tree and call it a wrap.  But Christmastime 2015 sure was good while it lasted…

We headed down to Portland on Christmas Eve with a trunk full of gifts and baked goodies.  Juliette was a champ in the car – I didn’t have to resort to pulling out the candy canes until we were just a few miles from the Oregon border.

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We spent the afternoon lounging around the house, snacking and doing puzzles and testing the waters of Mitch and Kathryn’s new hot tub.

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All three girls were completely mesmerized when we turned on The Polar Express after dinner.  I told Juliette to sit back and relax, but the excitement was just too much!

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Christmas morning was a gift-opening bonanza, as the kids tore into present after present.

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And then…that magic blanket of quiet that falls over the house as the kids play with their new toys and the grown-ups pour themselves another round of coffee.

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Interrupted only by a brief-but-hilarious puppet show, courtesy of Auntie Kathryn.

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By late morning we were all ready for some fresh air, so we donned our hats and jackets and headed outdoors for a few laps around the front yard and a trip to the park.

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Juliette falls a little more in love with Elise with each visit.  “Elise, sit by me?  Elise, hold my hand?  Where Elise go?  Eliiiiiiise?”

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I made sure Morgan knew that if she ever felt the least bit left out, I was ready and willing to hug it out!

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Mitch pulled off a killer Christmas meal, complete with country ham and smoked brisket and roasted veggies.  There was much to toast to at dinner that night.

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We spent Saturday morning at Westmoreland Park, braving the cold for the sake of letting the kids get their wiggles out.

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This is my dad doing his best Mary Tyler Moore.  Nailed it.

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The afternoon was quiet – naps and Magna Tiles and books.

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And then Jules woke up!

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Shane and I decided to beat the Sunday traffic and hit the road back to Seattle Saturday night, hopeful that Juliette would snooze in the car.  And what better way to tucker out a toddler pre-drive than a living room dance party?!

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Things got crazy.

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My brother is the best.

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We said our farewells and tucked Juliette into her car seat for the long ride home.  I felt those first twinges of the post-Christmas blues while we were on the road – sad that the anticipation was over, disappointed that Shane and my poor mom had been laid up with colds for much of our time in Portland, a little nostalgic for years gone by as I reminisced about Christmases past when Elise and then Morgan and then Juliette were wee little babies.  Gosh, how time flies.

I didn’t wallow for long, though – Sunday was a perfect, cozy day at home and I reveled in seeing Juliette enjoy her gifts (those Magna Tiles are money!) and then tidying up, doing an end-of-the-year closet purge so that we start 2016 off on an organized note.

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And it turned out there was still merriment to be had!  We took Juliette to see the lights at Gene Coulon last night to put one last check mark on our list of holiday traditions.

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It was a crisp, clear gorgeous night.

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Blues, shmoos – this kid has been all joy this past week.

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And with that, I think I’m ready for the New Year.  Praise be to God for a blessed Christmas season.

It’s been a jolly month, packed with all of our favorite traditions.  We’ve spent lots of time with the gang, eating and drinking and shopping/sledding (more on that later),  and the house feels extra-cozy, lit by the sparkle of our Christmas tree.

Gosh, I love a good tree.  And ten years of trekking out to Mountain Creek Tree Farm has made us experts in the art of tree-choosing.  I wanted to bring Juliette fully on board with the excitement of the tree hunt and spent the whole drive out to North Bend pumping her up. “We’re going to find the perfect Christmas tree!!!  This will be so fun!  Christ-mas tree!  Christ-mas tree!  Christ-mas tree!”  I was bound and determined, she would love it.

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But after wandering among the pines for 45 seconds, I could see she was unimpressed.  She looked up at me and whined, “Where’s my Christmas treat, mamaaaaa?”

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Thank goodness for that rogue Halloween lollipop I found buried at the bottom of my purse!

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Once sugared up, Juliette was ready to get in on the game of choosing a tree.  The whole concept of appropriate sizing was lost on her, though…

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Finally, we spotted it!  A perfect Fraser Fir.  Tall but not too tall, full but not too full – a few hacks and it was ours!

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A tree that good deserves an apple cider cheers.

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Juliette helped me trim the tree that night – I gave her a little felted penguin as this year’s ornament and she proudly hung it up.  Then took it down.  She’s been carrying it around with her ever since, sleeping with it in her crib every night.  Next year I’ll give her something a little less cuddly.

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One of the most cherished things on my December calendar is my annual weekend getaway with Nance and La Verne.  We had such a great time at Cedarbrook Lodge last year that we decided to book a room there again for a night of eating/lounging/livin’ la vida kid-free.  But first, shopping!  We spent the afternoon at the Auburn Supermall, starting with a leisurely perusal through J Crew and Loft and Old Navy, and ending with a mad tear through Gap and Banana Republic for a few last purchases before heading to the hotel for check-in.

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We did good.

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We spent the evening soaking in the hot tub and then stuffing ourselves at the hotel restaurant.  I woke up on Sunday morning relaxed, refreshed, and a little surprised to see that I’d slept until 9 am!  That hasn’t happened in…27 months!

It’s hard for me to put into words how much these ladies mean to me.  Seriously, it’s hard – when La Verne started to express her gratitude for our friendship over breakfast, I got all choked up and misty-eyed.  Suffice to say, I love them like sisters.

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As we lingered over our morning coffee, I wondered how Shane and Jules were faring.  Answer:  GREAT.  He and Jason had taken the kids up to the mountains for some snow-packed adventures, and Juliette was lovin’ that freshy-freshy-pow-pow.

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The whole weekend had gone off without a hitch – so well, in fact, that we’re already talking about next year!  Up to the ante to two nights away, maybe?

Finally, FONDUE.  December just wouldn’t feel right without gathering the whole gang together around pots of melted cheese.  First, though, some appetite-building at the Seward Park Pre-Fondue 5K.  Nailed it.

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And a quick run up to the mountains for some sledding and snow-gazing.  Shane has become quite the snow-bird this month and has taken an intense interest in mountains and cross-country skiing (I think it’s the new all-wheel drive car).  Jules and I wanted in on the fun, so we tossed our new sled and all our warmest clothes into the trunk and headed east!  We ended up at the Hyak Snow Park, impressed by their monster sledding hill.

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Juliette had a blast, tearing down the hill with Shane.  I decided to give it a go – Juliette nestled into my lap and we were off!

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And it was super fun, until the sled started to tip a bit and I had to put my boot out to level us – the ensuing snow-spray was pretty unpleasant.  I’m afraid Juliette’s laughter quickly turned to tears.

So we took a snack break in a snow bank while Shane headed out for a short run on his skis.

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(Meet Subaru Shane!)

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We cajoled Juliette into one last run down the hill and left on a high note.

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We warmed ourselves that evening at Jack and La Verne’s house, feasting on cheese-dipped bread and veggies, then chocolate-dipped marshmallows and fruit.  The White Elephant gift exchange is a critical part of the evening program, and people really stepped up their game this year.

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Baby A was surprised to find that the amber liquid in that cute little bottle tasted nothing like apple juice (kidding, it’s not open!).

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“What…is this?” was muttered throughout the evening.

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There was much, much cheering when Jason opened the one remaining gift to find…a goldfish!

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Christmas came early this year, huh, Gryff?

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We wrapped up the night with our active rendition of the The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Everyone had a different part to mime, and wow, by my fifth round of playing the swan-a-swimming, I was out of breath!

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Things wound down after that as people rushed their little ones home to bed.  Ok, clearly, these big kids are not winding down.  I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here – are they trying pull that poor boy’s limbs off?

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Jules and Nico snuck in one last duet before we said our good-byes.

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We capped off our merry weekend with our annual “family dinner” with the Rusts and the Chens on Sunday evening.  Jack popped open the best bottle of champagne I’ve ever tasted, Nance whipped up her special soup and homemade biscuits, we exchanged gifts and kicked back, savoring all the joy in that house.

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Happy holidays, friends.

I missed last month’s update, but that’s ok - the changes in Juliette are coming a little slower these days and I dare say we’ve settled into a pretty good rhythm with easy daycare drop-offs and fuss-free bedtimes.  Two isn’t so terrible after all!  Ok, admittedly, she is prone mood swings and has perfected an Oscar-worthy pout…

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But she’s also silly and fun, easily moved to contagious bouts of laughter when I turn around from the front seat and make funny faces.

She’s such a proficient little talker now that I’m able to make out about 85% of what she says.  That last of bit botched vocabulary is pretty great, hearing her exclaim “turkey-pie!” when we get to the porcupine page of her animals book or say “I don’t how to know, Mama!” when she doesn’t know how to do something.  She’s constantly requesting her “co-co-dot” pj’s at bedtime, and when I remind her that it’s “puh-puh-POLKA-dots”, she replies confidently with “puh-puh-CO-CO-dots!”.  There was frustration felt on both sides when she pinched her finger last week and spent 10 minutes asking for a “bon-dod”, but when she pulled the sticker off my new pair of socks and put it on her finger, I finally understood she really wanted a band-aid.

Favorite pastimes these days are smearing chapstick all over her face while I get ready in the morning, handing me one article of clothing at a time from the laundry basket as I load the washer, and cooking or doing dishes – whenever I’m in the kitchen, she pulls over a chair from the dining room to climb up and “help”.  She’s my right-hand gal, for better or for worse.

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(Mostly for better.)

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But as much as she loves mama-time, Fridays with buddies can’t be beat.  We’ve been resourceful these past few wet weeks, hitting play gyms at Rainier Beach and West Seattle and Bellevue.  I try not to think about the proliferation of germs in these ball pits and plastic slides, because I figure those grins are worth a case of the sniffles!

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And when there’s a break in the rain, out we go!  Fifteen minutes of climbing around in the greenbelt near our house does us both a world of good when we’re feeling cooped up and cranky.

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When she’s not plastering the backseat with stickers or pleading for a snack, she’s singing, and singing, and singing.

Little did I know, her repeated rendition of “Welcome, Welcome” was in preparation for her school’s winter program!  She got up on stage with her classmates a couple of weeks ago and sang her little heart out, making her way through four whole songs.  I was so proud of her.  And a little bit heartbroken – this was the first time I was strictly a spectator, watching from a distance while she sang songs I hadn’t taught her with teachers and kids I honestly hardly know…  I’ve become used to her sticking extra-close to my side when we’re together and suddenly she looked so independent up there.  My big girl!

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Melancholy aside, the whole thing was pretty stinkin’ adorable.

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Happy 27 months, you big goof-ball.  You’re a little older, a little wiser, but no less fun!

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December came fast this year, on the heels of a particularly busy November.  Last month started with Shane recovering from a nasty bike accident (he’s ok now, but dang it if that didn’t scare the bejeezus out of me!); and then we bought a new car, which was exciting but also laden with that feeling of anxiety that naturally comes with any five-figure purchase; and then we decided to move forward with finally hiring someone to tear out our filthy downstairs carpet and lay new tile, which spiraled into a whole painting/plumbing/cleaning frenzy, complete with about 14 trips to Home Depot; and Shane’s job has kicked into overdrive, and Juliette’s been, well, two, and time’s flying by at warp speed.

So I panicked for a moment when I sat in church last Sunday and realized that Advent had already started (in November, no less!), as I hadn’t yet given the season much thought, other than a vague resolution to make it incredibly meaningful.  Whoops.  My mind raced as I wrestled with what I thought Advent 2015 should look like.  I felt called to grieve deeply and intentionally for the tragedy and violence that seems to be engulfing our world, while also keeping my eyes fixed on the hope of God’s promise.  I was struck that this is the year that Juliette needs to come to a true understanding of the meaning of Christmas (she knows the words “baby” and “donkey” and “star”, so she must be ready, right?!).  And of course, we needed to exemplify the utmost selflessness and generosity and warmth.  The pressure was on!

But after browsing Pinterest for “toddler advent activities” and determining that Jules and I wouldn’t be making our own nativity scene from popsicle sticks and quilting squares, and feeling completely overwhelmed by the challenge of finding a rhythm of meditation that adequately acknowledges the dark of the world and the light of God, I settled on keeping it simple.  We’re reading the Christmas story to Juliette every night and have added Away In A Manger to our rotation of bedtime lullabies.  I’ve opened up my dusty prayer journal and am spending a few minutes by the light of the tree each evening, putting words to both my grief and my gratitude.

We’re also pointing wildly and shouting “CHRISTMAS LIIIIIIIIGHTS!” every time we pass a decked-out house, reveling in Juliette’s unabated excitement over the gaudiest of displays.  We’re listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas during marathon Lego sessions.  I’m queuing up my holiday movie watchlist and digging my knitting needles out of the closet.  We’re stocking our fridge with eggnog (and our liquor cabinet with brandy).  We’re taking a breath, entering this season of anticipation with a quiet joy.

Advent, I’m so glad you’re here.

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