Archive for October, 2020

A few snaps from life in August and September, before we get on with the business of October…

While summer in Seattle typically feels far too fleeting, there were times over the past couple of months when it seemed unbearably long.  What to do with a social six year-old all day when Mom and Dad have to work?  Set her up with a pile of puzzles, a set of headphones, and an iPad full of podcasts, apparently!  This kept Juliette occupied for hours, days on end.  I know – stunned me, too.

Over 20 puzzles totaling over 8,000 pieces…signed, sealed, delivered.

I knew we were bordering on mania when Juliette decided one day that she wanted to try doing a puzzle with the pieces upside-down, “for a bigger challenge”.  It was then that I suggested that she take a break.

Thankfully, THANKFULLY, our neighborhood is full of playmates that have proven to be a good counter-point to this season’s dramatic increase in alone time.  Our small bubble of West Seattle buddies has been such a blessing. As has the neighbors’ pool.

There were times when summer felt almost “normal”, like when the ice cream truck rolled by and kids up and down the street joyfully emerged from their houses, parents trailing behind them with pockets full of dollar bills.

There was football, there was baseball, there was frisbee and ladder ball and water balloons and so, so many backyard snack sessions.

And most recently, jump roping.  Juliette’s record currently sits at 47 jumps in a row.  We found that the hat and cowgirl boots are actually not ideal jumping accessories (surprise), but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.

And sometimes the heart wants to wear the jump rope like a harness all afternoon.  You do you, Jules.

We shared several backyard meals with the neighbors across the street from us in either direction.  These folks have been our pandemic sanity-savers.

Our neighbor Yuiry found a pile of old fireworks in his garage and the kids were ecstatic to see that the sparklers still had some sparkle in them.

The pandemic seems to have brought on puppy-fever for several of our friends and neighbors, and these pics of Juliette with the Chens’ newest family member are too sweet not to share.

That ear!

Most notably, in what was surely the most anti-climatic first day of school ever, this girl started first grade!  Even though she wasn’t going any farther than our living room, I still made her pose on the front porch with her backpack.  Shoes optional.

Juliette was thrilled to find that her buddy M from across the street is in her class again this year.

And then, with a couple of clicks and zero hugs good-bye from Mom and Dad, class was in session.  The first few days were pretty rough – teachers constantly reminding kids to mute themselves, mass confusion over which Teams link to click for which activity, kids raising their virtual hands every 30 seconds to report that they can’t see the picture the teacher is sharing or they have to go the bathroom or “Do you know my cousin speaks Spanish?”  Juliette’s teacher is incredibly gracious and patient (though with a firmer hand week by week), but GAH!  I could hardly bear to listen.

Pretty quickly though, it seems that kids have fallen into line and Juliette is really rocking at-home school.  She certainly needs some oversight and encouragement, but she loves her online time with her teacher and is usually motivated to finish her independent work.  Plus, I super-duper love having an office buddy.

(Ok, full disclosure – she was my office buddy for about a week, and now she sits downstairs next to Shane’s desk, because my frequent conference calls were killing her concentration vibe.  But I still get visits and hugs on the hour!)

And now it suddenly seems we have gone from this…

To this:

Waterfront sunsets in tank tops and shorts are a thing of the past.  We get hot chocolate instead of ice cream when we want to go out for a treat.  Summer is Done with capital “D” and our family is working to strike that Fall balance of structure and fancy-free.  I think we’re still a little light on structure – Shane wears pajama pants 24 hours a day and I’m often handing Juliette her breakfast three minutes before her first class starts.  But if ever there were a year for me to give myself a little grace, 2020 is it.  Maybe we’ll find our Fall groove by winter.  Spring at the latest.

Birthdays in the time of COVID can be hard.  Especially for a kid like Juliette, who loves all the people and all the fanfare and all the hugs.  But when I gently told her that her party would need to look a little different this year, that we couldn’t invite her whole class to the bowling alley, she got it.  I asked her what she wanted to do instead and she said, “Maybe have a Zoom call with some of my friends?”  Ah, you sweet, exceedingly adaptable girl!  Mom and Dad can do better than that.

Juliette has been asking to ride a horse since we watched a couple of women unload their golden Palominos from a trailer at an Oregon parking lot a couple of months ago.  I wasn’t sure she’d meet the height limit at any nearby horse camps, but Shane reached out to a coworker that lives on a farm about an hour outside the city and asked if Juliette could take a spin on their pony.  Dad of the year!  We boarded the Southworth ferry on a Saturday afternoon, using the boat time to do some studying (on the encyclopedia of Zelda – these two are obsessed again).

The smoke was THICK that weekend from the Oregon wildfires, so my time on the ferry deck was short.  Gotta save our lungs for that pony ride…

We arrived at the farm and met the chickens and said hello to the assorted cats and dogs bounding around us, and then it was time to get this girl up on her pony!

(Which turned out to be really more horse than pony.)

Juliette did a few blissful loops on Rufus B. Ponypants (100% his real name) and then gleefully fed him peppermints right out of the palm of her hand.  I think most kids like animals, but lately Juliette’s love for all things four-legged runs deeper than ever.

We fed blackberries to the chickens…

And then hung out with Mickey and Minnie, the resident cats, before doing some serious trampolining in the front yard.  It was a mellow evening, but felt so wonderfully out-of-the-ordinary after six months worth of Groundhog Days.  Serious thanks to Shane’s manager and his wife for hosting us – they made this kid’s day.

I stayed up late on Saturday night decking the halls for a Sunday surprise and loved seeing Juliette’s face when she sleepily stepped out into the living room.

It was a chill-but-perfect morning at home.  Teddy bear pancakes, hot chocolate…

And PRESENTS!

Against our better judgment, Juliette’s big gift this year was a….

…skateboard!  With knee pads.  And a helmet.  And wrist guards.

Post-presents, we snuggled up on the couch and I felt over-the-moon grateful that Juliette still fits on my lap.

SEVEN!

We eventually rallied and headed outside to take the birthday girl’s new wheels for a spin.

She’s quite good, actually!

I…am not.

And then a lazy afternoon of games and a movie.

Juliette donned her twirley new birthday dress in the evening and stood by the window like an eager puppy while we waited for our crew to arrive for pizza and cupcakes.

They’re here!

We kept it small this year – just our chosen family – but there was still plenty of love to go around.

Wish big, kiddo.

And suddenly she looks…twelve?

Our friends left at sunset and then the beloved neighbor kids came over with a clue that took Juliette on a scavenger hunt for her present from them, ending in a wrapped box of Legos behind our grill.  I was feeling a little angsty about the absence of a big party this year, but our people showed up big for our girl.

Monday was Juliette’s actual birthday, but with school and work and the previous day’s multiple celebrations, we kept it low-key.  Just a few front porch pics and burritos for dinner (Juliette’s dinner of choice).

I left the decorations up for the rest of the week, which meant we could spend our lunchtimes playing balloon volleyball while rocking out to Billie Eilish.

Sweet Jesus, this girl…  She’s such a light in what have been some dark times for our family and our city and our country and our world.  She is the perfect amount of seven-year-old silly, but is kind and caring well beyond her years.  I had to go a meeting a couple of weeks ago that I was dreading, and when I came home and pulled into the garage, Juliette was waiting at the car door before I even opened it.  “How did it go, Mama?” she asked with the utmost concern.  I told her it was fine, better than expected, actually.  She responded with genuine relief, sighing “Oh, I’m so glad!” as she wrapped her arms around me.

How’d we get so lucky?

HAPPY!

SEVENTH!

JULES!

Love, Mama.

I meant to do a full photo tour of our house when we moved in here two and a half years ago, but I started slapping on fresh coats of white paint the same day we got our keys and then I felt like I missed the boat on capturing the true “before” state of things.  I decided I’d wait until we were done with our refresh and then just do final pictures – finish one room a month, nine(ish) rooms in the house, take a short break for the holidays and we’d be kicking back in our well-styled crib by Spring 2019!  Oh, Kel.  Silly Kel.  Two years later it felt like we still hadn’t really finished anything.  When we started spending all day, every day at home in March I resolved to give our house some love and get some shit DONE.

Pandemic Project 1:  Finish the dining room.  Let me take you back to the pre-purchase staged version (from our listing photos).  That chandelier was…fancy, but hardly the mid-century vibe we were going for.

We made good progress on this room when we first moved in with new lighting and new windows and new furniture, but the main white wall was a blank canvas begging for artwork or wallpaper or some kind of focal point.  After not finding anything on the inter-webs that sang to me, I decided to channel my inner DIY-ist with a Sharpie paint pen and a lotta foliage photos for inspiration.  Here she is…  Finito!

I naively thought I could just free-hand this thing right on the wall, but oh, Kel.  Silly Kel.  My first take was not so good, so I slapped another coat of white paint on the wall and spent a couple of weekends mapping out a full-size mockup of the pattern I wanted on trace paper, getting my leaves and overlaps just so.

I then traced the final linework on the back-side of the paper with thick pencil, taped the pattern to the wall, and transferred the pencil marks with a good rub.  Then the satisfying work of tracing those lines with a rich, black Sharpie.

So fun, you guys!  Seriously, I love a long, tedious task like this.

It was hard to know when exactly I should be done, but finally the wall felt sufficiently un-blank and I was able to call it a day.

In hindsight I wonder if I should have opted to draw magnolia branches and rhododendron leaves to carry in the patterns from our backyard, but nope.  NOPE.  The Monstera leaves are perfect.  This room is complete and I’ve got a big blank picture frame hanging over our mantle that’s calling my name.  Onward.