Archive for January, 2022

I know in this era of self-grace and simplification (both good things) resolutions are becoming less popular, but I’m still a sucker for the practice of January goal-setting – it brings a sort of purpose and hopefulness to what is otherwise a pretty dreary month. Here’s my 2022 look-ahead (and for the record, I think I’ve gone pretty easy on myself).

Drink tea before coffee.  I’m relishing my morning cup(s) of coffee more than ever as Isaac’s wee-hours wake-ups leave me extra sleepy at the start of the day, but my body doesn’t feel great when my a.m. hydration begins with coffee.  Cue healthy habit: a cup of green tea before a cup of coffee.  Get those antioxidants.  Ease into the caffeine kick.  And then savor that java!

Do three minutes of plank every day.  I’ve settled on walking as my preferred form of exercise, but my post-partum core could use a little extra focus.  I can’t (won’t!) commit to a big chunk of time to strength-train every day, but I can carve out just a few minutes to focus on my most-neglected muscles.  Three minutes doesn’t sound like much, but I did the math and if I keep it up, I’ll finish the year having done over 18 hours of planking!  That’s something.

Establish a simple weekly meal rotation to minimize planning / shopping / cooking effort.  As the end of my maternity leave and a return to the work-life balancing act looms on the horizon, I’m looking for ways to trim the fat from my weekly to-do’s so that I can spend more time enjoying the kids on evenings and weekends.  Meal planning and prep has always been one of my least-favorite time-takers, so I’m working on a handful of weekly menus that we can just put on repeat over and over.  I’ve got the framework nailed down (egg night, chicken night, etc) and am populating each category with 3-4 easy recipes.  So far, so good, though my favorite night of the week is still Friday – takeout night!

Limit time on Instagram to 20 min/day.  I’m still spending hours each day nursing and rocking Isaac, which gives me ample opportunities to get swept into the Instagram vortex.  There were times toward the end of last year when I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, somehow landing in Reese Witherspoon’s feed at 2am, or watching endless reels of monkeys feeding their little chimp babies – I could feel my mind atrophying.  So I purged my “follow” list at the beginning of the year and set a timer on the app – my phone locks me out of Instagram after 20 minutes of use each day.  I’m doing more reading, more journaling in my notes app, more crosswords. I’m already much happier for it.

Read at least two books with Shane and at least two books with Juliette.  I always set some sort of reading goal and decided this year to take a pass at combining reading with a new avenue for family connection.  We don’t necessarily have to read the books out loud to each other, but we’ll read them in parallel so that we can dish in the evenings on the characters.  Juliette’s calling it our “Mama-Jules Book Club” – we’re digging into Matilda this week.  Shane and I have both loaded A Gentleman in Moscow onto our Kindles and are looking forward to carving out some time to read/drink wine/discuss together.

Figure out what church and/or spiritual community looks like for us in 2022.  It’s hard to believe that we haven’t set foot in our church in nearly two years now. We consistently streamed the online services at the start of the pandemic, eager to stay connected as our physical interactions with just about everyone fell by the wayside, but at some point we stopped marking Sunday mornings for church.  We’d flip on the service if convenient, but if we wanted to get out for a walk or if Isaac needed a nap or if we were in the thick of our pancake breakfast, we just…let it slide.  Our church building is open again, but with Omicron and the baby and the extended commute due to the bridge closure, we haven’t been back.  And we’ve kind of fallen in love with our slow and easy Sunday mornings.  But I do miss singing in the company of others; I miss dropping off Juliette at Sunday school and then admiring whatever craft she’d cooked up under the guidance of her exceedingly kind teachers.  I miss the sacred rituals and the casual connections.  We’ve got some figuring out to do.

Now, ready, set, PLANK!

The annual roundup!  This is one of my favorite posts to put together – even in the years that didn’t go as planned, the years where I didn’t get through my to-do list or take that trip I hoped for, reflection brings so many reasons to feel accomplished and to be thankful.  2021 was no different.  Some lows, but a lot of highs.  Okay, and one BIG high (hi, Buddy!).  


Favorite book:

I finished 23 books, one shy of my goal, but I’m going to let that slide because I was able to check off quite a few books that have been on my reading list for 8+ years.

Favorite book in the memoir category, and favorite book above all, was One Long River of Song by Brian Doyle.  I literally clutched this book to my chest several times while reading and took a deep breath, as if it would allow me to more fully soak in Doyle’s words about family and nature and love.  What a gift.

Favorite non-fiction was The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, because it opened my eyes to the lasting significance of the Great Migration, which I’ll admit I knew nothing about a year ago.

I was a little light on fiction last year, but loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith for superb character / setting development – by the end of the book, I felt like I knew the Nolan family through and through.


Favorite TV show:

Top honors to Insecure.  I watched all five seasons over the past few months (three cheers for marathon breastfeeding sessions!) and gosh, why’d I wait so long to get on the Issa train?!  I loved watching her change and grow over the course of the show, loved bearing witness to her deep-though-tumultuous friendship with Molly.  And the Lawrence saga…I ate it up.

Mare of Easttown deserves a mention as well because…sheesh!  The suspense!  The acting!  Kate Winslet’s Pennsylvania accent!  My palms haven’t sweated like that since Breaking Bad.


Favorite movie:

Whenever Shane asks me if I want to watch a show or a movie, I always choose show because I like more bite-sized chunks of TV, but King Richard was worth the two-hour commitment.  Will Smith is stunning and those Williams sisters (in real life)…total bad-asses.

Honorable mention to Father of the Bride, even though it’s 30 years old, because I had so much fun watching it with Juliette on one of our lazy Saturday mornings together.  It’s good to have another rom-com lover in the house!


Favorite podcast:

Bah!  I almost skipped this category because I did so little listening last year (still mourning the Reply All scandal), but in scrolling my queue I see that I stayed pretty current on HBR’s After Hours.  Though Felix, Mihir, and Youngme operate on a completely different academic wavelength than I do, they’re still approachable and their take on current events feels less sinister than the reporting I get from The Daily.


Favorite song:

I was determined not to give this category to Taylor Swift again, but dang it!  Her re-release of the Red album, and her 10-minute version of All Too Well in particular, blew our damn minds.   The short film, the SNL performance, the saga of the missing scarf, we devoured it all.  Over and over.


Favorite purchase:

I’m going to go big on this one and shout out to our new kitchen.  I’ll give more details and the full before-and-after in another post, but I can definitively say that it’s all I hoped it would be.  The opening up of the kitchen to the living room in particular has been a game changer – it’s so nice to be able to chat with Shane or Juliette if they’re in the living room and I’m cooking or doing dishes.  The peninsula gets tons of use – Juliette does puzzles or art projects there, it’s our snack buffet if we have guests, and I do most of my meal prep there.  Now if only I could keep it clean…


Favorite personal pastime:

I was a little short on recreational me-time last year, as pregnancy, a remodel, and then newborn life left me pooped. But I continue to find much joy in making our home homier and did some quality nesting in 2021. What was our guest room (and then my home office) has now been made into a cozy little nursery, complete with a hand-drawn wall pattern that took far longer than I expected but was also soothing in its tedium. Juliette’s room now serves as the guest room on the occasions that we have family in town and has gotten some Jules-approved grown-up upgrades. Our tired downstairs brick fireplace got a coat of black paint, some lighting, and new mantle styling. Our bedroom got a glow-up with accent paint and shelving and fresh art. And the houseplants! So many houseplants to brighten each room. Dare I say our house is almost “finished”? (I don’t.)


Favorite family pastime:

Again, it felt like we lost many of our summer weekends and evenings to the kitchen renovation, and then Isaac upended our routines completely, so I’m not entirely sure where to go with this one. My 2020 highlight reel tells me we used to play cards every night after dinner and I’m having a hard time even recalling what that was like – sounds so civilized! So luxurious! These days, 6pm is when we start our evening round of pass-the-baby as we endeavor to keep him content until his 7:00 bedtime… We’ve got some figuring-out to do in regards to fun-making as a family of four (though we have whiled away some good hours together on the living room floor, trying to find Isaac’s most ticklish spots). I did really, really love watching Juliette play soccer on Saturdays last Fall, with Shane at the helm as assistant coach and Isaac in my arms as (sleepy) co-cheerleader. I previously felt a sort of pity for soccer moms, spending their Saturdays on the sidelines rain or shine, but now that I’ve seen my own kid out on the field, I get it – turns out it’s thrilling to see her score a goal! Or try to score a goal! Or participate in the opening team cheer! I’m Juliette’s biggest fan.


And, favorite moments…

Many evenings spent listening to Harry Potter while following along in the book.




Sharing the news with the sister-to-be!






A visit from much-missed grandparents.


Mother’s Day with our newly-vaxed crew.


An unexpectedly snowy hike with my best bud before she headed off into the train tunnel for a bike ride with her dad.


A Marrowstone weekend with friends we saw too little of in 2020.


The Oregon Coast and that ocean magic.


An attempt to escape the end-of-June heat.


Lake life at our new favorite spot in Idaho.


Possibly Juliette’s best day ever


She loved him so much already.


My ladies!


Summer Saturdays at Colman Pool.


Lazy weekend mornings in bed.


Our last outing as a family of three!




Newborn bliss.  And lots of hospital milkshakes.


Little bro meets the best-ever big sis.


So tired, but so happy.


Lazy mornings in bed take a new turn…


A horseback ride for the the EIGHT year-old.


Chair snuggles.  So many chair snuggles.




Momming so hard…


Cloud nine grandparents.


First smiles.


Sister love runs deep.


Autumn magic.


Keeping traditions alive.


A Schnell family Thanksgiving.


The sweetest advent.


Chosen family.


Jarrell family.


A snowy surprise.


Cozy December mornings.


And more snow…


Happy New Year.

2021 felt so damn tough for the world outside our door – COVID rolled on, divisions ran deep, and we bore witness to heartbreaking loss. But I’m exceedingly grateful for the joy that bloomed in our little bubble, for snowy surprises and pool days and the most perfect little babe a big sister could hope for. May joy bloom bigger in 2022, may we see it burst our bubble in the very best way and spread near and far.

I’ve found it!  The antidote to the post-Christmas blues!  It’s a fresh dumping of fluffy white snow.  We were thrilled to roll into our driveway after our Portland trip to find our neighborhood blanketed in a couple of inches of powder – kids were out with their inner tubes and sleds, the occasional cross-country skier was passing by on the sidewalk, and the air was thick with that particular brand of PNW snow-day giddiness.  We unloaded the car in record time and then Juliette was back out the door to tube with the neighbors.

Christmas lights and freshly fallen snow are two of my favorite things.

We spent one afternoon at the Rusts’ neighborhood, sledding down the somewhat treacherous hill near their house and then cozying up inside for card games and snacks.

I trekked with the kids to Starbucks one morning while Shane ran some errands.  This was some hard-earned hot chocolate!

I picked up some discounted Christmas decor from the art store during our outing and ended up with my hands fuller than expected, but I managed the mile-walk home.

Isaac, though, was exhausted by my efforts…

And…more sledding!  So much sledding.  Shane was off work that full week after Christmas and so we had beaucoup playtime.  We didn’t throw Isaac down any big hills, but he liked sitting in Juliette’s lap for a gentle skid along the sidewalk.

This girl, though, has a need for speed.

We spent one morning with Juliette’s best school buddies, cruising down the street in front of their house.

And then a cocoa elf appeared with a tray full of drinks for the kids (and me!).

I walked home with Isaac while Shane hung back per Juliette’s request to please do just a few more runs.  Teddy bear was tuckered, again.

Our neighbors passed off this baby sled when they were cleaning out their garage over the summer and we discovered that with a thick enough snow suit, Isaac could be wedged in there to stay fairly upright.

More snow toys emerged from the garage as the week went on…

More sledding fun was had…

There were snow angels…

And family walks…

And then a whole lot of lounging by the fireplace.

I don’t know that we’ve ever rested so well as a family – it became difficult to figure out what day of the week it was.  And it was amazing.

We ended 2021 in the same way we ended 2020, with a quiet evening at home.  We played some games, watched the ball drop, and toasted our glasses of sparkling cider.

One last sleepover…

And then we awoke on Saturday to a fresh new year!  Shane’s all about starting the year with a shock to the senses, so he was all in for the annual Alki Polar Plunge.  Juliette heard that a couple of her friends would be doing it with their mom and decided that she wanted to join in the fun, too.  I thought there was about a 55 percent chance that she would bail once she got to the beach and felt how cold it was, but she was quickly swept up in the adrenaline of the crowd and peeled off her coat with the rest of them once the countdown began.  No turning back now, baby girl!

Dunk, Jules, dunk!

And done!  I was so stinking proud of her.

“I can’t believe I just did that!”

Polar Bears:  The Next Generation…

Jason and Jordan also plunged and we found them down the beach afterward.

The gang convened at our house for hot chocolate and coffee cake.

And then there was an intense snowball battle in the backyard, during which Jason grabbed a shovel and just started pitching scoops of snow toward the opposing team.

We said our good-byes and cozied back up at our respective houses.

The snow turned to rain on Sunday morning and so Juliette took advantage of the super-sticky conditions to build a quick snow-lady with a neighbor friend.

They named her Angel and she lived a sweet-but-very-short life.

By Monday morning most of the snow had melted, Shane was back at work, and school was (almost) back in session.  Juliette and I took down the Christmas tree and we shelved our holiday music and movie playlists.  BAM.  The holidays were decidedly over and it was back to business as usual.  Which for me, for at least a few more weeks, means rocking chair naps with my boy, Project Runway afternoons with my girl, and regular family dinners (those I’m not giving up, ever).  January, I’m here for you.

We had such a sweet, festive December that Christmas itself kind of felt like icing on the cake. Twinkly lights and meals with friends and living room sleepovers and a trip to Portland to see the family?!  How lucky were we?  The anticipation was just so, so good this year.

We drove down to my brother’s house on Thursday, stopping once so that I could nurse Isaac in a Safeway parking lot while Shane and Juliette darted into a Starbucks for coffee and lemon loaf – gone are the days of “powering through” without a pitstop, at least for now. We were greeted by the cousins and my parents, who all remarked over how much Isaac had grown since they had seen him in the fall.  Juliette was eager to get her hands on Bina, Grandma was eager to get her hands on the baby.

Christmas Eve was lazy – games and cookie decorating and plenty of lounging.  Morgan and Juliette convinced my dad to play Mario Kart and then delivered him a solid whooping.  C’mon girls – have a little Christmas mercy!

The kids each got to open a Christmas Eve present…

There was the traditional viewing of the Polar Express…

And then cookies and an apple (we were out of carrots!) were left out for Santa and his reindeer by these two little elves.

By the time I came upstairs on Christmas morning, gifts had been sorted into neat little piles for each person – Morgan and Juliette were vibrating with anticipation and eagerly counting down to our 8:30 rendez-vous time (Elise likes to sleep in!).  Finally, the clock struck half-past, the family was gathered, and the wrapping paper started to fly.

(Isaac wanted to trade the cloth avocado I put in his stocking for the Skittles Juliette had in hers.  Fat chance.)

Juliette asked Santa for shoes this Christmas, and he came through with a pair of riding boots.

Juliette is so sweet and enjoys watching people open presents as much as she enjoys opening gifts herself.  She gives a friendly little clap after each unwrapping, like, “Wow! You’re so lucky you got that!”

Could it really be…?

A Hogwarts sweatshirt for our little Harry Potter fan!

Whew!  The calm after the gift-opening hurricane.

Being spoiled is tiring, huh, kid?

We got out for a short walk before lunch but the cold sent us back inside before long.  Morgan was desperate for a white Christmas and was thrilled to see a few flakes start to fall, though they quickly petered out.

Isaac threw the fit to end all fits that afternoon but eventually conked out in my arms.  I guess the excitement of it all was just too much.

Juliette played with Shane’s new Oculus…

Was wowed by Elise’s Illustration skills…

Played a very rambunctious game of hallway dodgeball with her uncle…

And this kid kept sleeping.

Isaac “opened” a couple more gifts once he got his second wind.

There we go, buddy!  Look alive!

Shane and Mitch took the girls to the school in the afternoon to test out Morgan’s new basketball and Elise’s new volleyball (sport-playing is Shane’s love language).

Then Juliette unwound in the hot tub.

And I unwound on the couch with my favorite guy and glass of Cabernet.

We had our traditional country ham for dinner and I felt exceedingly thankful for the people around the table but intensely missed the family not there.  Minnesota clan, you were held near and dear in our hearts!

We ended the night with more games, more togetherness.  Juliette and Morgan made up a game called “Tickle Doctor” and convinced my brother to play – it bordered on torture, but I watched from a safe distance and laughed till I cried.

We woke up Sunday morning to a day-after white Christmas – Juliette and Morgan frolicked in the front yard for a bit and I bundled up Isaac for his first romp in the snow.

My parents had hit the road early that morning, but the cousins got a couple of hours of chill time while Shane loaded our circus of stuff into the car.

And then we were homeward-bound.  I hopped into the backseat near Tacoma to soothe an antsy baby, which came with the added bonus of cozying up next to Juliette.

Almost there, Buddy!

And…made it.

The kids opened the last of their presents at home and while Isaac had no clue that half that stuff was for him, sister was awfully stoked on his behalf.

Gah!  The things this girl will show and teach you, Isaac.

Juliette made use of her fashion plates from Auntie Tiff…

Isaac modeled his new pajamas from Grandma Schnell…

The last 2021 ornament was hung on the tree…

And then it was onto New Years.  And SNOW.  The fun continues…