Archive for September, 2022

Hood River has been on my PNW bucket list for a few years now, but I somehow always fizzle when planning the trip.  Too far, too many other things to do, too many excuses…  This year, though, I tossed out the idea to the Rusts, as they’re Hood River regulars, and then our friend Jordan wanted to join to celebrate his birthday and soon this getaway had taken on a life of its own.  The text thread grew and calendars aligned and soon a whole gaggle of us had booked a few nights down there in mid-August.  Best Western or Bust!  We settled into our hotel room on a Wednesday afternoon and Juliette spent several minutes pretending that the phone was ringing, then picking it up and saying, “Hello there!  Juliette Schnell speaking!”  Corded phones…the novelty.

But when I offered to take her to the pool, the phone was quickly tossed aside.  And look who we found there!

We laid low in the evening, eating at the hotel and then taking a soft serve sunset stroll.

More of our buddies trickled in late Wednesday night – we’ve missed these girls like crazy since they moved to Colorado a couple of years ago and it was so good to be reunited over Thursday breakfast!

Want to guess how Isaac slept that first night?!  Naptime couldn’t come soon enough.

We settled into vacation mode with pool time and park time.

And then afternoon nap / hotel bed shenanigans.

Everyone convened at the river before dinner for a paddle and a swim.

Our crew took over this little cove and goodness, it made me happy to see us all together again.

Isaac, Mama needs a canned wine sometimes!  You stop with that judgey look.

We picnicked at the nearby park for dinner, doing more catch-up while the kids frolicked on the playground.

The first baby of the group (who just turned FOURTEEN!) and the last baby of the group make for some very cute bookends.

I walked Isaac back to the hotel for bedtime and while I would have loved to hang out for ice cream with the gang, I did cherish this riverfront stroll with my boy.

Friday!  Group breakfast…

More pool time…

And an afternoon hike to Tamanawas Falls with the little mountain goats.

These kids were such good sports – I didn’t have to bust out the gummy worms until we were over two miles in!

I hear water…

Made it!  And so worth the trek.

We made record time heading back – these girls were pooped, but still smiling.

We all met at Ferment that night for hard-earned beers and burgers.

THE BOYS!  The best of the best dads and sons.

It was back to the playground after dinner, as it proved to be a great place for the adults to chat while the kids roamed freely.  Though let’s be honest, some kids (one kid) needed a bit more supervision than the others…

Isaac won’t ever have a biological big bro, but I gotta say, Gryff and Isaiah are the sweetest surrogates.


I took the morning shift on Saturday and Isaac and I got out for a sunrise stroll.  We walked along the river for a bit and then decided to head into town in search of coffee.

Found it!

Post-breakfast pool time…

And then a jaunt out to the Gorge White House for berry picking, cider, and a stroll among the dahlias.

This kid definitely isn’t a great nighttime sleeper when we’re not home, but bless his heart for still being able to nap on the go.

Jack and La Verne invited me to tag along for their 2pm wine tasting, and while I initially declined, saying I should really hang back with Isaac, Juliette nearly pushed me into their car, saying “Go, Mama!  You need a break!”  I mean, if she says so…

We spent another evening at the river, doing all the water things.

How many kids can you fit on a single paddle board?  A lot.

These kids have literally been hanging out since birth and are all of the age now that they want to/get to choose their own friends, but they still get along so splendidly.

Uncle Jordan won “Most Fun Adult” that evening, for sure.

We drove over the bridge to While Salmon for another picnic dinner.  The kids rabble-roused…

Gryff played airplane with Isaac while Nance did backup…

And we just…hung, in that easy-going, fun-loving way we have of being together.  We met these people in 2007, when we were all relatively new to Seattle and looking for community.  None of us had family in the Seattle area and we quickly became each other’s support system, holding each other close through highs and lows and lots of kids.  I still remember the night that Jason showed up at our small group wearing a sweater vest, looking extra mature as he shared the news with all us childless 20-somethings that Nance was pregnant.  We were having a baby!  And now that baby is a teenager and it feels like some of our other littles are well on their way…  And yet, the adults haven’t aged a bit.  😉

I took another morning shift on Sunday, wanting to soak in one more walk along the river.  I tucked Isaac into the Ergo and he fell asleep steps from the hotel.  We walked for miles, his face nuzzled into my chest; I watched the sun come up and highlight his wispy blonde hair and sheesh, traveling with a baby is hard but sometimes so, so good.

Buddy slept all through breakfast.  Making up for lost time, I guess…

He’s up!

We squeezed in one last pool session before hitting the road.

We kept saying, “We should go.  We should really go.”  But dang it, good byes are hard!  Such a special group of people in such a special place.  There’s comfort in knowing we can always pick up right where we left off, though.  Also comfort in knowing how fun we still are!  Some things never change.

We usually have a long Labor Day weekend at home and at least a week of school under our belts before September 14th rolls around, but this year we spent the first few days of the month in Minnesota and then rushed home to news of a teachers strike that delayed the start of school and indefinitely stretched out summer.  Finally, though, a resolution was reached and the dice fell so that Juliette started third grade AND turned nine on the very same day.  She was pumped, and I was pumped for her, but also my head spun as I hung birthday streamers and readied her backpack on Birthday Eve.  I had thought this was all happening much too slow (can we just get this school year show on the road?!), but suddenly it felt all too fast (can’t I keep my eight year old home with me for just another week or two?!).

With Isaac in a phase of life where you see marked changes in him week by week, Juliette looks so…constant by contrast.  She’s my steady Betty.  But that first day of being nine, that first day of third grade, the signs were there of a more mature kiddo.  It was evidenced in the extra time she took to pick out her outfit the night before, in the way she carefully laid out her clothes and considered her hairstyle.  It was there in the confidence she exuded on the walk to school, the absence of new-thing jitters as she talked about seeing her friends and meeting her teacher.  It was especially there that afternoon, when she got up from the living room floor where she was playing with me and Isaac and said she wanted to go do some Sudoku in her room.  Alone.  Goodness, she’s growing up, becoming so independent and thoughtful.  And stylish!

(For the record, there was just one brief moment before she passed through the gates when she looked back at me with those “help me, Mama” eyes, but it passed before I could even offer one more hug!)

She was sent home with a small paper bag that first day of school and was asked to put in it four things that describe her best.  I loved watching her deliberate over this as she gazed at our bookshelves and perused her dresser top for just the right treasures.  I especially loved when she picked up the small Eiffel Tower figurine I gave her several years ago and said she definitely wanted to bring that, so she could tell everyone how much she wants to go to Paris with her mom someday.  She also chose her Rubik’s Cube, a symbol of how much she loves puzzles; a softball; and a small Harry Potter Lego figure.  That’s her in a nutshell, though I imagine if she could have fit her baby brother in that bag, he would have made the cut.

We went over all the options for her party this year, grateful for the freedom from Covid-related limits, but still she decided she wanted something small – just her three best buds over for a sleepover.  I took her to breakfast on one of the strike-days and we made a plan:  pizza, cupcakes, nail-painting, a movie, and “spa vibes”.  Juliette inherited my love of a good plan, so we took our time setting the agenda over coffee and hot chocolate.  I really like sitting across the table from this kid.  Guaranteed good time.

Since her actual birthday was a school day with the added bustle of evening soccer practice, we celebrated that day simply, with treats and gifts and just our little family.  A maple bar for breakfast, her all-time favorite burritos for dinner, and root beer floats for dessert.

She is the best gift-opener, delightfully thrilled by each and every present.

Her favorite present?  A tie between a bottle of pink nail polish and her very first Kindle.

Party day followed on Saturday – the girls showed up before dinner so that they could spend some time playing Babysitters Club before diving into pizza and cupcakes.

(Isaac presided over the festivities.)

After cupcakes, sleeping bags were rolled out and more gifts were opened.  The girls are very into their dolls these days and Juliette was thrilled with the new accessories she scored for her doll, Molly.

I love when the gift-giver is just as excited as the gift-opener.  “I can’t wait for you to see what I got you, Juliette!”

Popcorn was popped, Parent Trap was put on, and the girls got comfy while I served snacks and offered pedicures.

Lights were out by 10:30 and I heard whispers until about 11:00, but then all fell silent.  They missed the memo about sleeping in at slumber parties, though – at 6:30 am they were getting their dolls dressed for the day!

We had breakfast together and the girls made up a dance to their school song and then it was time to pack it up.  Gosh, I remember my own slumber party era so fondly – it’s sweet to see Juliette getting her turn.

My girl.  MY GIRL.  What a privilege it is to be her mama, to get a front row seat to watching her grow.  There is a new girl at Juliette’s school who has yet to find her crew – she doesn’t speak much English and her one buddy was out sick last week, which left her on her own in the lunch room.  When Juliette saw her at a table by herself, she felt her heartstrings tug, got up from her seat, and asked this new girl to join her table.  There was a moment of awkwardness as they both fumbled over the language barrier, but hand gestures of “come along” were made, smiles were exchanged, and trays were scooted to make space for one more.  When Juliette told me that evening what happened, I hugged her tight and told her what a big, hard thing she had done.  She didn’t really think it was that big or that hard – kindness and inclusiveness are her default.

So year after year, Kiddo, birthday after birthday, keep being YOU.  Because you are remarkable.  Happy Ninth.

August and early September were chock-full of trips and bustle as we squeezed every last drop of playtime out of summer 2022 (though let’s be honest – traveling anywhere with a baby is equal parts work and play, if you’re lucky).  Our bonanza started small, with a weekend on Bainbridge Island to watch Shane and the Rusts compete in another pickle ball tournament.  I mean, since Shane was playing both mixed doubles and mens doubles and since pickle ball was founded on Bainbridge, and since I found the sweetest little AirBnB on an idyllic farm, I felt like the kids and I should tag along and make a getaway out of it.

Isaac and Juliette liked watching the ferry pull away from the dock, but the real excitement came when Juliette realized Nancy was on the same boat as us.

It was a quick float to Southworth and an hour drive to Bainbridge and then we drove along the prettiest little lane to land at what would be our front yard for the weekend.

We explored the grounds and met the animals and had a picnic dinner on the grass.

This place felt too good to be true when Shane discovered a pickle ball net in the garage to go with the striping that was on the parking pad out front.  He and Nance were able to get a little practice in, though having to maneuver around Casey, the resident dog, complicated the game a bit.

Saturday was game day for mixed doubles; the kids and I joined the gaggle of West Seattle ballers to cheer on Shane and Nance.  There were a couple of handy wins, a couple of defeats, and a couple of hard-fought victories.  They unfortunately landed just a couple of points shy of the medal round, but I was impressed by how much improvement I saw in their game since I last watched them play in June.

Isaac was mosly just impressed by the adjacent playground.

Until he wasn’t impressed at all.

I spent the afternoon back at the AirBnB  with the kids while Shane and Nancy cheered on some of their buddies at the tournament.  Isaac and I both took a much-needed nap (true to form, he took vacation as a cue to party / fuss all night), and then after waking we played a rousing game of How long can we keep Issac in bed?

Not long…

We bopped around the farm before grabbing pizza and ice cream in Winslow.

The owners of the AirBnb were super-friendly and gave Juliette a bunch of carrots to feed the horses.  She loved how popular she immediately became!

But she didn’t love the horse drool.

I had Isaac bathed and jammied by 6 pm, but he was still pretty bright-eyed, so we took another stroll around the farm.  He loved watching the chickens strut around their coop and once he got past the initial surprise of the rooster’s high-pitched crow, he smiled wide at each cock-a-doodle-doo.

Juliette came out to join us and snuggled up with Dusty, the resident cat.  We played a few lawn games and turned in early, while Shane played pickle ball out front with the owners.  He’s insatiable.

Shane got an early start on Sunday to meet up with Jason at the courts for mixed doubles while I took my time getting going with the kids.  Isaac had another hum-dinger of a night, but didn’t seem too sorry about it.

Sleepless nights aside, I was reluctant to leave this place.  The dahlias!  The farm-fresh eggs in our fridge!  The animals…we loved those animals.  Juliette spent a good 20 minutes saying goodbye to the horses, stroking Rose and Willow on their noses while murmuring, “You’re such a sweet girl…”.  No, Juliette – YOU’RE such a sweet girl.

She tried very hard to make sure each horse got equal amounts of love.

Meanwhile, Isaac really liked those chickens…

We arrived at the courts mid-morning to find Shane and J on a roll.  They won a handful of games, were immediately humbled when a couple of 60-something guys clobbered them, but ultimately made it to the medal round.

Silver!  Congrats, guys.

Once the medal pics were snapped, we were ready to jet home.  That much pickle ball is exhausting, partly for Shane, who was on the courts for all those hours, but also for me, who ran point on crowd control / baby patrol – Isaac has yet to learn the true art of spectating.  Still, though, so worth the trip, to see Shane play a game he loves with people we love.  And…horses!  Juliette and I are still thinking about those horses.

Welp, he did it.  Baby Boy turned one last month.  I’ll spare you the “he’s growing too fast” spiel, because it’s nothing I haven’t written in my previous 11 months worth of Isaac posts (and in so many posts about baby Jules before that).  I’ll just say…he’s changing at warp speed, and there are things about his early baby days that I miss dearly, but there’s so much joy in this current phase we’re in.  I’m seeing more of his personality shine, understanding better what makes him tick.  And I like who he is a whole, whole lot.

He’s happiest when he’s on the move and continues to favor toys with wheels over anything else.  This rolling red helicopter goes with us everywhere.  

But a Birkenstock will do in a pinch when he needs something with a little more slide-ability than his often-sticky hands.

He’s a climber and has graduated from trying to crawl up onto our low fireplace mantle to trying to climb up onto the couch or the chairs or even onto our beds.  Daily I walk into the living room to find his arms scrabbling to take hold of the couch cushions, his legs kicking wildly in the air as he tries to swing them up.  We generally keep the basement door closed, but if I’m coming in from the garage with him, I’ll set him at the bottom of the stairs and let him crawl up ahead of me – he’s like Spiderman scaling a building, his arms and legs taking each step in ultra-quick succession.  The only problem is his stubborn desire to head back down the stairs after reaching the top, so that he can do it again and again and again.

When he’s not scooting circles around the kitchen with one of his cars our doing his best to summit the couch, he’s often perched at the windowsill, watching the world go by.  He loves watching the sprinklers run; if Shane or Juliette are outside, he’ll bang on the window excitedly before dropping to his knees and crawling to the door, begging to go out.  He’s part puppy, this kid.

Occasionally he’ll sit still, if he’s strapped into his high chair with a tray of food in front of him, or if he’s tucked into the swing on one of our morning playground visits.

Or if he’s snuggled against my chest in…the gray chair!  God bless the gray chair.

He’s still not consistently sleeping through the night, which certainly isn’t ideal, but I don’t mind getting up once with him if it’s short and sweet.  It’s the mornings that he’s up for the day at 5am that really slay me.  TOO EARLY, Bud.  Too early.  If only he understood how much better he feels when he waits to wake until the sun’s fully up!

He’s doing alright in his new daycare, but comes home a little worse for the wear some days – eating and sleeping in the midst of several other babies is an acquired skill.  Sometimes he looks so rough by 5:30 pm that it’s all I can do not to laugh…does he not pose a striking resemblance to Boris Johnson here?

Ah, bath time.  There’s my cute kid. 

On the good days, he’ll get a second wind after bath and play happily till bedtime at 7:00.

He was especially giddy at bedtime on the eve of his birthday, wiggling and giggling as I rocked him.  I reveled in the silliness, laughing at his laughing, which made him laugh more, which made me laugh more, which made Juliette call out, “What’s going on in there?!”, at which point she came in and yukked it up with us for a couple of minutes.

The party was relatively short-lived, though.

Good night, sweet boy.  See you when you’re ONE!

Isaac doesn’t have the luxury of several other baby buddies like his sister did, so his party the next evening was low-key.  My mom and dad were in town and we invited the Rusts over for a back yard dinner.

More wheels!  Yippee!

And hot dogs…his most favorite meal.

And watermelon.  Also a fan favorite, evidenced by the fact that he tray was licked clean before I even snapped a pic!

Isaac was a little befuddled by all the fuss, by the presents and the singing and the cupcakes, but his sister had great fun with it!

Sweet girl – not an ounce of sibling envy in her.

Ok, but seriously, Isaac – can you at least pretend to be interested?

It took a few minutes for him to figure out what to do with his cupcake, but once the buttercream frosting hit his tongue, he got it.

Cupcake remnants wiped from his face, frosting washed from his hair, and freshly jammied, we snapped a few final birthday pics.

It took all night, but finally he was feeling that birthday groove.

We opened the last of his gifts the next morning, bopped around with his birthday balloons, and then started the business of settling into waddler-hood.

Isaac Henry, you’ve brought such light and laughter to this house.  We’ve known for years that we wanted you, but we never imagined just how wonderfully you’d complete our family.  Juliette asked at dinner one night how we would describe you in a single word and while there were several front-runners thrown about, like charming, lovable, rascally, and messy (it was dinner time and the blueberry carnage was intense), none of them fully captured your essence.  I think I’ve got it though, looking at your cheesy grin and chubby thighs.  You are delight, through and through.  

Happy Birthday, Rascal.  You are loved.