Archive for the ‘[and then some…]’ Category

Our community group is doing a series of “self-portraits” this year, where everyone takes a turn describing themselves with whatever medium they choose.  There have been poems and essays and timelines and memento-filled shoe boxes, each telling a unique story.  Given my penchant for reminiscing, I decided to go way back (all the way back!) and cull through my photo albums, selecting and sharing a snapshot from each year I’ve lived.  This was such a meaningful exercise that I wanted to capture it here on the blog – not as a complete life story, but as a series of moments or phases or people that have stirred my soul in some way or another.  There are high highs and low lows.  And some very questionable hairstyles…

My mom woke up in the middle of the night in Denver, Colorado on October 9, 1981 and “felt things happening” – it was go-time!  She wanted to pack a lunch for my dad and get a few things ready, but my grandma promptly pushed my parents out the door and told them to get their butts to the hospital.  At 11 am, all 7 pounds, 11 ounces of me made my arrival.



I don’t remember anything from 1982, but photos tell me that I took my first trip to Florida that year and loved the beach.  I teethed on chicken drumsticks and my favorite hiding place was in the cabinets under the kitchen sink.



In 1983 we took our first family camping trip, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  My parents were novice campers and grabbed the cheapest gear they could find – my mom ended up zipping our sleeping bags together so that we could keep warm in the cold Colorado nights.  I got filthy and poked at the campfire with my “burning stick” (my parents apparently gave me oodles of freedom) and got my first taste of the beloved outdoors. It tasted like Tang and roasted marshmallows, so clearly I was all in.



My best friend Amy lived just two doors down from us on Dean Drive and we spent much of our time running back and forth between each other’s houses.  She had a pretend grocery store in her basement with a cash register that actually beeped and I had a sand box in my back yard, so we both brought something valuable to the friendship.  In 1984 we had matching Raggedy Anne dolls. And our moms cut our hair.

In 1985 my bowl-cut grew out.  But my bangs-game was strong.

Most of my memories from the first few years of my life involve the outdoors – winter snow forts and summer sand box castles and trips to the mountains with my family.  I prided myself on being my dad’s fishing buddy, picking the worms out of his bait bowl and then dropping my own line near the shore. Sometimes I got lucky, like on this 1986 trip to the river.



I was always trying (and usually failing) to keep up with my older brother – I remember watching Mitch zoom down the street on his bike or kick the soccer ball around with his friends, our five-year age gap seemingly insurmountable as he left me in his dust.  However, on family vacations he had no choice but to hang out with me! This is us on a 1987 camping trip to Ruedi Reservoir.



I have the fondest memories of visiting my grandparents in Maryland – Nannie kept an endless supply of Brach’s hard candy in her crystal candy dish and my Aunt Norma had an above-ground pool in her backyard.  My cousin Rachel was the coolest – she taught me all the words to Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now and we had some killer dress-up sessions with treasures from Nannie’s closet. If this picture were zoomed out a little, you’d see that I was wearing a great pair of Nannie’s heels – 1988 was apparently the dawn of my shoe fetish!



The blissful summer of 1989 was our last in Colorado, as my dad was transferred to McMinnville, Oregon in the fall of that year.  My brother and I were both devastated when we found out we were moving – I was spending more time than ever with Amy, and Mitch’s best friend Duane lived two doors down in the other direction.  Our street was the center of our universe, and the thought of leaving it all behind was unbearable.



Our first few months in McMinnville were…transitional.  We lived in a couple of rentals while waiting for our new house to be built.  I was quite shy at my new school and didn’t make any immediate friends (though I do remember getting a particularly amorous Valentine from Justin McKinney).   I spent a lot of time with my stuffed animals.

By 1991 Oregon had become home – I had found a few friends and loved Friday night sleep-overs, where we’d pull out the sofa bed and watch the full TGIF line-up, making each other giggle with our Urkel impressions.

In 1992 I saw Wayne’s World for the first time, while slumber partying at my friend Lindsey’s house. We both became completely obsessed with the movie, learning all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody and creating our own low-budget version of Wayne and Garth’s cable show.  It was called Babe’s World and we recorded episode after episode on my audio cassette recorder.  I mean, that perm!  Nothing screams “babe” like a triangle-shaped haircut.



In 1993 my dad’s job uprooted our family again and moved us to Turlock, California.  I had a lonely start to sixth grade and have distinct memories of sitting at our kitchen table, telling my mom through tears that no one liked me and that I wanted to move back to Oregon and my Babe’s World co-host.  Thankfully, my loneliness was short-lived and by October I was able to get up the gumption to invite a few girls over for my twelfth birthday party. And they actually showed up! Bless their hearts. Francine, on the right, ended up being a bridesmaid at my wedding thirteen years later.



In 1994 I entered seventh grade at Turlock Junior High.  The words “Junior High” literally make my stomach flip-flop.  The girls I had befriended in our cozy, insular sixth grade classroom left me in their dust when we hit the big-time.  They joined forces with the richest, prettiest girls from the other elementary schools to become “The Preps” (my words, not theirs).  Thankfully, THANKFULLY, I had a true friend in Jody. There were times when I had an only friend in Jody. We saved each other from eating alone at lunch time and we spent every Friday night together, memorizing the words to Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979 and Bush’s Glycerine and No Doubt’s Don’t Speak.  We were convinced that good music had the power to make us cool.

In 1995 I dabbled in “grunge”, wearing men’s polos and oversized flannels and suede Vans.  I begged my parents for a skateboard, to complete the look, but they said no.  I lived for the moment between first and second period when I would cross paths with Justin Houts, the end-all be-all in cute skater boys.  He had no idea who I was.

In 1996 I left the cold, cruel world of Junior High for the bigger, colder, crueller world of High School.  On the first day of our freshman year, Jody and I walked the two blocks to our high school together, clinging to each other for dear life and setting a very specific lunchtime rendez-vous point.  We spent all week every week looking forward to the weekend, when we could hole up in the safety of Jody’s bedroom and be unabashedly silly and talk freely about our crushes and do each other’s make-up.

  And check us out, doing a selfie before selfies were even a thing!

In 1997 I had my first beer and my first cigarette and my first joint.  I was rebellious and “cool” and down-for-anything (and desperate to feel included).  I was also super-involved in my youth group and jumped at each chance to go to winter camp or to summer camp or to Six Flags.  I was goofy and fun and intensely boy-crazy (and desperate to feel included). Teenage years are hard, gang.



In 1998 I fell away from the party crowd and started hanging out regularly with a group of seven other girls.  We cruised down Geer Road on Friday nights, belting out the words to Cowboy, Take Me Away and spent hours in the aisles of Blockbuster Video, agonizing over the perfect movie selection, which we usually didn’t watch anyway because we spent the whole night talking and giggling.  Jody and I had found our people. We belonged, and it felt so, so good.

In 1999 I was asked out on a date by the nephew of a couple whose kids I baby-sat.  I said yes, and he took me to the movies to see Notting Hill and then out for milkshakes.  He was cute and wore good-smelling cologne and drove an electric-blue Dodge Neon that started only sometimes.  His name was Shane.  



In 2000 I packed up my truck, said teary good-bye’s to Shane and to Jody, and caravanned with my mom and dad to San Luis Obispo to get settled into my dorm at Cal Poly.  I had chosen to major in architecture and was immediately overwhelmed by the work load, staying up well past midnight every night struggling through calculus equations and drafting complicated two-point perspectives.  I have a very specific memory of taking my dorm room phone out into the hallway, dialing Shane’s number, and sobbing about how stressed out I was while my roommate, Jenny, invited a pile of friends to come over to our room to just “hang out”.  What had I gotten myself into?



In 2001 Shane and I settled into our long-distance relationship.  It was hard, seeing each other only once or twice a month, but it freed me up to work like a dog during the week,  and the anticipation of those weekend visits was fun and romantic. My stomach would be a-twitter with butterflies on Friday evenings as I waited for Shane to pull up in his yellow Volkswagon, and then we’d greet each other with the ooiest-gooiest embrace.  Ahhh, young love… 



Between the out-of-town boyfriend and the long hours in studio, I didn’t find myself with a lot of time for socializing with my Cal Poly classmates.  I joined a co-ed fraternity and went to handful of parties, but my heart was still very much back in Turlock with my girls.  Christmas break 2002 was a series of movie nights and Jamba Juice runs and living into the comfort of being 100% myself.



In the summer of 2003 I boarded a plane for Paris and kicked off my year of studying abroad.  That first month in France was one of the best and worst months of my life. Paris was one of Cal Poly’s smaller, less-organized study-abroad programs, so I was left to find my own way through enrolling in classes and getting my student visa and setting up my phone line and bank account – all in a language I was struggling to learn.  But I DID IT. And when my friends from Cal Poly’s Florence program came to visit me that October, I showed them around the city like I owned the place.



By 2004 I had fully embraced La Vie Francaise.  I met friends down by the Seine for late-night picnics.  I frequented a Brazilian bar named Favela Chic with my friend Nikole and sipped Caperinhas and danced until 2 in the morning.  I would wake up at 10 am and then spend hours at a time just walking through the city, stopping when I pleased at a cafe terrace to order a 2-euro espresso and write or draw pensively in my little black journal.  I got a membership to the Pompidou and fell in love with art. I took a solo trip to Berlin and Prague and Copenhagen and went to a Czech nightclub with a handful of hostel roommates (seriously, who was I?). I wore my independence like a badge of honor.



In 2005 I completed my architectural thesis, a conceptual bath house that commentated on gender and gentrification and other too-big issues.  The nights in studio were long, but when the stress got to be too much, someone cranked up Hey Ya on the stereo and we all took a dance break.  I ran my pinky finger through the table saw when working in the shop on my final model and was set back a few days by the surgery I needed to reattach the tendon.  My half-arm cast made it hard for me to model-build, but my dad came down to help me finish up my shop work and Shane came down to help me set up my final display, pulling his first college all-nighter.  All the blood, sweat, and tears was well worth-it – my determination had been pushed to new limits and my confidence that I was cut from creative cloth soared.  I was ready for the real world.  Which, it turned out, was not at all like college…

In 2006, nearly seven years after our first date, Shane and I said our I-do’s on the lawn of a lovely Turlock dairy.  Shane’s vows made me cry and the whole ceremony made my dad cry and then dinner was served and wine was poured and we all laughed and danced the night away.



In 2007 Shane and I signed about a million pieces of paper and were the proud owners of a new Columbia City townhouse.  I loved making that place home, painting each room a (regrettable) shade of blue and stocking it with (mostly IKEA) furniture.  I was finding adult-ing to be much more satisfying that I’d imagined.



On the afternoon of March 2008, my brother called me to let me know that Elise Wynn had been born early that morning.  I immediately loved her.  And I really loved this new tender-hearted side of my brother. 



We had started a c-group with a group of random folks in 2007 and by 2009 we were all-in, all the time, spending many of our weekends together.  Most of us were transplants from other states, so we were each other’s local family.  We called each other for help moving and started a slew of annual traditions, like the fall pumpkin patch/dumpling-making bonanza.



After a couple of years of dabbling in art workshops at community colleges and Pratt, in 2010 I hung twelve encaustic  paintings on the walls of the Q Cafe and invited all my friends to my real-life “opening”. I had found the realities of architecture to be less creatively-fulfilling that I’d hoped, but getting into the studio and producing a body of work that legitimized my aspirations of “artist” was incredibly gratifying.



In 2011, after a year of trying and hoping and praying for a baby, I found out I was pregnant.  Two weeks later, I started my period, which was weird, because doesn’t that go away when you’re pregnant?  We went to the doctor and heard the heaviest-ever silence where we should have heard a heartbeat. We went home and I spent the next 48 hours curled up on the couch, sobbing.  Nancy came over and I told her I just wanted this thing, this thing that just a few days earlier had been my beloved baby, out of my body so that I could move on. I miscarried that afternoon.  I didn’t move on.

I’ve termed 2012 my “dark year”, as I was all-consumed by my infertility, convinced that God, my body, and the glowing pregnant lady I often saw on my morning commute had all conspired against me to make my life less-than.  One by one, my girlfriends announced their pregnancies.  I sat across from La Verne at the bakery and struggled through tears to tell her that I was happy for her and Jack, but she knew me and my struggle well enough to know that my envy was almost suffocating.  On a happier note, the Giants won the World Series that year and we had a hell of a time watching their wins over hot dogs and fried zucchini at the Auto Battery with our crew.

On September 14, 2013, Juliette Grace reluctantly left my belly and entered my arms.  She was none-too-pleased about the whole thing, fiercely emotional from the get-go, but it was the happiest day of my life.

In March of 2014 my maternity leave ended and I returned to work, easing back into my job with a three-day work week.  Gosh, that very first daycare drop-off was rough.  ROUGH.  Shane and I stood on the street corner outside of daycare and struggled to hold it together as our very-attached baby cried in the arms of her new caretaker.  I spent as many lunch hours as possible with Juliette in those first couple of months, “jail-breaking” her on sunny afternoons for walks along the waterfront.

In 2015 we took our first trip to Minnesota with Juliette.  I loved watching her run free on the dirt roads and climb up into Grandpa’s tractor.  Mostly though, I loved watching Shane’s family love on our little girl with such abandon.  It was abundantly clear: she’s so very lucky to be a Schnell.

In 2016 we took our first camping trip with Juliette – it rained most of the weekend and we spent several hours holed up in a Roslyn cafe with the Hickory’s.  But we survived, soggy marshmallows and all, and cemented our fate as a camping family.  I was proudly carrying on a much-beloved Jarrell torch.

2017 was a year of incredible adventure – we camped in Canada and wine-tasted in Napa and did the all-inclusive thing in Mexico.  I spent a few days in Paris with La Verne.  But our close-to-home trips were some of my favorites, like the few days we spent along the Hood Canal with Mitch and his family.  We paddle-boarded and kayaked and dance-partied.  Shane scooped fresh oysters off the shore.  And got unbearably sick.  But still, the water was amazing.  And the cousin-love was fierce.

And in 2018, the Schnells bought a new house!  New to us, at least…  We closed on this 1950’s brick beauty on Monday and will move in two short weeks.  Our heads are still spinning from how quickly our very long search came to an end, but we are over the moon and can’t wait to kick off this next chapter in our lives.

 

Closing thoughts?  Mostly, I’m exceedingly thankful.  Thankful that my parents planted a nature-loving seed in me at a very young age.  Thankful for the number of kindred spirits that God has placed in my life over the years, girls and women that have carried me through some dark and lonely times.  Thankful for the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done and the person I am. But, I also see the gaps.  Gaps in the shape of places I want to go and people I want to know better and ways I want to give more.  May the next 36 photos fill in those gaps.  And so much more.

I waffle every year about whether or not to make any resolutions, loving the idea of fresh goals for a fresh year but simultaneously feeling wary of adding anything to the already-full plates that are our lives these days.  So I’m taking the middle road and just spending some time pondering the year ahead, getting my thoughts and hopes down on-screen and entering into 2018 with a spirit of intention.  In the next 11.5 months, I/we will:

MAKE SOME BIG-ASS DECISIONS.  Shane and I have had a handful of life-changing what-if’s hanging over our heads for quite some time now and are feeling like it’s time to set our wheels in motion and pick a direction.  Should we put our house on the market and buckle down on our search for something quieter and a little more spacious?  Should we move forward with early-enrolling Juliette in kindergarten this year (rather than keeping her in preschool for another year)?  Are we going to try (like, really try) for another baby?  Ho-ly Mo-ses, these are big things!  And I’m completely change-phobic, prone to bouts of extreme crankiness and dramatic weeping in periods of uncertainty.  But we know we can’t let fear or comfort keep us from taking the road un-traveled – an amazing house or a wonderful kindergarten teacher or a joyous addition to our family might lie just up ahead, if we lean into the uncertainty.  And hey, maybe none of those things come to fruition this year, which is fine, but when December rolls around I want to rest in the peace of knowing that our pursuits (or lack thereof, if that’s where we land) were meditated upon and deliberate.

And now that I’ve gotten the heavy-duty stuff out of the way and gulped down another cup of my Yogi Stress Relief tea, let’s talk about something fun and entirely manageable.  Like READING!  I mentioned that 2017 wasn’t my finest literary year and I’m eager to delve back into books.  I want to spend more early evening-times reaching for my Kindle rather than my laptop or phone.  I want to cut out the mindless Facebook scrolling and focus on words and stories that provoke and inspire and teach.

After a wet, house-bound few days I’m finding myself dreaming of sparkling lakes and sun-dappled forests – let’s make this a year for some serious Schnell family CAMPING.  We’ve spent a fair number of nights in our tent over the previous couple of years, but I’m hoping to get out even more in 2018.  Shane, Juliette and I live most fully into my dream for our family when we’re hiking and paddle-boarding and eating around a campfire and sleeping under the stars.  So we’re gonna make it happen – Fort Flagler, Orcas Island, Wynoochee Lake, PNW TBD, here we come!  I can’t wait.

When I asked Juliette if she had any hopes for the year ahead, anything she wanted to do or learn, she quickly replied that she wants to learn how read, learn how to be an architect like Mom, and learn how to be an engineer like Dad – that girl’s got mad ambition!  In addition to being my partner in decision-making and camp-setting, Shane set a couple of personal fitness and reading goals.  I jotted each of our lists down on slips of paper and tucked them into our Christmas stockings, to be pulled out at the end of the year for a fun (shame-free, low-pressure) check-in.

So here’s to a year of intentionality, making hard choices and then finding restoration with a good book, a well-strung hammock, and a lake view.

One last look-back at 2017 and then it’s on with the business of a brand new year! My favorites, in no particular order…

Favorite movie:

This category always has the slimmest pickin’s to choose from, as it’s rare that Shane and I get out for a movie (RARE, as in hasn’t happened since…2014?  when did Gone Girl come out?).  Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Video, though, we’re not totally out of the loop; we’re just a few months behind the curve.  And so award for best movie goes to Get Out, for getting under my skin and making me squirm on so many levels.  Who knew horror could run so deep?

 

Favorite TV show:

This one is so easy this year!  Slam dunk for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  Shane and I started watching this on a whim a couple of weeks ago and plowed through all eight episodes in just a few days.  Funny and dramatic and full of characters you can’t help but adore.  OUTSTANDING performance by Rachel Brosnahan.  I can’t wait for the next season (there better be a next season!).

(Honorable mentions to Atlanta, Ozarks, and Big Little Lies.)

 

Favorite podcast:

I’m going to go with the bandwagon on this one and pay homage to S-Town, which was superb.  It was also tragic and terribly unsettling, but gosh, when I put on my headphones and hit play on an episode, I was in it.  A nod to Still Processing for making my world view a little bit bigger and to The Daily for distilling down the crap-storm of national and international goings-on into bites I can actually digest.

 

Favorite song:

Gosh, I listened to the Moana and Trolls soundtracks A LOT last year.  But on the rare occasions that Juliette gave me control of the music queue, I put on Fool for You by Alice Smith and got my feely feelin’s out.  I just discovered this is a cover of a Cee-Lo Green song, but Alice does it so much better, with her silky, bluesy, soaring vocals.

 

Favorite purchase:

I mentioned to Shane a few months ago that I was feeling ready for a new camera, ready to up my photo-game a notch.  I said it a little off-hand, thinking, “Someday…”.  But there are few things my husband loves more than a good gadget hunt, and so down the rabbit hole he fell into consumer reviews and expert analyses on the best mid-level DSLR.  A few weeks later, he presented me with a spreadsheet of models and costs and pixel counts and I hemmed and hawed about the investment but ultimately decided to trade in my Rebel T4i for a 6D Mark II.  And I love it.  It took me a little while to get used to its heft, and I have much to learn still before I can maximize its potential, but the outlook is good.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

I had high hopes of diving deep back into my art last year, hopes of spending some time in the print studio and reconnecting with my sketchbooks.  Shane and I got rid of the futon in our downstairs office and I set up a sweet little project table down there, thinking that would inspire me to spend more evenings drawing or crafting.  It just didn’t happen.  I was too busy or too tired or too caught up in keeping this space up to date with photos and narratives of our assorted adventures.  This space.  In scrolling back through the last year’s posts, I was struck by three things.  1) We took A LOT of great trips last year.  2) I took A LOT of pictures last year.  And 3) I’m really really thankful for the record I’ve kept of our family’s comings and goings.  There are certainly times when blogging feels like a bit of a burden, when we come home from a vacation and I know I have several evenings of photo editing and writing ahead of me, but in the end, I’m so glad I take the time to keep Little Black Journal current.  These are the Schnell Chronicles, and I’ll cherish them always.

 

Favorite family pastime:

Camping took this category in 2016 and I do believe that 2017 was even better.  Our trip to Fort Flagler was a spontaneous-but-magical little retreat.  Our weekend at Bainbridge Island with our extended crew was packed with laughter and sun and general familial bliss.  And our few days up in Whistler were some of my favorite days of the year.  If all goes according to plan, camping will win this category every year for the next decade…

 

And, favorite moments…

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Alrighty, 2018.  Let’s make some more magic happen.

We spent last weekend in Portland, convening with my parents at my brother’s house for an early Thanksgiving / birthday celebration for my mom / general cousin love-fest – the whole family typically gets together only at Christmas, so this was a happy bonus. The weekend was wet and chilly, though Mitch and Kathryn’s hot tub and fireplace offered much solace as we eased into winter.

It seems like the age gap between Morgan and Juliette lessens with each visit – these two were thick as thieves, happily bouncing from one activity to another together. Coloring! Dolls! House! Shopkins!

The age gap between Elise and Jules, though, is bigger than ever… This kid would be content to spend an entire day quietly cuddled under a blanket with a book. Kindred spirits, Elise and I.

Despite Saturday morning’s drizzle, we found ourselves itching to get outside. We warmed ourselves with lattes and vanilla steamers and then headed to Mount Tabor Park for a playground romp.

Northwest kids ain’t gonna let a little rain keep them down!

Post-playground, the girls set up a cozy den of sleeping bags and kicked back with a couple of bowls of popcorn and a movie.

And then the moment the credits started rolling on Trolls, the kids were raring to go again.  Back out we went, this time to Westmoreland Park.

We’ve been coming to this playground for the past couple of years, and it’s been fun to see Juliette become a bit bolder with each subsequent visit.  I’ve held her hand as she’s traversed this log a dozen times or more.  Now, though, “Let me do it, Mama!”

Morgan and Juliette deemed me the “bad witch” and banished me from their fort with their imaginary wands.

In the end, though, we all made up.

A sitter came over on Saturday evening to stay with the kids and the grown-ups went out to toast to my mom’s birthday with burgers and beer.  Ahhhh, a table free from coloring sheets and back-up snacks!  What a luxury!  Happy Birthday, Mom.

I woke up on Sunday morning to find that Elise and Juliette had renewed their affection for one another.

Post-breakfast was, of course, PARK TIME.

My heart gets a little ooey-gooey when I see these three put their arms around each other.  I’ve held each of these girls as babies, felt my world rocked with abounding love as I looked into their eyes.  And now, golly, they’re so big.  So different from one another.  And all so beautiful.

Thanksgiving most definitely started early this year – I’m feeling mucho gratitude for this family of mine.

We’ve got a five-day camping trip on the books where I expect I’ll take a boatload of photos, so I figured I better get up-to-date here on my summer snapshots – in addition to Friday Fun-days, Saturdays and Sundays have been pretty grand as well.

We convened with the gang in Issaquah in early June for a hike out to Coal Creek Falls.  Actually, let’s call it more of a “saunter” – 6 adults, 5 kids, and 1 dog made for a less-than-nimble group.

Oh, and add two babies to the tally!

This place is was so much greener than it was on our walk just a few weeks earlier.

Isaiah kissed a slug, proudly earning a new notch on his nature belt.

Seriously, people, the goin’ was slow!

Made it!

Steady, Gryff!

And…homeward bound!

We made it back to the car in record time, logging a speedy 35-minute mile.  Nicely done, kids.

In other news, Grandma was here!  My mom spent a couple of days in Seattle en route to Florida in mid-June and we hit up Jefferson Park on a sunny afternoon…

Then lounged in the backyard with white wine and kombucha.

We walked my mom to Lightrail on her final morning here and Juliette sobbed for 15 minutes once we said our good-byes, as if we’d never ever see Grandma again (we’ll see her next month).

We spent last Saturday in Mukilteo, visiting Shane’s aunt, uncle, and cousins.  Doug and Val have a condo right near the ferry terminal and the Mukilteo lighthouse, so we spent a little time exploring the sights.

And I snapped some Schnell family pics, since it’s so rare that their whole family gets to be together, with the kids spread from coast to coast.  See that strapping young man on the right?  I used to read him bedtime stories when he was Juliette’s age!

We spent much of the afternoon at the pool, floating on noodles and working on our tans.

Juliette got swim lessons from Auntie Val…

And loved it.

I soaked up some rays while Juliette pouted about the fact that pooltime was over.

We took an evening walk along the beach with ice cream cones from the corner brewpub and overturned rocks in search of crabs.

Thanks as always, Schnells, for showing us a great time!

With all the out-and-abouting we’ve been doing lately, we opted for a laid-back Fourth of July at home, venturing no farther than our own backyard.

I sometimes forget how good the simple pleasures can be.

SUMMMMMMMERRRRRRRRR!

We ended the day with a stroll down to the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand, raising our cups to the entrepreneurial spirit of the good ol’ U.S. of A.

We woke up to another magical 80-degree forecast on Saturday and drove over to Pine Lake to check out the Eastside water scene.

Shane and I each got out for a solo spin on the SUP and then Juliette asked if she could try.  We let her climb on but hovered close by, sure that we’d soon have a soaking wet kid on our hands.

Steady, baby…

She’s a natural, folks.

A few minutes in, she hopped off the board and ran to grab her life jacket, as a way of letting us know she was ready to venture a little farther out.

Shane took the fin off the bottom of the board so that Juliette paddled in circles around us, reveling in her newfound freedom.

What’s better than bobbing along in a cool lake with your favorite people on a warm day in the PNW?  Quite possibly nothin’.

Camping Trip Numero Dos is in the books, and though we stayed pretty close to home this time, venturing only as far as Bainbridge Island, it was a super-special weekend.  We haven’t done the big-gang camping thing in years and so when five of our favorite families agreed to sleep under the stars with us for a couple of days, we were stoked.  Let the mayhem begin!

We boarded the Bainbridge Ferry on Friday afternoon, cars loaded down with bikes and kayaks and paddleboards and marshmallows.  Peace out, Seattle!

Helloooooooo, Rainier!

No trip to Bainbridge is complete without a stop at Mora’s for ice cream.

I wiped the last drip of strawberry ice cream from Juliette’s chin and then we hopped in the Forester to set out for camp.  The gentlemen took an alternate mode of transportation.

We rolled up to our three sites at Fay Bainbridge State Park and were thrilled to find that we had in fact reserved a big stretch of lovely lawn, perfect for running and rolling and lounging.

And caterpillar-hunting!

The kids did their own version of summer sledding by hauling each other around on picnic blankets.

And Shane did some bike wheel triage while chatting with Jack over home-brewed Caipirinhas.

Once we’d set up camp and gulped down our first round of cocktails, we walked down to the beach to play in the sand and soak in the sun.

We bought a kite a few weeks ago and have been looking for the perfect place for its maiden voyage.  Found it!

This little driftwood fort was pretty magical, especially with Rainier shining in the distance.  Jules and Stella set up a “restaurant” in there – hot coffee was served in clam shells, with a sprinkle of sand on top.

Captain of the ship!

The grown-ups took to the water on paddle boards and kayaks.

And this little lady ran naked through the sea grass.  Ah, to be young again!

We grilled burgers for dinner and followed up with the requisite s’mores.

Jules and N spent some time mind-melding before bed – they’d squeeze their eyes shut tight, link their hands, and then Jack would ask Juliette what number she was thinking of.  She’d shout increasingly complex digits, like “twenty one hundred seven!”.  Jack would then turn to Nico and ask, “Nico, what number was Juliette thinking of?”  When he repeated, “twenty one hundred seven!”, the two of them would jump up and down, hardly able to believe the mind-reading magic of it all.

Seriously, to be young again!

BTW, this kid is a maniac on the RipStik.

All was (relatively) quiet by about 10 pm and all slept well (ok, not really).  There were a few tired kiddos and parents around the breakfast table on Saturday morning, but once coffee was brewed and the sun fully shone, everyone seemed to find their mojo.  The gentlemen headed out for a bike ride…

While the women and children headed down to the beach.

YOU GUYS.

The tide was super-low that morning and we combed the kelp for crabs, clams, and other sea treasures.

As soon as Shane returned from his ride, I headed out with Nicole and La Verne for an afternoon paddle.  The water was choppy, so Nicole and I “kayaked” on our paddle boards, returning to shore with soaking wet butts but newly browned shoulders.

Blue Crush, mid-thirties mama-style!

Juliette had played so hard that morning that I expected to return to camp to find her passed out in the tent, but…not so much.

Emily and La Verne ran to the store for a couple of things and returned with popsicles and margarita fixin’s.  Effusive gratitude was felt all around.

Jules and Stella shared a Moana moment…

While Eden and Shane played the sweetest-ever game of peek-a-boo.

I’m storing this moment with this crew in the memory bank, as we drifted in and out of the circle, story-telling and group-parenting and laughing like family.

Bop it, Bups.

These two pulled out all the stops when stalling at bedtime – it was almost as if Nico whispered in Juliette’s ear, “Hug me!  They’ll take our picture and forget about tooth-brushing!”

Finally, though, everyone was tucked in and camp was quiet (ok, not really).  Juliette woke up at 2 am desperate to poop and while I very reluctantly agreed to take her to the bathroom, all was made right when we crossed the clearing on the way to the Honey Bucket and she looked up at the sky to gasp, “Mommy, the stars!  They’re so beautiful!”  We turned off our head lamps and crouched there in the middle of the grass for a moment, feelin’ that camping buzz something fierce.

One of the three of us woke up the next morning with bright eyes and a smile on her face.  Guess which one.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at camp, letting the kids harvest unripe berries while the adults pounded the coffee that Jack had graciously picked up at Starbucks.

We got in one last beach-fix, kayaking and shell-hunting and kite-flying…

And then it was time to catch our 1:10 ferry back to the real world.  Thankfully, the real world offers showers and indoor bathrooms.  Otherwise, I might never have wanted to leave our little island oasis…

There are lots of reasons to be giddy about the arrival of Summer in the PNW, but the onset of camping season tops my list.  And so the first free June weekend we had, we put “CAMPING” on our calendar, heading for the hills with a hope and a prayer that the questionable weather forecast would turn in our favor (Lord knows we weren’t so lucky last time we camped in June, but I was feeling optimistic).

Nancy had booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park up near Port Townsend, and there’s always a bit of anxiety that comes with rolling into a campground you’ve never visited before – would the sites be crammed together?  would the tent spots be right next to the road?  would it be sparsely wooded?  OR, would it be sheltered and spacious and totally amazing?  From the minute I stepped out of the car, I knew this one was the latter!

Shane got right to work setting up the tent while Juliette and I explored the nearby trails, hunting for spiders and squirrels.

Juliette and I spent a few minutes laying down in the tent, but the moment we heard the Rust clan roll up, she shot up like a dart – in no time, all three kids were helmeted and on some form of wheels.

The beach was a two-minute drive from our site and we all headed down there before dinner to check out the scene.  And the scene was…BLUE!

Shane gave Gryff some lessons in rock skipping while Jules and Isaiah watched from their sunny perch.

Juliette has fully fallen into the role of the pesky kid sister, spending much of the weekend shouting, “Come sit by me, Gryff!  Gryff!  GRYFFIN!!!”  He’s so sweet to indulge her…

Can you believe the forecast that day was for steady drizzle?  Psssshhhhh.

We headed back to camp for brats and corn and cold beer around the campfire.

And, of course, the mallows.

I was eager to see the sunset, so Shane graciously offered to put Juliette to bed while I grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach (get your scroll finger ready!).

I mean, Holy Moly, this place was lovely.

I strolled to the end of a sandy spit and then stopped to sit on a piece of driftwood for awhile and fully breathe it all in.

I headed back to camp as the sun dipped below the horizon.  The water faded to darker shades of purple and blue, looking so much like a real-life Monet.

We all slept like rocks that night and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (ok, Shane was hardly bright-eyed, but Jules was feelin’ the camping joy!).

Juliette was convinced that giants lived under this metal hatch near the restrooms, so it was crucial that we tip-toed and wore our headlamps on our morning pee-run, just in case.

After we’d caffeinated and breakfasted and taken our sweet time getting out of our pajamas, we set out for a hike along the bluff.

This kid was channeling his inner Hulk (a la Halloween 2016).

Flagler was a military fort manned during World Wars 1 and 2 and the trail was dotted with bunkers and searchlights and batteries.

And…deer!

We eventually made it to the end of the trail and down to the beach for fort-building and shell-searching.

Shane set out on a bike ride while I hung back with Juliette (climb, baby, climb!).

Jules took an afternoon snooze and then we went back down to the beach to fill her bucket with purple shells and dried-out crabs.

It was like Halloween, watching her lay out all her loot back at camp!

We ate another hearty meal around the campfire and then Juliette waited not-so-patiently for Dad to roast her marshmallow.

We found ourselves with just enough pre-bedtime buzz to walk back down to that irresistible beach to catch the day’s last rays.

Driftwood shenanigans…

Good night, sun…

We stayed close to camp Sunday morning, slowly packing up while the kids made smoke signals and played soccer.

Juliette’s a bit young to be a legitimate playmate for a seven year old, but there were certainly moments when I saw these two having a grand ol’ time together…

Cheers to a killer start to camping season!

Shane decided he wanted to make the 50-mile trek to the Bainbridge Ferry on his bike (talk about a Hulk!), so Juliette and I made our own adventure of getting home, heading to Bremerton to check out Harborside Fountains and catch the ferry from there.

She hung back for the first half-hour, timidly dipping her toes in the water’s edge.

But soon she waded farther in…

And before long the pants were off.

We caught the 3:00 ferry to Seattle and I bought Juliette her first Choco Taco as a thank you for being such a good travel companion that day.  She took that first bite and asked with astonished delight, “Do I get to eat the whole thing?!”  Have at it, kiddo.

I was pooped and asked Juliette if we could just spend some time quietly sitting on a bench inside.  Sweet kid offered to read me a story while I rested!

And then our boat cruised up to the Seattle dock and we were home, sun-kissed and smelling of campfire smoke.  Next weekend, we head out for Camping Round 2.  The future is bright!

Memorial Day weekend was long and sunny and filled with good times with the gang – dare I say that summer has come a little early this year???

Juliette and I heralded the arrival of 80-plus temps with a Mama-Jules Friday at Gene Coulon Beach.

She rides a little lower every time she gets in that boat, but somehow, it still floats!

I’m so looking forward to a summer of Fridays with this kid…

After leaving the beach, we stopped by Target for paper towels and walked out with an inflatable pool, because, I mean, 82 degrees, people!  We just lived through Seattle’s coldest winter in 32 years!

We dusted off the paddle board on Saturday morning for a jaunt around Lake Washington…

And then set up camp on the lawn with our peeps.  It was a long, lazy morning of mimosas and baseball and water bazookas.

We celebrated N’s fourth birthday that evening with a dinosaur egg hunt and generously frosted cupcakes.

It was like Easter in May!  Brilliant party planning, La Verne…

Happiest of birthdays to this sweet boy!

Jules and N haven’t seen a whole lot of each other this past few weeks and seemed quite happy to be reunited again.

While the littler kids played with their eggs, G and Z did dare-devil stunts with scooters and riding toys down the Chens’ steep driveway.  Rough and tumble, these two…

Shane scored a big-kids bike on Craigslist on Saturday and gave Juliette her first pedal lesson on Sunday.  She’s got a ways to go before she’s cruising around this thing on her own, but biking lessons seem like a perfect father-daughter summer project.

I, on the other hand, am quite comfortable with my new wheels and loved our Sunday afternoon ride down to the lake and around Seward Park.  Check us out!  We’re a biking family!

 

We ran into the Chens down on the Boulevard and biked with them for awhile.

Juliette was such a good sport on our 14-mile trek that we let her maximize her pre-bed playtime by eating dinner in her new swimming pool.  Copper River salmon has never tasted so good!

Tempted as I was to lay super-low on Monday, Shane was gunning for another family ride, so we strapped our bikes to the Forester and drove over to Marymoor Park for a Redhook Ride.

I have to say, the Brewery payoff felt slightly out of proportion with the meager seven miles we rode to get there…  But hey!  It was a holiday!

We capped off our weekend o’ sun back at Seward Park, where I laid on the grass while the kids splashed in the lake.

And with that, May Madness is a wrap.

With the flurry of the England trip and the Portland trip, I missed a couple of other May happenings!

My mom and dad came to visit at the beginning of the month – it was a weekend full of walks at the park and tri-generational coffee dates:

The forecast was iffy the Saturday they were here, but once we woke that morning and saw blue skies overhead, we deemed it ferry weather.

Hello, Bainbridge!

First stop: Blackbird Bakery for Americanos and cookies.  Cafe-hopping is one of my favorite things to do with my mom and it’s been fun to fold Juliette into our ritual (even if it’s just with warm milk).

We wandered around Winslow for a couple of hours, hitting the toy store and Doc’s Marina Grill and, of course, Mora’s for ice cream.

Bainbridge is nice and all, but I think the ferry ride to and from there might be even nicer!

Sunday was another surprising lovely day, so we spent the morning at Seward Park, strolling and biking and throwing rocks.

My mom and dad hit the road a couple of hours before I caught my plane to England – I like to think we all spent that weekend filling Juliette’s love bank to the brim before splitting town!

Thankfully, I got back from my trip in time to spend Mother’s Day at home.  Though Shane was probably ready for a break, he was up early with Juliette Sunday morning to run to the bakery for a loaf of my favorite bread.  I came downstairs to find him plating avocado toast with bacon and eggs while Jules ground my coffee beans.  I’m the luckiest.

And then, in an even grander gesture, we went to the bike store to pick out a gift for me!  We kicked off a summer of family bike rides with a whirl on the Green River Trail.

Post-ride hydration at Schooner Exact Brewery…

Juliette then woo’ed me by pulling all of the floor mats out of the Forester and scrubbing them clean.  Just when I think this girl couldn’t possible wriggle her way any deeper into my heart…

I tell ya’, motherhood is some kind of special…

Seattle’s fleeting cherry blossoms come in two waves every year, and I feared we had missed the second wave of bright pink pom-poms while we were down in Los Angeles.  Turns out we made it back just in time!

I picked up Juliette a little early from school one day last week and when I saw her apropos ultra-pink outfit set against clear blue skies, I figured we should jet down to Lake Washington to check out the scene.  I mean, this tree branch was just begging to be sat upon by a girl in a pink tutu!

Right?

I miss those evening golden hours back at Santa Monica beach, but “pink hour” along Lake Washington is also pretty magical.

Riiiiiight?!

Shane and I tag-team parented much of last weekend due to some work stuff and a church meeting, but we did set aside Saturday morning for some quality family time.  We hit the trail to Coal Creek Falls at Cougar Mountain mid-morning – Juliette has outgrown the hiking backpack but assured us she could make it all the way on her own.

So much promise in these woods – this path feels like it’s on the verge of exploding with all shades of green.

Ahhhh, green, green, green!

Oh, and about Jules making it all the way “on her own”…

Thanks, Dad…

The sound of rushing water grew louder, then fainter, then louder again, and just when we all started to wonder if we’d ever get there…

Found it.

One of the advantages of hiking on a gray April day?  You get an oasis like this all to yourself.

This kid could have spent all day fishing for special rocks in the shallow water.  I told her she could pick three to take home with her and after carefully considering her options, she slipped a brown one, a black one, and a striped one into her pocket.  She gave each of them very dramatic names like “The Waterfall of the Sea” and “The Seasons of the Grass”.  I’m guessing her teachers have been reading her fairy tales at school?

I know, Jules, I know – it’s so thrilling to see leaves on the trees!  Cheers to a Spring and Summer of gettin’ outside.