Archive for the ‘peeps’ Category

Despite the extra hours of daylight, it somehow feels like time actually accelerates in Seattle during the summer.  My stomach does a sad little flip with each page-turn of the calendar.  I mean, it’s already August!  AUGUST!  Where did July go?  (Turns out, in looking back through my photo stream, I can tell you exactly where it went…)

The Fourth of July was spent at Rattlesnake Lake, shivering a bit in the morning breeze and then eventually letting the sun lure us into the water.

 

The winds out in the middle of the lake were pretty intense, causing Jack to take an unexpected dip in the water.

And this posse started out with toe-dips but was soaked by the time we left.

Seriously, our Lake Love runs deep.

 

Back at home, we brought out the sparklers and smoke bombs with the neighbors.

Ah, this age where excitement is found in the simplest of pleasures!

The other neighbor kids came and knocked on our door after dinner and asked if we wanted to watch their fireworks show – we walked over to find an arsenal of Ground Blooms and Fountains and Bottle Rockets on the sidewalk while one of the dads stood by with a blow torch.  The next hour was a barrage of booms and fizzles and children squealing, “Light this one, Daddy!  Light this one!”.

Golly, I love our street.

A couple of days later, Juliette and I headed to Remlinger Farms for our annual berry-picking pilgrimage.  Jules got right to work, popping huge red raspberries into her bucket (and her mouth).

Six pounds later, we were done.

(And quite proud of ourselves.)

The three of us hit up Lake Washington Boulevard a couple of times last month for bicycle Sundays – Juliette continues to be a little champ on two wheels.

And Friend-Fridays!  They’ve been extra-good lately.  We spent one sunny morning with N and LaV at Gene Coulon Park, trying (and failing) to catch minnows in buckets.

Last Friday we went to Henry Moses Aquatic Center for some legit summer swimming, and these two little fishes had the time of their lives.

We’ve been doing the splash park circuit on the weekends, meeting up with friends to romp at Jefferson Park and Georgetown Playfield.

And ’tis the season for baseball!  The three of us took in a Mariners game with my co-workers at my office’s summer picnic.

Juliette was really into it for about half an inning, but lost interest when she found out the Giants weren’t playing (I get it, kiddo).

But, the Giants were playing at Safeco a week later, so we played hooky with the Chens on a Wednesday afternoon to cheer on our boys.

Sadly, the Giants lost, but at least there were no gloating Mariners fans in our midst as we were surrounded by orange and black.

La Verne asked us last weekend if we were interested in tagging along with them to the Seattle Chamber Music performance at Volunteer Park, so we packed our cooler with wine and watermelon and joined them for a perfect evening of classical music.

…and contemporary art!

And now, it’s August.  The last full month of summer.  May it be chock-full of warmth, water, and more simple wonders.

I wasn’t super-jazzed about outdoor sleeping when a crow woke Juliette up at 5:45 on Saturday morning, but when Shane and the guys returned at 6:15 from their sunrise bike ride up Mount Constitution (those crazy cats!), I sent her out to hang with him and dozed for another hour while the sun came up and sufficiently warmed our tent.  Once I was up and ready to take over Jules-duty, Shane snagged his own morning snooze.

We packed up our coolers and drove over to Cascade Lake around lunchtime for some beach action.  La Verne and I ran a quick(ish) loop around the lake before settling in with the group for sandwiches, Spikeball, and cold beverages.

I took Jules out for a paddle but got no more than 20 feet off-shore before deciding to head back because of the heavy winds.  Only, I couldn’t head back…after several minutes of fighting the current and paddling in-place, we let the breeze carry us down-shore, where Shane met us and pulled us up to dry land.

These brave little mates were rewarded with ice cream for keeping their cool on the troubled waters.

And, home, sweet home…

Jordan had joined us that morning but clearly had some recuperating to do after his uber-early ferry ride.

Jordan’s chair quickly became Biscuit’s favorite seat in the house.

The afternoon and evening was filled with water play, hammock time, and campfire chats.

Shane offered to cover bedtime so that I could sneak away with La Verne and Jordan to Mount Constitution to catch the sunset.

And it was amazing up there.  Dusky and purply and so much like a soft pastel painting.

GOOD night.

The Chens packed up camp on Sunday morning and bid us farewell, as they needed to get back to Seattle.  First, though, a couple of pics…

And a trip into town for pastries and WiFi.

Back at camp, Jordan converted his Honda into a party pad and the kids perched up there for awhile, launching pine cones at miscellaneous targets.

I had spotted the serene-looking Twin Lakes from Mount Constitution the night before and proposed we make the 2-mile trek.  We headed out around lunchtime, backpacks filled with water and snacks and swimsuits.  We’d heard murmurings of a rope swing on Mountain Lake and came across it a half-mile in.  Seeing as how it was Jason’s birthday, he got first dibs.

Jason Tarzanned into the water, then Jordan, then Shane, and then I channeled my inner adventurer and had a go.

The exhilaration!  The glee!  The water up my nose!  It was a blast.

After multiple shenanigans, we eventually put our shoes back on and hit the trail to Twin Lakes.  We ate lunch at one of the lake’s quiet shores while Biscuit went for a swim.

And our way back, we took our own dip at a quiet stretch of shore on Mountain Lake.

I swam part of the way back to camp while the rest of the group hiked and was plumb tuckered out by late afternoon, sitting back in a chair while the kids slack-lined and deer-hunted.

We all got in one last paddle session before dinner…

And then we kicked backed in front of the roaring campfire, courtesy of Isaiah.

Happy birthday, J!  I can’t imagine a better place to turn another year older.

Monday was go-day, but I was determined to savor every last minute on the water.  Juliette and I paddled out to one of the lake’s little islands and she hid a special rock that she had colored the day before, thrilled by the idea of someone someday finding her special treasure.

We pretended we were legitimate explorers and combed the island for special sticks to bring back to Shane.

Gah!  This girl and this place.  Pure joy.

Nance and I went for a quick swim while Shane deflated our paddle board and then it was time to go.  Jules was none-too-pleased by the idea of leaving our site.

…Or our buddies.

But alas, Seattle was calling us back.  Shane and I agree this was our favorite-ever campsite.  Totally worth the nine-month wait.  Totally.

Shane’s a planner. I love him for it. And sometimes I capitol-L L-o-v-e him for it, like when he gets up early on an October morning to reserve a campsite for the following July. We’ve been dreaming of setting up our tent on Orcas Island for a couple of years but weren’t ever able to secure a spot, as the best sites book nine months out. This year, though, this was our year! A couple of Thursdays ago we boarded the Anacortes ferry and floated toward Orcas to claim our reservation at Mountain Lake in Moran State Park.

(We were all pumped.)

We had invited the gang along and found the Chen tent already pitched when we rolled up. Jules greeted her best buddy with a hug while I stood still for a moment and took in the smell of the trees and sparkle of the lake and the sound of the wind. The woods have become our summer home away from home, and I felt home.

Over the course of the afternoon and evening, paddle boards were inflated, a hammock was strung, swimsuits were donned, and margaritas were mixed. When we settle into camp, we settle in!

The Rust clan rolled in around dinnertime and by 7 pm we were gathered around a campfire with our crew, eating brats and drinking beer and watching the sun dip and suffuse our site with that glorious late-day smoky glow.

Our collective watercraft have never been more well-utilized than they were during this camp trip.

Oh, to end each day this way…

Mornings were always leisurely, with a long, lazy breakfast, maybe an early paddle.  I mean, why rush off from here?

But we eventually summoned enough get-up-and-go to pack up a picnic lunch and head to Obstruction Pass for a short hike and some water-side lounging.

The rocky beach was warm and quiet – we found a shady spot to spread out our blankets and then cracked open the canned Rosé.

The kids and their dads scampered on the rocks and hunted for tiny crabs while I fell into a sun-and-wine stupor…

We swung by Buck Bay on the way back to camp to check out their fresh seafood offerings. This place was charming and chill, with picnic tables and mermaid murals and buckets scattered about with labels that read “Toss Empty Oyster Shells Here”.

Juliette was a little perplexed by the thought of plucking a live crab out of the water and cracking it open as a snack.

Jack’s planner-proclivities come through whenever food and drink is involved, and sure enough, he pulled out a bottle of chilled white wine just as a dozen oysters arrived at our table.

You can see from Shane’s face here that he hasn’t entirely recovered from the oyster trauma he endured at Hood Canal last summer…

Back at camp, Jack and Shane took a dip while the kids cheered them on from the shore.

It wasn’t long before all the kids had their swimsuits on as well.

I took Nico and Jules out on the paddle board to meet up with Jack mid-swim.

I agree, Gryff – this lake gets TWO THUMBS UP.

Dinnertime!

And dessert!

La Verne and I hopped on our paddle boards after s’mores for a sunset row. La Verne remarked at how good the water felt as she waded in and stood up on her board; I launched myself right behind her and then, as if in slow motion, watched the tip of my board bump into the back of hers, causing her to lose her balance and tumbled right into the lake. I apologized profusely and offered to grab her a towel and dry clothes, but she was incredibly gracious and hopped right back up for our evening paddle, wet clothes and all! I felt terrible.  But I mean, the water was lovely that night. I got out for my own short swim before bed, rinsing off a couple of days of camp life in the glassy lake.

Up next:  paddle, swim, eat, repeat.

Ahhh, June. We spent more weekends last month sleeping on the ground than we did in our bed!  Back in February I came across a Facebook post about family-friendly Lake Sylvia and promptly booked us a June weekend at a waterfront site.  We did waffle for a moment about whether or not we really wanted to head back outdoors just four days post-Bainbridge, but we ultimately decided to go for it.  I was eager to see someplace new, and a lot of our gear was still in the back of our car, anyway.

We rolled into camp on a Thursday afternoon and…our brows furrowed a little. Sites were tight. RVs outnumbered tents. Kids zipped by us left and right on bikes and scooters. We’ve held our remote Canadian enclave of last summer as the pinnacle of campground dreams, and this was hardly it.  But we pitched our tent and blew up our paddle board and set up our chairs at the lake’s edge.  Then Juliette wandered over to the site next door to toss rocks with two other little girls while I watched a gaggle of geese float by and I decided, alright, this place was amazing!

Plus, free salmonberries for the taking!

The campground loop was relatively flat and relatively small, so it was the perfect place for Juliette to get back on two wheels after a winter/spring biking hiatus.  I jogged along side her for a couple of loops, thrilled to see that her sense of balance was still intact.

And then she asked me to stay behind while she did a loop with the neighbor girls – a lump rose in my throat, as she ended up with a bruised a bloodied shoulder the last time I let her pedal out of my sight, but I swallowed that lump right down and told her to Go For It.  And except for one minor brush with a bush, she rocked it.

Shane eventually coaxed Juliette off her bike and onto the paddle board, so that they could go salamander-hunting while I got dinner ready.

And then, after brats and veggies, Juliette and her new buddy settled in together for some puzzle-making.  She can actually be quite timid with strangers at the get-go, hanging back to observe and get a vibe, but after about three minutes the urge to engage completely overwhelms her and she inserts herself into the fold – when faced with an option, she always chooses the company of others.  Shane and I are often the only “others” around and I want to cry out, “Can’t you play alone for just FIVE MINUTES?!”, but really, I admire her boldness and vulnerability and desire to connect.  She didn’t get those extroverted genes from me!

Sadly, our neighbor buddies rolled out on Friday morning, but Juliette befriended the resident geese and spent much of the day feeding leftover hot dog buns to Fella, Gree, Greeda, Greedo, and Beeba.

Lazy mornings…

We set out around lunchtime for a hike on one of the park’s many trails, crossing a bridge into the deep, dark woods.

And the woods were stunning.  Lush and green and dotted with the most magnificent fuchsias and yellows.

 

Oh, Daddy.  So strong…

And so tall!

We had trouble finding the bridge that was supposed to lead us over the creek to the trail back to camp, but we made a way.  Barely.

And…done!  Four miles deserves a high-five!

Jeepers, I’m proud of this little northwestern kid.

Back at camp, I kicked back with my book and a can of Rose while Shane and Juliette rested in the tent.  Mary Oliver and sunshine and bubbles, oh my…

And then, just as I took my last sip, our go-getter was begging for a spin on the paddle board.  Shane rowed her over to the beach on the other side of the lake while I hoofed it across the bridge to meet them at the shallow waters.

We made a quick trip into town for firewood and a latte (this campground scores two points for easy access to espresso!) and then laid low the rest of the evening.  Jules did a few (dozen) solo loops on her bike and beamed at me proudly each time she rounded the bend and saw me waiting for her back at the site.  We sat by the water and then by the campfire and ate Indian food and s’mores.  These two people + water + woods are…LIFE.

The realities of a busy campground smacked us in the face on Saturday morning when we heard kids scootering past our tent at 7 am, but this girl’s smile (and sleeping accessories!) did much to relieve my crankiness.

I drank my coffee while Juliette took some star shots of Shane.  “Be funny, Daddy, be funny!”

Before we officially packed it up, Juliette really wanted to pet a salamander and I really wanted to get out for one more paddle.  We both scored.

This was actually the first time that Shane, Jules and I have camped without any of our crew, and while I missed seeing our friends pop out of their tents in the morning, missed the evening game of s’more du jour, I did relish the three-of-us time.  Shane and I talked more that weekend than we have in weeks.  Juliette snuggled into my lap for long stretches in the evenings, seeking warmth and rest.  Roughing it, schmuffing it – camp life is nothing short of luxurious.

Camp season continues!  Mid-June brought what has become our annual group camp trip to Bainbridge Island; all of us had a grand time spreading out on the lawn here last summer and felt we were due for a reunion.  We trickled into the site on a sunny Friday afternoon and made ourselves at home, cracking open cold beers while setting up our tents and watercraft.

There was such a happy, chill-but-active vibe around the site – seemed a ball was always being tossed around, seemed there were always a handful of people kicking back near the fire pit.

Also, seemed like Jack was always grilling up meat of some sort…

Note:  pack extra, extra wet wipes when camping with kids!  Another note:  the super-sized marshmallows I picked up at the store are too much mallow.

We were one of the last families to emerge from our tent on Saturday, reluctant to leave our cozy nest.

But once we unzipped our front door, Jules was off, eager to play with her best bud.

We walked down to the beach after breakfast to toss the ball around, catch some rays, and squish sand between our toes.

Felt so good.

We capitalized on the super-windy conditions and pulled out our kite for awhile.

Then, took refuge in the fort.

Golly, I adore this kid.

While the kids lunched…

La Verne, Nance and I got out for a paddle.  The water was crazy-choppy, so I never made it into the full standing position on the paddleboard, but a good time was had by all.  Despite our wet butts!

The grown-ups happy-houred before dinner and Baby J took a snooze.  The kiddos played hard all weekend and this girl was feelin’ it!

I’m all for a creative s’more, pro-potato chip or peanut butter cup between the graham crackers, but when J started mixing in barbecue chicken, I tapped out.

Juliette and Shane hit the hay a little early on Saturday night, which left me free to walk down to the water for my beloved solo sunset stroll.  The sky was…wow.

…And, happy Sunday morning!  Don’t mind if I do, Jack!

We sipped mimosas and ate Jack’s famous chilaquiles and the kids gathered around Father Goose for a story and a good laugh.

We went down to the beach one last time before heading out, to get a little more sun and search for crabs.

It was Father’s Day, and as I watched these papas hang with their kiddos on the beach, I was struck by how uniquely wonderful each of them is at loving their kids.

My numero unos…

We made a quick stop in Winslow for lavender lemonade from Blackbird Bakery and then hopped in line for the ferry back to Seattle, a little grubby and a lot happy.  Emily is already talking about next year’s Bainbridge getaway.  COUNT US IN.

We spent a few days earlier this month in Minnesota, celebrating our niece’s high school graduation and catching up with our beloved Schnells. While there was some busy-ness with festivities and ceremonies, there was also ample time to slow down, to sit on the porch and drink beer, to stand by the fence and coo at the brand-new baby calves.

We arrived Thursday evening and after a round of hugs from Grandma and Grandpa, Juliette darted across the yard to say hello to the animals.

While Jules fell head over heels for the cows, I became smitten with these golden greens…

The temperatures weren’t quite warm enough for us to pull out our swimsuits on Friday, but Shane was still up for a ride on a french fry floaty at Lake Latoka.

Meanwhile, Jules and Hayden snuggled up together under beach towels.

We spent most of the afternoon setting up the church for Shanay’s big graduation shin-dig and then headed home for a stroll around the farm.

Denny just bought ten baby pigs and they are the cutest.  We loved watching them dart from one end of the pen to the other, wooing them closer to us by dumping a heap of leftovers into their food trough.

 

Fatten up, little ones…  Grandpa’s got big plans for you.

Outside the barn, we stopped to hang out with the cows.  This sweet baby calf was just a few days old!

Back at the house, the cousins caught up with each other on the porch while Shane grilled up a whole lotta hot dogs.

We ended every day around this table, eating and drinking and laughing with the family.

We used the time change to allow ourselves (Juliette included) to stay up late and sleep in late.  Our mornings were lazy – Juliette romping around the porch in her underwear, Shane and I taking our sweet time eating our breakfast.

We drove over to the church late Saturday morning for Shanay’s big graduation celebration.  We’re so proud of this lovely young lady – she’s bright and generous and incredibly kind and now, a bonafide adult!

We spent the afternoon tinkering around the house, watching Grandpa work on his motorcycle and then spending more time with our cow friends.

This girl loves her grandpa somethin’ fierce – any time he entered a room, Juliette ran to him with arms wide open, exclaiming “GRANDPA!”, as if she hadn’t seen him just ten minutes earlier.

By late afternoon Jules was getting a case of the crankies, so I took her out for a lemonade reboot at the coffee shop.  A little one-on-one time does wonders for the both of us.

The weather had turned super-warm and I still had our beach bag in the trunk, so we detoured on the way home for a toe-dip at the lake.

We dined at Chet’s that night with the whole family, feasting on fried chicken with our lovely graduate.

And as we settled into our porch chairs for beer and a sunset show, we saw tiny flickers of light appear over the field.  Fireflies!

Shane offered to catch one for Juliette in a jar and I admittedly doubted his prowess, wondering how on earth he’d capture one of these fleeting-and-few-between bugs.  But alas, DAD FOR THE WIN.

The country in the summertime is a magical place.

I went for a blissfully quiet walk on Sunday morning before heading to the high school for the big ceremony.

Shanay!  You did it!

After setting our graduate free to hang out with her friends for the afternoon, we all headed home for yet another stroll through the farm.  Never got old.

Roo, the cow Juliette is trying to feed, is known as being particularly troublesome, breaking loose from the pen any chance she gets.  Jules developed a special fondness for this rascal, cooing, “Oh, Roo…” every time she came close.

Hayden loves animals, but does not love the resident bull, Pretty Boy.  She avoided eye contact at all costs.

Hey, piggies!

Gosh, I miss these little fellas!  They had so much personality.

These Minnesota Schnell kids are top-notch.  Patient and fun and affectionate – Juliette hit the cousin jackpot.

We gathered on the porch again on Sunday evening, this time raising our glasses to Avery, who had just turned 14.  Happy Birthday, Bud!

We lingered especially late around the table that night, Tiff and I savoring our super-sized beers and Shane sipping his little shot glass of top-shelf scotch.  I can’t imagine feeling more at home with a family that’s not actually my blood.  Thanks for a makin’ a girl feel welcome, Schnells…

We pulled away from the farm on Monday morning and set out for Minneapolis, Juliette yelling “Bye, Roo, you old troublemaker!” as we made our way down the road.  We had a few hours to pass in the city before our flight, so we took a walk along the Mighty Mississippi and then grabbed lunch downtown.

 

 

 

We parked ourselves in this hip little coffee shop for a solid hour, sipping our drinks and playing game after game of Go Fish.  I’m so glad that Juliette loves cafe time as much as I do.

Eventually, later than planned, we boarded our plane for Seattle and headed west.  We rolled up to our house after midnight, weary but rested.  We’re self-declared city folk, Shane and I, but a few days in the country sure does us good.

The past couple of months have been pretty spectacular, what with the beach-combing in Florida and the partying in Portland and the camp-firing at Fort Flagler.  PLUS, there’s been a smorgasbord of April and May goodness right here at home.

Home.  HOME!  We super-duper love our new one!  We got our keys the evening before we left for Florida and hauled a carload of boxes right over, eager as we were to settle into our new place.

Moving was a bear, but family really came through in a clutch.  Clearly, Jules was a stellar assistant with all the unpacking:

And my parents!  They were heroes.  As soon as we all returned from Florida, my dad and I got right to work giving all our rooms a nice fresh coat of white while my mom meticulously organized the kitchen.

And then Shane’s mom came to visit for a weekend in May – we hit Ikea together and she helped me get our closets in order.

We warmed our house with a (furniture-less) picnic dinner at the end of April, determined to have the Hickory clan over before they set off on their Colorado move.

We’ve shared so many big ups and big downs with this crew – breaking bread with these people in our new house is an up I’ll remember forever.

But saying good-bye to Brian, Nicole, Eden and Stella…total down.  We miss these guys so much already!

Juliette gave one final farewell to our townhouse the first weekend in May and then we were officially out.

This place was good to us for the past eleven years.  It will always be our first house, the place where we hosted the small group that turned out to be full of our life-long nearest and dearest friends (the very same ones that were there for our first meal in our new house!).  Our townhouse was the place that we watched Juliette take her first steps, the place in which we decorated a decade’s worth of Christmas trees.  I sniffled just a bit when I pulled out of the driveway for the very last time.

But then I drove across the bridge and we ate dinner in our new backyard and Juliette and Nico frolicked in the grass and I was overcome with the feeling that this next chapter in our lives is going to be a good one.

Getting to know our new neighborhood has been such a joy – meeting the super-friendly families on all sides of us, discovering the views around every corner, soaking up these western skies…

I look forward to my evening walks with a whole new kind of fervor.  I never really pictured myself as a West Seattle-ite, committed as I was to the South End, but suddenly I’m all in.

And golly, this backyard of ours…  We’ve loved dining al fresco, feeling like we finally have space to play the role of host.  The Rusts popped by one Saturday night just to say hello and then did a little jig when we told them we had extra burgers and dogs on the grill for them.

Aunt Val came to visit while Shane’s mom was in town and she filled me in on what exactly is planted in our yard, pointing out the peonies that were about to bloom and the lilac bush that smells so, so good.

We moved in at the right time of year, I tell ya.

This corner lot comes at a cost, though – we’ve quickly discovered the amount of work that goes into keeping this yard in tip-top shape.  Yowsers!  (But more gadgets for Shane!)

In other good-things news, Mother’s Day was lovely this year – Shane and Juliette made french toast and grapefruit mimosas for me and Shane’s mom and then we all headed to Alki Beach for a sun-break.

And Jules and I have been loving lots of quality time with LaV and Nico, soaking in our last couple of months of Fridays together before this guy heads off to kindergarten in the Fall.

We had a grand time celebrating his space-themed fifth birthday, watching him blast off to a year of new adventures.

These two…making each other smile since 2013.

They were especially awesome together on our Memorial Day hike to Coal Creek Falls, trooping through the trek with very little complaining – La Verne didn’t have to bust out the gummy bribes until mile 2.5!

This is our fourth or fifth time on this trail, and it continues to be one of our faves – not too crowded, not too steep, and always a rock to sit on mid-way to take a rest and have a snack.

And now, June.  We just got back from Minnesota, we’ve got a couple of camping trips on the books over the next two weekends, and my peonies are at their peak.  Life’s good.

It’s CAMPING SEASON!  The most wonderful time of the year!  We knew we were rolling the dice weather-wise when we headed out at the very beginning of June, but we were exceedingly eager to take a break from house to-do’s, pull out our tent, and fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees.  Nancy booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park, since we had such a grand time there last year and felt it was worthy of a repeat.

Juliette is more and more helpful with each subsequent year and was a perfect first mate for Shane as he set up the tent.

Mission accomplished!

Once we’d properly gotten settled, Juliette and I took a walk down to the water to check a few things off of her Junior Ranger Treasure Hunt list.

Found crabs!  And a feather, and clouds, and other miscellaneous outdoor goodies.

Back at camp, Isaiah dazzled us with his champion fire-builder skills as he coached Juliette on finding the perfect sort of twigs to toss into the ring to really get the flames roaring.

The question of the weekend, from all three kids, was, “Can I throw this in the fire?”  The answer was usually yes, though we learned we needed to add a few qualifiers – crumple up that paper bag before it’s tossed into the flames!

We ate our traditional fare of bratwursts and grilled veggies for dinner, paired with red wine that somehow tasted so good out of a plastic cup.  I tell you, these trees work wonders on your taste buds!

After s’mores and clean-up, we walked down to the water with mugs of hot tea to skip rocks and watch the sun go down.

Juliette has a particularly fierce fondness for Jason these days and snuggles up next to him every chance she gets.  I think he likes the attention.

We made it through the night with no significant wake-ups, but Juliette was up early with the birds, so I brewed myself an extra-large cup of coffee with our skillet of sausage, eggs, and hash browns.

And then, after breakfast, I just…sat.  The kids ran around and tracked each other with their walkie-talkies, Shane strung up the hammock, Jason walked his slack-line, and I reveled in being completely stationary.

Eventually, though, the trails beckoned and we packed up a lunch for a hike along the bluff.

This trail is amazing.  Lush and densely green for long stretches, and then it will open up to an expansive view of the water or a glowing, grassy pasture.

It’s also dotted with relics from its days as a World War II military fort, which make for some fun-but-slightly-spooky detours.

There’s no other crew I’d rather trek with…

Seriously, parts of this path felt straight out of The Shire.  Dark green!  Light green!  Yellow-green!  Olive green, Emerald green, Kelly green, oh my.

We all chilled for awhile when we got back to camp and then busted out the Monopoly cards for some friendly competition.  It’s nice to play with people that don’t gloat when they win.  (HA!)

Juliette had no interest in post-hike chill-axing, so we took her down to the water to let her try her hand at kite-flying at the park’s breezy coastline.

There’s always a little bit of let-down when the kids realize the actual monotony of flying a kite, but Jules got a huge kick out of trying to catch the kite as Shane reeled it in.  And so he reeled it in, and tossed it back up, and reeled it in, and tossed it back up.

Also, watching the boys work on their headers was kind of hilarious.

Once the kite and the soccer ball lost their charm, we walked down to the beach for some fort-building.

Isaiah quickly declared himself captain.  Jules was the driver.  Jason was the chef.  I was the ship’s photographer.

We dined that night over another roaring fire, courtesy of Isaiah.

There were a couple of boys close to G and Z’s ages at the site across from us and Juliette did her damnedest to keep up with the big kids.  She was thrilled when they invited her to come along on their race around the campground loop.

And then, S’MORES.

Such a good life.

After the dishes were washed and the kids were pajama’d, I walked down to the water for a solo sunset stroll.  (There goes that Moana song again!)

We broke down camp on Sunday morning immediately after breakfast – I’ll begrudgingly give kudos to Shane for rushing me through my morning campfire coffee as it was awfully nice to have the tent packed up as raindrops began to fall.  The kids stayed dry in the car as we gathered up the last few things.  I mean, it wouldn’t be a true June PNW camping trip without a little drizzle!

Cheers, gang!  Camp season 2018 is off to a very promising start.

Can we talk for a minute about my dad?  He’s pretty remarkable.  One of the most genuinely friendly people I know, he’ll strike up a conversation with anyone and seems to leave a sea of smiles in his wake.  He’s incredibly generous with his time, quick to offer to feed an injured neighbor’s alpacas or to coach my childhood softball team or to help me paint our new house.  And he’s the perpetual life of the party – not in a dancing-with-a-lampshade-on-his-head kind of way, but more in a makes-sure-everyone-has-a-good-time kind of way.  Which is why we were thrilled to meet up with him and my mom in Portland to celebrate his big 7-0 a couple of weeks ago.  On his birthday eve, we gathered around Mitch and Kathryn’s table to dine on Mitch’s famous grilled chicken and Gresham’s finest cupcakes for dessert.

And then the girls ran off their cupcake-crazies in the front yard…

So happy, but so tired!

We laid pretty low during the day on Saturday, but did make it out of the house to watch Morgan dominate the soccer field.

The rest of the afternoon was spent swinging and teeter-tottering.

Saturday evening was the main event: The Jarrell Birthday Brew Crawl!  Mitch and Kathryn had booked a sitter so that the grown-ups could get out and imbibe with my dad at a handful of Portland’s best breweries.  First though, gifts!  Mitch and I went in together to up my dad’s Growler Game.

And a couple of quick pics, before we kissed the little ones good-bye and hailed our extra-large Lyft.

We started our journey at Von Ebert Brewing, where the tots were hot, the spinach dip was rich, and the Hefeweizen was extra-wheaty.

From Von Ebert’s we walked over to Deschutes where the wait for a table was over an hour, so we trekked on…

And landed at Bridgeport, where we chowed down on pot pie paired with perfect IPA’s.

We grabbed another Lyft after dinner and went to Breakside Brewery for…more beer!  Dessert was a glass of Salted Caramel Stout and a nibble of dark chocolate.  We rolled ourselves out of there and headed home to our girls, full and happy and a little bit loopy.  My dad knows how to party.

Happiest of Birthdays, Dad.  May this be a year of new Ales, no ails, and abundant joy.

I loved our evening treks across the beach bridge.  At this point we had seen our sights and made our family visits and eaten our meals for the day; there was nothing left to do but revel in sun and surf and quality time with one another.  Saturday’s beach-time was especially satisfying, as the sunset was particularly beautiful and Jules was particularly fun.

Moana’s voice piped through my head every time Juliette waded out into the water – I’m the girl who loves the sea, It calls meeeeeee…

The ocean calls me too, kiddo!

Juliette and I romped in the water for a good hour that night, playing until my dress was soaked up to my waist and we were both exhausted from wave-jumping.

A swell of foreboding storm clouds rolled in and we wondered if we should dart for cover.

As quickly as the clouds rolled in, though, they rolled out.

We were packing up shop for the night when Juliette found this amazing sand-plane a short ways down the beach, so we delayed bedtime by a few minutes to let her take a quick flight.  Such a magical place, this little stretch of sand…

By Sunday I was itching to get out of town, so my mom and dad offered to hang with Juliette while Shane and I drove down to Saint Petersburg to check out the scene there.  We grabbed coffee at a hip little shop and then strolled down the main drag, ending up at The Mill for brunch.

We walked off our bacon and eggs with a trip down to the Dali Museum on the waterfront.

And then, not wanting to deprive my parents of additional solo time with their granddaughter, Shane and I lingered over iced Americanos and Monopoly cards at Indian Shores Coffee.

We landed back at my parents’ condo mid-afternoon and heard all about their turtle-watching adventure with Great Grandma Alice.

Then, POOL.

Then, BEACH.  The ultimate daily rhythm.

We ate dinner that night at a beach bar on the waterfront, feasting on crab cakes and broiled shrimp one last time.

The ocean seemed extra-warm and extra-mellow that night, so Shane and Juliette waded way out in search of dolphins.

When they didn’t find any, Juliette asked Shane to be her dolphin.  Being the stellar father that he is, he obliged.  My happiest of happy places is on a quiet stretch of beach, my feet dug into the warm sand, watching these two be silly together.

On Monday morning we packed up our things and turned in the keys to our beach-front abode.  Knowing that we had a long day of travel ahead of us, I caffeinated with a double latte at the Coffee Mill.  My Grandma opened this store 40 years ago in a brave, faith-filled effort to make a living for herself after she and my grandfather divorced.  Though business ownership was demanding, it sustained her and the few of my family members who worked there in various capacities throughout the years.  I so vividly remember visiting this store as a kid, staring wide-eyed at the rows of candy jars, feeling like I’d hit the jackpot when Grandma handed me little bags of gummy fish and jelly beans and Holland mints.  My Aunt Karen eventually took over the Mill and just recently sold it, but I couldn’t resist returning for a stroll down memory lane.  The smell of roasted coffee and the creak of the wood floors took me back, though I dearly missed the sight of Grandma’s smiling face behind the cash register.

We met up with my Aunt Karen and my mom’s cousin Gail for breakfast that morning, getting the scoop on more family happenings…

And then set out on an alligator hunt.  We found what we were looking for at Taylor Park, in the form of two beady eyes peering out from the water 30 feet off-shore.  Juliette gasped excitedly, but lost interest once she realized this particular alligator wasn’t going anywhere.

We stopped by my Grandma’s place before heading out of town and I was thrilled by her exceedingly warm welcome.  She hugged me and grabbed both my hands and gushed over how happy she was to see me.  She knew me!  Like old times!  And then she went to introduce me to the friends at her lunch table and drew a blank with my name, remarking that she hadn’t seen me in years and years.  It was as if our visits over the previous few days had never taken place.  I held back tears, knowing that by the next day she’d likely have forgotten me completely.  I’m not so good at living in the moment – I’m much more prone to reminisce about days gone by or look ahead to the next great adventure.  But for Grandma, the moment is largely it.  So I took a deep breath, steadied my voice, and asked her if she wanted to show me around her place.  And just as she did on my previous visit, and on the one before that, she took my hand and led me through her endless courtyard, remarking about the trees and the squirrels and the sun overhead.  I nodded encouragingly, telling her how beautiful it all was, how happy I was to be there with her.  In that moment.

I hugged Grandma extra-tight as we said our good-byes and then she wrapped up Juliette in the warmest, most grandmotherly embrace a kid could wish for.  I’m so glad Jules had a chance to meet Alice, a woman who has lived a life of unwavering kindness and generosity and faith.

Tears stung my eyes again as we made our exit and the door swung closed behind us, Grandma smiling and waving from the hallway.  My heart overflowed with both gratitude and sadness on our drive to Tampa.  Gosh, good-byes hurt.  But after lunch, as I watched Juliette happily slurp up drips of key lime popsicle juice and chatter about Great Grandma Alice and turtles and pelicans, I felt the scales tip toward gratitude.  This trip was all I’d hoped it would be.