Archive for the ‘peeps’ Category

It feels impossible that a month ago we were in Hawaii, footloose and fancy-free.  COVID-19 was hardly on our radar.  And now, as of today, we are officially, fully, per-the-Governor’s-orders homebound.  How quickly the tides have turned.  But more on that later…I’m still wrapping my head around our new normal.

So…Hawaii!  In February!  How we anticipated this trip, saving up Hilton points and shopping for swimsuits and snorkeling across the basement rug in anticipation of a much-needed mid-winter break.

We stepped over the threshold of the Grand Wailea on a Wednesday afternoon, were adorned with a matching set of leis, and skipped giddily down to the pool while we waited for our room to be ready.

Ah, the pool!  That aqua, sparkling, glorious pool.  Pools, actually.  We found that one waterslide took us to another which took us to another.

(That dangling front tooth popped out two minutes after I snapped this picture.  Thank goodness.)

From the pool it was a short hop down to the beach for wave-jumping and tide-chasing.

We checked into our room late in the afternoon, traded our wet swimsuits for dry ones, and then chowed down on poké and pizza at the pool bar while whales splashed in the distance.  I kid you not.

We ended the day with sunset wave play…

And a dip in the hot tub.  And it felt. so. good.

We woke up Thursday eager to take on the island.  Good moooooorning, Maui!

Though our primary Hawaiian intention was to sit back and sun-soak, we figured we owed it to ourselves to spend at least one day touring the island’s sights, so Hana it was!  The long, slow, winding, epic Road to Hana.  Capital R.  Bring it on.

We hit play on our audio tour, telling ourselves that we couldn’t stop at everything, but dang it!  How do you drive past this without stopping?

While parts of our guided tour were a bit cheesy, kudos to the host for excellent direction-giving.  Up ahead on the left, you’ll see three parking spaces by the side of the road.  Pull into one of them, look back across the street, and climb through the dark hole you see in the rock face.  Uhhhh…ok?

OK!  So cool.

 

This kid is down for anything.  I love it.

Once we emerged from the lava tube, we high-tailed it to Nahiku for roadside stand banana bread and windy wave-watching.

Viewpoint alert!

Ice cream alert!

We grabbed a quick lunch and then allowed ourselves one final stop at Waiʻānapanapa State Park before buckling in and pressing on to our final destination.  This place was worth the detour!  Black sand and aqua ocean.  Such a good color combo.

 

At this point we put the pedal to the metal (which on the Road to Hana means soaring at about 30 miles per hour) and pressed on toward the Pools at O’heo.  We were determined.  And when we got there, they were closed.  The high winds made for unsafe swimming, but no matter – we figured we’d see what the nearby Pipiwai Trail had to offer.  And it had LOTS.  Rushing waterfalls and a gigantic banyan tree and a magical bamboo forest…is this real life?

Juliette was a trooper.  As was Shane, who spent the entire hike recounting a very detailed version of The Lord of the Rings (again!) to keep her excited and engaged.

Bamboo isn’t native to Maui, but if ever there were a testament to the invasiveness of this plant, this is it!  When the wind gusted, the hollow trunks would click against one another to create the most zen percussion sound I’ve ever heard.

Waimoku Falls!  Made it!

We camped out on a rock for a few minutes to have a snack and rest our feet, then turned right back around…daylight would be fading soon!

The final leg of the loop was the road to Kaupo, which was one of the bumpiest I’ve ever been on, but once we were over the hump, we were rewarded with silky-smooth asphalt winding through wind-blown landscapes.

Shane pulled over at the side of the road to check out the view from this bluff and was nearly literally blown away.  I mean, not really, but that wind was insane.

We dashed back to the car, closed out our audio tour, and then Juliette drifted off to sleep in the back seat while the sun turned the sky pale pink.

Good night, Maui.  GOOD NIGHT.

I love love LOVE a snowy weekend in the woods, so I seized on the MLK holiday as a chance to recreate last year’s magic at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop.  We headed out on Friday after school, made it over the pass before the incoming snowstorm could close the roads, and spent the first night in Wenatchee, eating bad takeout and swimming at the sad hotel pool.  But Saturday!  Saturday was a new day, complete with a waffle bar breakfast and a fresh dumping of snow.  We frolicked for a bit at the park across the street, grabbed coffee from the Wenatchee indoor market, and then set out toward Winthrop.

Oh, Winthrop, you charmer, you.  Kitschy as all get-out, but I eat it up.  We lunched at the Schoolhouse Brewery, tossed a few snowballs, and then trekked up the mountain to the Lodge.

We were greeted by Floyd, the resident stuffed bison, and got busy with checking out the snow conditions.  Conditions were: deep!  And good.

We sledded, hit the hot tub, played pool and foos ball and ping pong, and then cozied in for the night.

Sunday was ski day!  First though, the requisite scraping of the windshield with a credit card (teach ‘em young!) and carrot cake from Rocking Horse Bakery.

 

 

Juliette and I drove down to the bakery, but Shane skied the 8-mile trail from the Lodge to town – this is the magic of Winthrop.

We brought our ski trailer for Juliette, figuring she’d poop out on her own skis after only a few minutes, but that girl went, and went, and went.  She’s such a sweet little trooper.

Finally, though, she called it!

We soaked our tired legs in the hot tub and then Juliette and I did some ski drills in the field outside our room, practicing our “shuffle, shuffle, slide” while Shane cheered us on.  We closed out the day with a romp on the playground and pizza at 22 East.

Monday came far too fast – Shane got out for one final trail run while Juliette and I got out for one final game of tag near the playground.  The snow was soft and powdery, but Juliette found one chunk of intact snow on the slide and declared it her snow-baby, which she carefully cradled in her arms for the next half hour.  

I braced myself for the drama that would ensue when we would have to leave beloved snow-baby behind, but we ran into a couple of neighbors as we were heading to the car, at which point Juliette tossed baby on the ground so she could throw her arms around her buddy.  All’s well that ends well!

We made a pit stop in Leavenworth to stretch our legs and bust out the sled one final time, and then we were back in Seattle, where all was covered in a blanket of…rain.  Give me all the white!

We eased into 2020 nice and slow – I love those few days after Christmas when the holiday bustle has subsided and we can be 100% on break.  Juliette and I hit the library and our favorite coffee shop and perfected Deck the Halls on her keyboard.

(That book!  She’s really rubbing in it with this whole growing-up-fast thing.)

Champagne and Sprite at our favorite Pioneer Square oyster bar…

Followed by a stroll through Occidental Square, which has never looked lovelier.

Juliette and the neighbor kids schemed up a sleepover one night and before I could even ask about the details, they were loading up their wagon with Juliette’s blanket, pillow, and toothbrush.  See ya later, I guess…?

Once all the kids had properly lined up their sleeping bags in the playroom, they spent the afternoon rehearsing a sing-along to Frozen 2’s greatest hits and then hopped back to our house in the evening for a special performance.  The parents were all politely asked to sit quietly and refrain from taking any videos – this was exclusive stuff.  (Photos permitted.)

Juliette’s solo was so sweet.

But the full quartet’s rendition of Lost in the Woods was my fave.

Once everyone traipsed back across the street for bedtime, Shane and I looked at each other in our quiet, empty house and wondered, “What should we do?”  So we went out!  We got super-crazy and ended up playing Quirkle and drinking beer at the neighborhood game store.

We invited the crew over for our annual New Years Eve bash, where we played charades and ate and drank and watched the ball drop in New York City before sending the six year-olds off to bed.

We busted out the Veuve and my grandparents’ antique wine glasses for the midnight toast.  Special champagne in special glassware for the most special of friends.

HAPPY 2020!

We rolled out of bed reluctantly on Wednesday morning, but rallied with the promise of Jack’s homemade bubble waffles.  Juliette put on her princess dress and grabbed a noise-maker and did her damnedest to keep the party going.

And then, as a grand finale to our holiday traditions, the Polar Plunge!  I love this event.  Such community, such euphoria.

One clarification:  I love being a spectator at this event.

Juliette thought about joining the guys this year, but only went so far as to take her shoes off.  I don’t blame her!

I took to heart that old adage about the first day of the year setting the tone for the rest of the year, so I made time to get out for a long walk and to hit the playground with my girl and to cozy up by the fireplace with tea and a book.

We took a family walk at Lincoln Park that evening to catch what will be first of many magic 2020 sunsets.

And then, on that final weekend before heading back to work and school, there was nothing left to do but CHILL.  Juliette and I got a head start on our new years resolutions and crafted and cuddled and spent one last night reading by the light of the Christmas tree.

What a break.  What a gloriously slow, restorative way to end one year and begin a new one.

Juliette went bonkers waiting for Christmas to roll around, because Christmas meant Portland, and Portland meant COUSINS!  We arrived at Mitch’s on Monday afternoon and were there all of three minutes before Juliette was digging her swimsuit out of her suitcase and dashing out back to hot tub with Elise.

Then Santa hats were donned and Parcheesi was brought out and these two officially attached themselves at the hip.

I tried to lure the girls out of the house on Christmas Eve for a hot chocolate run or a playground spin, but they really just wanted to hunker down and cozy up.  I didn’t fight it.

Elise is 11 going on 16 these days, but there were a handful of times last week when I saw the kid in her come through, when she couldn’t help but join the “littles”.  Gingerbread for the win!

And then, Parcheesi…so much Parcheesi.

Morgan, my kindred tradition-keeper, insisted on Polar Express before bed.

Plus milk and cookies for Santa, with carrots for his reindeer!  The excitement in the house that evening was palpable, with Morgan running through the living room with the iPad every 15 minutes to give us an update on Santa’s whereabouts.  The Tracker says he’s in Poland!  Now Norway!  Iceland!  Once Santa reached New York, it was time to put these kids TO BED.

I awoke to the house-rattling pitter-patter of children around 7 am on Christmas morning – by 7:30 Morgan was taking roll call.  Let’s get to it!  Santa came through, big-time.

Santa brought me boots and cross-country skis – so glad my wish list made it to the North Pole.

And Juliette’s very own Parcheesi board!  Looks like I’m gonna need to learn to love this game.

My mom wasn’t quite up to making the trek to Portland this year, so we did a post-gift recap with them over Facetime.

Grandma and Grandpa were missed (on both sides), but technology is a wonderful thing…

…and speaking of technology, Morgan and Elise’s Nintendo switch won “gift of the year”.

If only Santa hats and Christmas PJ’s were in style all year round!  Such a good look on you, Jules.

We pried the Nintendo controllers out of the kids’ hands late morning and rallied the troops for a short hike at Tryon Creek.

Rocket balloon practice consumed a good portion of the afternoon…

…and then we gathered in the living room for a round of charades, where we learned that Morgan and Juliette are quite the actors and that Mitch’s rendition of “toy car” looks a lot like a terrified child running from a bear.

We ended the day sweetly and quietly, with a flute recital by Elise and a serious bracelet-making session on Juliette’s new rainbow loom.

We wrapped up Portland Christmas-Fest 2019 with hot chocolate cheers on Thursday morning and then said goodbye to the beloved Jarrell clan.  To cousins!

The one Christmas to-do still on our list was Juliette’s and my downtown holiday tour and when I asked her on Friday morning if she wanted to take a spin on the Westlake carousel, she replied, “Of course I do, Mommy!”  Deal sealed.  Shane dropped us off at the Fairmont, we took our quick spin through the gingerbread house, and then headed over to the merry-go-round.

The lines were so short and the tickets so cheap that I let Juliette ride on it twice.

 

Oh, kiddo…you have no idea how much I love doing this kind of stuff with you.

There was hot chocolate and a little shopping and one last look at the Macy’s star and then we officially called it a wrap.

There’s a lot about this Christmas season that just felt extra-GOOD.  Juliette’s anticipation was bigger than ever, and beyond the going-bonkers over the presents and the lights and the parties, she’s starting to grasp the deeper concepts of gratitude and generosity.  Our home felt so warm this season, our neighborhood so friendly and festive.  I missed having my parents with us in Portland, but my mom’s strength and positivity through her diagnosis and chemo has buoyed us all.  Our little advent tree, laden with hand-written notes about what we’re thankful for, is out of bare branches.

’Tis the season for rituals and traditions and all things nostalgic!  I’m holding space for family slow-downs per my last post, but I’m also laying the twinkly lights on thick, because Juliette and I eat that kitsch up.  There are a handful of events that December just wouldn’t quite feel complete without.

Like Ladies Weekend!  Nance, LaV, and I hit up the Cedarbrook Lodge for the fifth year running and did all the essential LW things – hot tubbing and shopping and chick-flicking…  We carefully considered and curated our movies this year and opened Friday night with Pretty Woman, wondering if the Vivian/Edward romance would live up after all these years, and…affirmative.  They’ve still got it.

These are the thumbs-ups of ladies who just scored a slew of sweaters for 80% off.

Meanwhile, Shane did this.  Because he’s the best.

Juliette is increasingly interested in Santa and asked a couple of weeks ago if we could pay him a visit.  Luckily, he happened to be hanging out at the neighborhood brewpub!  Jolly old Saint Nick and a pint of my favorite amber to boot!

(This is where she asked him for puffy paint and he looked at her like, “I thought that was popular back in the 80’s?”

That evening we invited the neighbors over for wine and cookie decorating, which turned into a contest over which kid could pack the most sugar onto a single gingerbread man.

The girls closed us out with a flute/keyboard duet of Jingle Bells.

And though they missed a few notes, it was perfect.

We decided to forego the Nutcracker this year and instead spent a Sunday evening with the Chens at Lumaze, a “Winter Fairytale at T-Mobile Park”.  Fairytale, indeed – was this for real?!

The kids had a blast bounding through the forest of lights.  So much twinkle!

And then we strapped on ice skates and took a few wobbly loops around the rink.

The park is set up as a maze dotted with landmarks that kids can check off a list – this pony was my favorite.

…and Juliette loved this 20-foot doll.

Later, Lumaze!

Our annual Christmas dinner with the Chens and Rusts is always one of the merriest nights in December.  A feast (THANKS, JACK!) and presents and laughter and wine and sugar and so much gratitude.

I bought Isaiah a Minecraft beanie which he opened and then exclaimed, “This is perfect!  I just became a Minecraft You-Tuber today!”  Nailed it.

Shane and Jack shared a fitness theme, Jack gifting Shane pushup bars and “vitamins for the middle-aged”…

…and Shane gifting Jack a promise to register with him for the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride next summer.

This crew rocks.

We made our usual pilgrimage to the Menashee House last weekend, popping over there after dinner to take a quick gander at West Seattle’s finest light show.  This is as kitschy as Christmas gets!

And to close out our circuit du Santas, we spent Sunday evening at Snowflake Lane.  I’ll admit I felt a bit nuts, standing in the rain for a cheesy Christmas parade, but I don’t know…how many more years do we really have with a kid that thinks this stuff is magical?

“He’s coming!!!”

We’ll see you in Portland, Santa!

And finally…some pre-Christmas quiet.  Juliette and I kicked off Christmas break with a living room slumber party by the light of the Christmas tree. All was calm, all was bright as we reveled in this season of togetherness and anticipation and utter delight.

The message at church last Sunday was all about Joy.  JOY.  Seeking joy.  Sharing joy.  And pausing to fully revel in joy when you unexpectedly stumble upon it.  Be present in the spontaneous moments of mirth, “stop and snap a memory picture of them”.  This struck a particular chord with me – I pack joy into our holiday calendar in the form of tree hunts and Santa visits and Christmas light tours, but I’m seeing there’s actually so much extra goodness to be found in the in-between times, if I just step back for a hot minute and let life happen.  This past weekend was busy, with a company holiday party and a birthday party and a Santa visit and cookie decorating and a Christmas lights bonanza, but the moment that’s given me warm fuzzies all week long wasn’t a part of any Christmas programming.  It was a Saturday evening and I was feverishly cleaning the house before our neighbors came over for dessert and Shane was blaring Chicago songs on Alexa when You’re the Inspiration started playing and he grabbed me for a living room slow dance.

“You know our love was meant to beeeeee…the kind of love that lasts foreverrrr…”

I sighed at first, annoyed by the interruption (dishes to do!), but then channeled my inner romantic and leaned my head against his chest.  Juliette stood by and grinned at the sight of the two of us swaying together with our hands clasped in some kind of slow waltz, and then she did the same – put her left arm around an imaginary waist and raised her right arm to hold an imaginary hand and swayed right along with us.  She looked up at us both with twinkling eyes and then dashed to her room to grab her teddy bear to bring him back for the chorus.

“You’re the meaning in my life…You’re the inspirationnnn…”

Shane leaned down and kissed me on the cheek and then Juliette kissed her teddy bear on the cheek in just the same gentle way and I nearly burst into tears with the goofy tenderness of it all.

JOY.  I’m here for it.

By the third week of November, I’m typically easing into the holiday season with an evening listen of Charlie Brown Christmas and a pint of egg nog in the fridge…the longer we can stretch out this most wonderful time of year, the better.

This year, though, I just didn’t feel ready.  Too much other stuff going on, too many other things in my head.  In the third week of November, we’d just gotten around to tossing out our pumpkins!  But when we crossed these snowy mountains the Tuesday before Thanksgiving on our way to Idaho, I started to feel my shoulders relax.  I started to think about Christmas gifts and holiday decor and go over the words to “O Come Let Us Adore Him” with Juliette in preparation for our church’s children’s program.

And then we rolled up to my mom and dad’s house and books were brought out and I raided my mom’s stash of tea and it was official – I was ready for a late-November slow-down.

Eager to get our veg on, we spent Wednesday morning at the Spokane movie theater catching the matinee of Frozen 2.

Survey says…SOOOO GOOD, MAMA!

Santa sighting!  And I do love a good mall tree…

Back at the house, we cranked up the Christmas tunes and decked the halls. Juliette arranged the nativity scene on the mantle and baked cookies with my mom while I strung lights on the tree.

Christmas is coming, kiddo!

Thanksgiving day was wonderfully quiet – I got out for a crisp morning walk, we put the ham in the oven to warm while I made mashed sweet potatoes and my mom made biscuits, and we just…chilled.

We ate, we drank, we lounged, and then we brought out the pumpkin and apple pies.  When we sat down in the living room to take turns talking about what we’re thankful for, we found no shortage of things to put on our lists.

Shane and I took Juliette on a holiday cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene in the evening – word on the street was that this boat had the secret scoop on Santa’s whereabouts!

And sure enough, just as we were finishing our hot cocoa and buttered rum, we came upon this decked-out dock.

It was quite the production – Santa read his “nice-list” over a megaphone for all to hear (Juliette was thrilled to hear her name was on it!), there was a Jingle Bells sing-along, and then the fireworks let loose.

P.S.  IT WAS COLD.

My mom and I got out on Friday morning to hit the coffee shop and peruse the shelves at Pier 1 and then again, we just…chilled.  Juliette watched Little Women with me in front of the fireplace in the afternoon and wrapped her arms around me when I started crying about Beth and all felt right in my world.  I love sharing my favorite things with my favorite kid.

There were a few last snuggles for sweet, blind Bernie on Friday night, a round of hugs on Saturday morning, and then we were west-bound.  Those mellow few days with my nearest and dearest had been exactly what I needed.

We made a pit stop at our usual tree fam on the way home and did our usual spin through the Douglas and Noble firs before circling back to our tried-and-true patch of Grands.

It was chilly out there, but sunny and crystal clear.  This place never disappoints.

Shane and Juliette are usually quick to hone in on a tree, but I always insist on just one more loop.  Why rush through this place?!

We’ve got a winner!

Cider+candy cane vibes…

Back at home, the beloved Christmas bin was brought out and opening it up felt just like…Christmas.  Juliette was thrilled by each ornament and knick-knack she pulled out of the box.  I forgot about this!  Oooohhhh, I love this one!  My favorite!  My other favorite!

See?!  It seems she’s inherited my sentimentality…

Juliette insisted that we lay out each and every ornament before hanging any on the tree, and I loved seeing them all spread out on the table – we’ve amassed quite an eclectic collection over the years.

Perrrrrfect.

Ham it up, Juliette.  ‘Tis the season for being adorable and dressing up your stuffed animals and cranking up that fireplace till it’s 80 degrees inside.

Egg nog cheers!  It’s official – the holidays are here, and I’m all in.

It’s been a solid year and a half since we caught up with our California crew, so when a Bay Area work trip popped up for Shane earlier this month, I suggested he tack on a weekend a couple of extra plane tickets – Juliette and I were comin’ along!  We arrived at Amanda’s house on a Friday evening just before bedtime, so I figured it would take until Saturday for the girls to warm up to each other.  Clearly, I underestimated the social adeptness of six year-olds…there was a 15-minute coloring session, and then they were changing into pajamas together and snuggling up in Sadie’s bunk for bedtime books.  I heard a solid hour of chatter after we’d turned out the lights.  These girls take after their mamas!

Meanwhile, little Jack found a new best buddy in Shane, who went so far as to don an A’s hat for the sake of a smile.

Saturday was wide open, full of playtime and sun and a brewpub lunch.

Amanda is killin’ it as a mom of three now and spent most of the weekend with baby D asleep on her chest.

Shane and I took a walk together in the afternoon and strolled past my old house and my old school, memories popping up at every corner.  There was the stretch of canal bank where I ran my daily miles for cross-country practice; the park where my high school’s “Senior Assassination” water gun fight kicked off; the house that hosted my neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July party; the corner ice cream shop (now a Starbucks) where a boy I liked used to hang out after school to watch golf with the owner.  Meanwhile, Juliette played kickball in the street with Sadie and the neighbor kids.  A couple of old friends joined us at Amanda’s and by dinnertime I was feeling all kinds of small-town feels.  Turlock isn’t home anymore, but when I’m there I can’t help wondering, “What if we’d stayed?  Would life be…easier?”

We snuggled up in the evening with Kelly C. for movies and popcorn and then tucked three very tired kiddos into bed.

Juliette and I were up before anyone else on Sunday morning and walked over to Starbucks (I liked it better as an ice cream shop!) for a steamer and a latte.

The kids hit the local trampoline gymnasium…

And then I hugged my girls good-bye.  It was such a brief catch up, but was also an affirmation that we can always pick up right where we left off.

We drove over to Palo Alto on Sunday afternoon to spend one night there with Shane before his training started on Monday.  We walked among the trees at Rancho San Antonio Preserve to Deer Hollow Farm Park, said hello to the chickens and the goats, and then soaked in the golden sunlight for a bit before heading out for dinner and a dip in the hotel pool.

Seriously, golden.

Juliette and I hugged Shane good-bye on Monday morning and then headed for the airport.  She was such a stellar little travel buddy and took great pride in lugging around my suitcase and her booster seat.  So helpful!  I should start bringing her on my work trips.

I was feeling a bit blue on the flight home, bummed about leaving Turlock’s quiet streets for the hustle and bustle of the work week ahead, but as we began our descent and I caught sight of West Seattle with the Sound in the foreground and Mount Rainier in the distance, I was reminded:  we belong here.  Yes, houses are expensive and our jobs can be stressful and no one in this city can reminisce with me about Friday nights at the THS football games, but good God, it’s beautiful and it’s diverse and it’s home to people and a church and a landscape that all encourage us to be our best selves.  I love a good walk down memory lane (maybe too much?), but we’re building our history here now.  Feels good to be home.

Good golly, October was full.  Birthdays and skydives and a trip to Paris (someday I’ll get those pics up on the blog!), leaves galore, and some hardcore Halloween-ing.

Our morning walk (or bike) to school has been chilly as of late, but I’m loving that crunchy sound of leaves under foot (or tire).

I headed to the Arboretum on a drizzly Friday for some me-time and wandered among the golds and browns and reds – this place is an October staple in my Fall folio.

The Japanese garden across the street was nearly empty due to the rain, so I pulled up the hood of my rain jacket and took advantage of the quiet.  I haven’t been here for years, as the parking lot is chock-full on sunny Fall weekends.

These. Colors.

It was clear from this tree that I missed “peak” foliage, but no matter.  If only it were sunny…

And the next day it was!  Shane, Juliette and I found ourselves with an open Saturday afternoon and headed right back out to the Arboretum for more leaf-peeping.

“Autumn Jules”:  I love her.

Jack and La Verne treated Shane and I to a very special meal at Archipelago in Columbia City for our birthdays at the end of the month.  We filled half the seats in this 8-person restaurant and relished every course, each of which came with a heartfelt origin story from the chef.

Ah, and Halloween!  So good this year!  Juliette loved pumpkin-carving…

And decorating the mantle with the few glittery owls and spiders that we picked up from the dollar store.

A guy down the street spent the entire week before Halloween carving pumpkins and we walked by there nearly every day to check on his progress.  107 pumpkins all-in!

Juliette found a bumble bee headband, wings and skirt at the dollar store back in September when we were buying supplies for her birthday party and asked if she could please be a bee for Halloween.  Cheers to the cheapest, easiest costume EVER!  She got all decked out for her school’s annual Monster Mash on a Friday night and had a blast fluttering down the halls and around the gym with her buddies.

And the main event!  The October 31st festivities kicked off with Juliette playing a little ditty for a small crowd of kids at the community center where she takes piano lessons.

We darted home to eat a quick bite, do a little face paint, and then snap the obligatory porch pics.

Shane busted out his Matt Cain jersey and dressed up as Giant.  In jeans.

And no shoes.  Thanks for trying, though, hon.

Juliette buzzed outside the moment she saw neighbor kids emerging from their houses, eager to get her trick-or-treat on.

Let’s do this!

Our neighborhood felt so friendly and festive, with decorations on most porches and everyone stopping to compliment each other’s costumes.

Ok, this house hardly screamed “friendly”, but hey, they had candy!

And now our pumpkins have gone squishy and been thrown in the compost bin.  Juliette’s trick-or-treating loot is gone (sweet kid donated all but 10 pieces of it to her school’s candy drive for the troops).  The owls and spiders are tucked into storage.  Happy November.  16th.  !!!

I sat down to write this post on Father’s Day, but then we went camping, and then we went camping again, and then school started and Juliette turned six and I went to Paris and now my Father’s Day Ode is a Happy Birthday Dedication to my favorite guy, who turned 40 two weeks ago.  The reality is that I thank my ever-lovin’ lucky stars for Shane daily, but it feel like he’s due for a mondo helping of gratitude.  So I’m gonna try to lay this on extra-thick.

We took Juliette to a Mariners game over the summer and as we were leaving the ballpark I saw a mom grasping the arm of her toddler as he melted into a full-on tantrum: spaghetti legs and ear-piercing wails and tears that shot out of his eyes in wide, gushing arcs.  My heart-strings tugged as she struggled to get him back on his feet and just as I was about to offer her that empathetic “hang in there, Mama” half-smile, the kid’s dad swooped in from behind, flipping the boy over his shoulders and eliciting shrieks of laughter as he twirled him in the air.  I saw the mom’s shoulders relax as she fell into step behind them.  That moment felt so akin to the dance that Shane and I have come do over the past few years of parenting Juliette.  Granted, we’ve exited the melt-down phase, but Shane’s still swooping in, holding down the fort at home when I have to travel for work, signing up for after-school programs the minute they open because I’m not so good at keeping track of those kinds of things, pulling out the Legos and calling to Juliette when I’m trying to get dinner ready and she’s rapid-firing questions at me.  He’s the Batman to my Robin, the peanut butter to my jelly, the co-parent I’d go batshit crazy without.  It feels like we’re in the midst of a particularly full season of life right now, but he makes it work.  Ok, we make it work, but there’s no we without he!

Of course, it’s not just the logistical relief and mad calendaring skills he brings to our family.  He’s exceedingly engaged, patient beyond reason. When Juliette started showing interest in sounding out words, he bought “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons” and spent a couple of evenings a week on the couch with her, plodding through each page and offering her just the right amount of guidance when she got frustrated and wanted to give up. When Juliette said she wanted to play music, Shane spent hours looking for a West Seattle piano teacher and signed her up for lessons, sitting through each lesson himself so that he could help her along. He’s intent on giving her every opportunity he can offer, often with a deep investment of his own time. I’m guessing he’d like to watch his beloved basketball games with a little peace and quiet, but instead he invites Juliette to head downstairs with him after dinner and then answers her endless questions about who has the ball and why isn’t Kevin Durant playing and where’s Lebron and why does Pops look so mad?  Juliette bawled her eyes out when the NBA season ended in June, not because she was disappointed with the outcome (girl loves Kawhi!), but because she wanted to watch more basketball with Daddy.

He’s so present, physically and emotionally, and on the rare occasion that he can’t be around, like when he had to leave for a business trip on the first day of Kindergarten, Juliette still knows he’s thinking of her:

He brings a lightness to our house with his incessant air guitar, a sweetness to our lives with his gifts of affection and affirmation, a sanity to our days with his insistence on an 8:00 bedtime for Juliette.  He’s IT.  So when a milestone birthday rolled around, I started dreaming of ways to honor my guy.  Rent a party-pad in the mountains for the weekend and invite all our friends?  Cater a fancy dinner at our house?  Go on a bender with the gang and end up a karaoke bar?  I was ready to go big, but Shane would have none of it.  He wanted a mellow morning at home, a taco dinner with our nearest and dearest, and creme brulee for dessert.  Your wish is my command, Shane Schnell:

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by Shane’s birthday celebration request.  Dude hates karaoke.  However, I about fell out of my chair when he said that for his gift he wanted to go sky diving.  Shane, who prefers the gentle swish of cross country skis to the zip of downhill slopes, wanted to jump out of an airplane?!  He asked Jason and Jack to join him and once they recovered from their similar shock, they said they were game.  We convened in Snohomish last Sunday for the big event.  Let’s do this!  (And by “let’s”, I mean…”you”.)

The guys completed their training, suited up, channeled their inner Mavericks, and then were AIR-BORNE!

I quickly lost sight of the plane, but several minutes after take-off I saw their parachutes dot the sky.

Shane’s partner had a camera on his arm and the footage is pretty unreal.  The scenery from up there!  And Shane’s grin through it all!

I was fairly calm through the whole thing, but still felt my shoulders relax when I saw Shane’s feet touch ground again.

The guys were silly-giddy afterward, sky-high on adrenaline for the rest of the afternoon.  Total bro-fest.  I was so happy for Shane, so thankful for friends and sunshine and this guy that’s still manages to surprise me 20 years after our first date.

Happy Father’s Day, Happy Birthday, Happy Ever After to my one and only.