Archive for the ‘peeps’ Category

October was…quiet.  Surprise, surprise.  We were mostly close to home, mostly in our home, mostly living this pandemic life of one Groundhog Day after another.  Thankfully, Juliette and the neighborhood kids have become very adept at finding new ways to spice things up.

And while the total lack of separation between work and home continues to be a challenge, I love my office mate a  whole awful lot.

Jules would give anything to be back in the classroom, but still, seeing her teacher and friends on-screen each morning is enough to make her face light up like a Christmas tree.  The teacher lets all the kids shout out their good morning’s to each other for a couple of minutes of un-muted mayhem before class starts and Juliette lets anyone and everyone know that she’s so happy to see them.

I could start a whole series of “reading with Jules” photos – always lounging in a different position, always accessorized, always so stinking sweet.

We try to break out of the confines of our home at least once every weekend to ride our bikes or tramp through a park.  Seahurst was a lovely place to skip rocks in early October…

And Lincoln Park is our new family favorite.  Partly because it’s only a 5-minute drive from our house, but also because the late afternoon sunlight there is pretty magical.

We celebrated Shane’s Birthday on the 19th without much fanfare, but with a whole lotta love.  We breakfasted on donuts from 9th and Hennepin, the new (to us) neighborhood shop that bakes seasonal goodies like quince fritters and butternut squash cake.

And then ate dinner at…home!  But there was fried chicken and cheesecake with candles and a rousing mother-daughter rendition of Happy Birthday to You.

WE LOVE YOU, SHANE.

We’ve had a handful of spectacular sunsets, like this one that put my dinner prep on pause so that Juliette and I could dart down to the water and take it all in.

Bellevue Botanical Gardens is a fall fave and while there was still more green than gold there when we visited, it was a welcome change of scenery.

Juliette likes a walk in the woods, but loves a game of tag on a wide-open lawn.

We spent a Sunday dusting off Shane’s and Jason’s discs for a round of frisbee golf down in SeaTac.

And Schmitz!  Another West Seattle gem…  Shane runs through this park several times a week and one day found his path blocked by a giant tree that had fallen during the previous weekend’s wind storm.  Seattle Parks had cleared the trail by the time Juliette and I made it down there to check out the damage, but the trunk still made for an excellent climbing feature.  Shane attempted to count the tree’s rings but lost count somewhere near 150.

We met up with La Verne and Nico one morning for a spectacular walk through the arboretum, and it was PEAK.

Juliette is completely smitten with Astro the pup and Shane is suddenly wondering aloud if maybe we should get a dog?

Kids in the time of COVID…

A lawn!  She’s off!

And then…Halloween!  I wasn’t sure what to make of Halloween this year – we skipped the pumpkin patch and I wasn’t sure what trick-or-treating would look like, but we grabbed a few pumpkins from the grocery and store and ordered a costume from Amazon just in case we were feeling festive.  Turns out, except for Juliette’s extreme aversion to the feel of pumpkin guts between her fingers, we were feeling very festive.

The gross work behind her, look how happy she is, spit-shining that thing clean!  She’s my kid, through and through.

Juliette’s teacher told the kids they were welcome to wear costumes to school on the Friday before Halloween, so at 8 am I was painting on a fox nose and fluffing fox ears.

My office held a virtual Halloween party at noon and at 11:30 I decided I should really make an effort to be part of the fun.  I popped the lenses out of a pair of sunglasses, dug a scrap of lace out of my fabric stash, and payed tribute to the Notorious RGB, God rest her soul.

Juliette eventually commandeered my RGB glasses and spent the rest of the afternoon wearing them.  This girl looks so good in specs!

Juliette rocked her costume the whole day, wanting to leave it on even for a backyard game of catch with Dad.

The Rusts came over that evening for pumpkin-carving and hot cider.

Well-done, Juliette…

And then, on Saturday, the main event!  We’d heard that several neighbors were finding ways to offer safe, socially-distanced trick-or-treating, so Juliette popped her fox ears back on and we set out to see what kind of loot she could find.

This guy sent candy down to the kids from his upstairs balcony via a bucket on a zip line…

I loved this!  So simple, so creative.

A lot of people left bowls of candy on their front porches and waved from their windows as the kids helped themselves.

Rice Krispie Treat garlands!

I saw so much effort, so much creativity and generosity on display in our neighborhood that evening.  Corona can’t keep us down.

We set up our own help-yourself station before heading out to hit just a few more houses.

We called it a night once Juliette’s bucket was full and headed home for candy-sorting and a family viewing of E.T.  October ended with the three of us packed together on the sofa, pounding mini-Snickers while tensely hoping that E.T. would somehow find a way to phone home.  This October was different than any other, a little too quiet at times, but in scrolling back through these photos I’m comforted by the beauty found close to home and Juliette’s ever-generous joy.  We’re keepin’ on.

We rolled out of bed late on Saturday, picked up coffee and one massive cinnamon roll, and then…lazed.

Our house sat right on the edge of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and we spent the latter hours of the morning exploring the woods outside our front door.

The trails were marked with colored flags and Juliette made a game of darting from one ribbon to the next.

Check out that autumnal glory!

The trails were dotted with a series of fun landmarks, like this fort…

…and this deer stand, which Shane couldn’t resist scaling a tree for.

We lucked out so hard on the weather and the foliage, as the forecast had predicted rain all day, every day.

Furry mushrooms!

Our host left us a map with a note that said to follow the ridge to the teepee…found it!

We stood here for awhile, taking in the view and catching our breath, and then it was a dash down the hill through fields of red and gold.

Rain, schmain!

We ate lunch at the house and Juliette played outside with the neighbor kid she’d befriended the day before while I did some reading – this is how a mother/daughter introvert/extrovert spend an ideal hour.  We hopped in the car mid-afternoon in search of a little adventure and found ourselves at a rocky little pull-out along Icicle Creek.

I was a nervous Nellie with Juliette up on these rocks…”Step away from the edge!  Hold her back, Shane!  Hold her back!”

This kid’s got girl-power through and through.

I can’t remember what Shane was talking about here, but it looks riveting.

We made our way down to the water and spent almost an hour throwing sticks and watching the current carry them away.

More lessons from Ranger Shane.

We headed up the rocks when we felt the first sprinkles and were in a full-on downpour by the time we made it to the car.  That was worth the wet hair, though.

Back at the house we put a pizza in the oven, cracked open a bottle of Veuve (and a bottle of Squirt for the kid), cranked up some music, and cozied in.  We took turns doing our best fake-outs of walking down the stairs (on a flat floor) while standing behind kitchen island, heads bobbing down with each step, and then laughed till our sides hurt when we attempted to take the escalator.  We snuggled up on the couch to watch the first Harry Potter movie, which just about blew Juliette’s mind, and I dozed with my feet in Shane’s lap and Juliette’s head on my shoulder.  It’s been a shit-storm of a year, but in that moment, all was right.

We decided on Sunday that we wouldn’t leave a minute before our 11am check-out and spent the morning wandering the couple of trails we’d missed the day before.

(This was where we veered very much off-trail and landed in someone’s driveway, which was unfortunate as it was a major schlep to get up there.)

Back down we go…

Eventually we got back on course and stuck close to the red flags from thereon out – Juliette made a show of touching each one with her walking stick, “for an extra power boost”.

Find those flags, Jules!

I know it looks like she’s just posing for a photo, but seriously, she held her hand up to her brow like this for a good half-mile.

At some point I found Juliette’s lens-less glasses in my inside coat pocket, which helped her to search all the better.

Once we saw the pink flags we knew we were approaching our house and the proverbial end of the trail.  WAHHHH!

Thanks, Shane and Jules, for the perfect birthday weekend.  My soul needed it.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Requisite silly face.)

An October trip to Paris wasn’t in the cards this year, but I’ve been feeling all kinds of antsy and asked Shane if we could please get out of town for my birthday.  He hemmed and hawed about the driving and the COVID logistics and so I let it drop.  He then spent the rest of the evening looking at AirBnB’s on the sly and told me the next morning he’d found the perfect place and would be whisking me away for a weekend surprise!  He let Juliette in on the secret and she reveled in knowing something Mama didn’t, hardly able to contain her excitement.  October 9th couldn’t come soon enough.

I packed per Shane’s vague instructions (bring slippers and a coat) and we set out on a Friday morning.  Juliette took great joy in the big reveal as we departed West Seattle:  “We’re headed to Leavenworth!  The house looks SO nice.  It has a coffee table and everything!”.  A coffee table?!  NO WAY.

Ah, the Cascades.  They catch me snapping photos through the windshield every time.

Friday’s main agenda item was a seven-mile hike at Lake Valhalla.  I admit I raised my eyebrows when Shane told me the distance, wondering if Juliette could really hang, but we hit the trail with a backpack full of snacks and our hopes held high.  We could do this!

The trail was a gorgeous mix of greens and golds and our little mountain goat handled the elevation like a champ.

The lake trail meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail for a bit and I felt an extra bump of satisfaction in knowing we were hiking even a short stretch of the legendary PCT.  Shane has dreams of our family backpacking a much bigger chunk of this someday.

Our legs began to get heavy about three miles in, but these colors kept us going.

And finally, a lake view!

The descent down to the water was particularly stunning.

We reached the lake as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and happily settled ourselves on a group of large rocks.  Lunchtime!

Juliette loves when I ask her to snap a pic of her dad and me, but the price we pay is the obligatory silly face photo she always requests.  And the silly photo is somehow always more in-focus than the normal one.  Go figure.

Alright, gang – let’s do this return trek!

Wowee!

Shane urged me to peel off and take the short trail up to the very top of the mountain while he and Jules took their time heading down.  It was a steep climb but worth the sweaty jaunt.

Pay-off!

Pay-off!

PAAAAYYYY-OFFFFFFF!!!

I was on my lonesome for a bit as I headed back down to catch up with Shane and Juliette and while the quiet was nice, I much prefer hiking with a buddy.

Found these two patiently waiting for me on a log while eating gummy worms, and then we joined forces with three miles to go.

We blitzed the trail back to the car and high-fived Juliette for finishing her longest hike yet.  SEVEN miles and some change.  We told her we’ll take her on a hike each year where the number of miles matches her age – she’s set for another 11 months.

It was a short drive to our cozy AirBnB in Plain, which did in fact have a coffee table, but also had a sweet little deck tucked in among the foliage.  Shane and Juliette hunted for birds while I popped open a bottle of wine and tore into a bag of chips.  Happy Hour!

Shane cooked us a pasta dinner that night and we wolfed down our carbs with total delight.  We’d earned them!

We closed out the evening with game 5 of the NBA finals and while I felt no particular affinity for the Lakers or the Heat, I did really love watching Juliette yell at the iPad when Anthony Davis missed a shot and whoop it up when LeBron sunk a three.  Our family has spent A LOT of time together in 2020, but snuggling up with these two for the night still felt like the best gift ever.

Boatloads more mountain photos coming your way in part II…

A few snaps from life in August and September, before we get on with the business of October…

While summer in Seattle typically feels far too fleeting, there were times over the past couple of months when it seemed unbearably long.  What to do with a social six year-old all day when Mom and Dad have to work?  Set her up with a pile of puzzles, a set of headphones, and an iPad full of podcasts, apparently!  This kept Juliette occupied for hours, days on end.  I know – stunned me, too.

Over 20 puzzles totaling over 8,000 pieces…signed, sealed, delivered.

I knew we were bordering on mania when Juliette decided one day that she wanted to try doing a puzzle with the pieces upside-down, “for a bigger challenge”.  It was then that I suggested that she take a break.

Thankfully, THANKFULLY, our neighborhood is full of playmates that have proven to be a good counter-point to this season’s dramatic increase in alone time.  Our small bubble of West Seattle buddies has been such a blessing. As has the neighbors’ pool.

There were times when summer felt almost “normal”, like when the ice cream truck rolled by and kids up and down the street joyfully emerged from their houses, parents trailing behind them with pockets full of dollar bills.

There was football, there was baseball, there was frisbee and ladder ball and water balloons and so, so many backyard snack sessions.

And most recently, jump roping.  Juliette’s record currently sits at 47 jumps in a row.  We found that the hat and cowgirl boots are actually not ideal jumping accessories (surprise), but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.

And sometimes the heart wants to wear the jump rope like a harness all afternoon.  You do you, Jules.

We shared several backyard meals with the neighbors across the street from us in either direction.  These folks have been our pandemic sanity-savers.

Our neighbor Yuiry found a pile of old fireworks in his garage and the kids were ecstatic to see that the sparklers still had some sparkle in them.

The pandemic seems to have brought on puppy-fever for several of our friends and neighbors, and these pics of Juliette with the Chens’ newest family member are too sweet not to share.

That ear!

Most notably, in what was surely the most anti-climatic first day of school ever, this girl started first grade!  Even though she wasn’t going any farther than our living room, I still made her pose on the front porch with her backpack.  Shoes optional.

Juliette was thrilled to find that her buddy M from across the street is in her class again this year.

And then, with a couple of clicks and zero hugs good-bye from Mom and Dad, class was in session.  The first few days were pretty rough – teachers constantly reminding kids to mute themselves, mass confusion over which Teams link to click for which activity, kids raising their virtual hands every 30 seconds to report that they can’t see the picture the teacher is sharing or they have to go the bathroom or “Do you know my cousin speaks Spanish?”  Juliette’s teacher is incredibly gracious and patient (though with a firmer hand week by week), but GAH!  I could hardly bear to listen.

Pretty quickly though, it seems that kids have fallen into line and Juliette is really rocking at-home school.  She certainly needs some oversight and encouragement, but she loves her online time with her teacher and is usually motivated to finish her independent work.  Plus, I super-duper love having an office buddy.

(Ok, full disclosure – she was my office buddy for about a week, and now she sits downstairs next to Shane’s desk, because my frequent conference calls were killing her concentration vibe.  But I still get visits and hugs on the hour!)

And now it suddenly seems we have gone from this…

To this:

Waterfront sunsets in tank tops and shorts are a thing of the past.  We get hot chocolate instead of ice cream when we want to go out for a treat.  Summer is Done with capital “D” and our family is working to strike that Fall balance of structure and fancy-free.  I think we’re still a little light on structure – Shane wears pajama pants 24 hours a day and I’m often handing Juliette her breakfast three minutes before her first class starts.  But if ever there were a year for me to give myself a little grace, 2020 is it.  Maybe we’ll find our Fall groove by winter.  Spring at the latest.

Birthdays in the time of COVID can be hard.  Especially for a kid like Juliette, who loves all the people and all the fanfare and all the hugs.  But when I gently told her that her party would need to look a little different this year, that we couldn’t invite her whole class to the bowling alley, she got it.  I asked her what she wanted to do instead and she said, “Maybe have a Zoom call with some of my friends?”  Ah, you sweet, exceedingly adaptable girl!  Mom and Dad can do better than that.

Juliette has been asking to ride a horse since we watched a couple of women unload their golden Palominos from a trailer at an Oregon parking lot a couple of months ago.  I wasn’t sure she’d meet the height limit at any nearby horse camps, but Shane reached out to a coworker that lives on a farm about an hour outside the city and asked if Juliette could take a spin on their pony.  Dad of the year!  We boarded the Southworth ferry on a Saturday afternoon, using the boat time to do some studying (on the encyclopedia of Zelda – these two are obsessed again).

The smoke was THICK that weekend from the Oregon wildfires, so my time on the ferry deck was short.  Gotta save our lungs for that pony ride…

We arrived at the farm and met the chickens and said hello to the assorted cats and dogs bounding around us, and then it was time to get this girl up on her pony!

(Which turned out to be really more horse than pony.)

Juliette did a few blissful loops on Rufus B. Ponypants (100% his real name) and then gleefully fed him peppermints right out of the palm of her hand.  I think most kids like animals, but lately Juliette’s love for all things four-legged runs deeper than ever.

We fed blackberries to the chickens…

And then hung out with Mickey and Minnie, the resident cats, before doing some serious trampolining in the front yard.  It was a mellow evening, but felt so wonderfully out-of-the-ordinary after six months worth of Groundhog Days.  Serious thanks to Shane’s manager and his wife for hosting us – they made this kid’s day.

I stayed up late on Saturday night decking the halls for a Sunday surprise and loved seeing Juliette’s face when she sleepily stepped out into the living room.

It was a chill-but-perfect morning at home.  Teddy bear pancakes, hot chocolate…

And PRESENTS!

Against our better judgment, Juliette’s big gift this year was a….

…skateboard!  With knee pads.  And a helmet.  And wrist guards.

Post-presents, we snuggled up on the couch and I felt over-the-moon grateful that Juliette still fits on my lap.

SEVEN!

We eventually rallied and headed outside to take the birthday girl’s new wheels for a spin.

She’s quite good, actually!

I…am not.

And then a lazy afternoon of games and a movie.

Juliette donned her twirley new birthday dress in the evening and stood by the window like an eager puppy while we waited for our crew to arrive for pizza and cupcakes.

They’re here!

We kept it small this year – just our chosen family – but there was still plenty of love to go around.

Wish big, kiddo.

And suddenly she looks…twelve?

Our friends left at sunset and then the beloved neighbor kids came over with a clue that took Juliette on a scavenger hunt for her present from them, ending in a wrapped box of Legos behind our grill.  I was feeling a little angsty about the absence of a big party this year, but our people showed up big for our girl.

Monday was Juliette’s actual birthday, but with school and work and the previous day’s multiple celebrations, we kept it low-key.  Just a few front porch pics and burritos for dinner (Juliette’s dinner of choice).

I left the decorations up for the rest of the week, which meant we could spend our lunchtimes playing balloon volleyball while rocking out to Billie Eilish.

Sweet Jesus, this girl…  She’s such a light in what have been some dark times for our family and our city and our country and our world.  She is the perfect amount of seven-year-old silly, but is kind and caring well beyond her years.  I had to go a meeting a couple of weeks ago that I was dreading, and when I came home and pulled into the garage, Juliette was waiting at the car door before I even opened it.  “How did it go, Mama?” she asked with the utmost concern.  I told her it was fine, better than expected, actually.  She responded with genuine relief, sighing “Oh, I’m so glad!” as she wrapped her arms around me.

How’d we get so lucky?

HAPPY!

SEVENTH!

JULES!

Love, Mama.

In this season of feeling iffy about hotels and airplanes, I’m exceedingly grateful for family that’s willing to host us when we’re desperate to skip town.  We spent a few days last month at Mitch and Kathryn’s house on the Oregon Coast, which has proven to be an ideal home-away-from-home.  Plenty of places to explore, but also plenty perfect to just sit back and chill on the deck.  Plus, the house comes with this:

We started each morning with a bike/walk down to the market for coffee and donuts.

And I mean, the beach is right there, so you may as well drop by…

After lunch we suited up and returned with full beach gear in tow…

We lucked out and were in Neskowin during the warmest weekend on recent record.  Almost hot enough to go swimming!

ALMOST.

Her face tells you how stinking cold this stretch of the Pacific is…

Mitch and Shane were the only two brave enough for full immersion – something about the icy cold water being good for blood flow and heart health?  I can’t quite remember, as I was passed out on a blanket in the sun.

Happy hour on the deck…

And a sunset stroll with my favorite kid and pup.

We ventured 15 minutes up the road on Sunday morning to do some very serene paddling on the Nestucca River.

Juliette spent a solid half-hour manning our SUP with paddle in hand, but then…this:

Afternoon shenanigans at the house…

And then one more mini-adventure out to Sitka Sedge to do some exploring.

I love a hike that will take you from dense, mossy woods to wide open beaches in a matter of minutes.

I believe this is the point where little legs started to tire and Shane had to launch into another retelling of The Lord of the Rings to keep Juliette moving.  Works every time.

Mitch headed back to Portland on Sunday evening and the older cousins seemed in need of a little space, so Shane, Juliette and I set out on our own Monday morning to grab breakfast in Lincoln City and check out Drift Creek Falls.

I was aware here of relatively how little time we spent in the woods this summer compared to years past.  Felt good to hear the wind whispering in the pines again.

It was an easy trek to the suspension bridge, where the three of us jumped up and down to see how much we could make it bounce.  I didn’t love that game (step back from that railing, Juliette!), but being the ultra-chill mom that I am, I rolled with it.

Seems that now even short stumps give this kid enough height boost to get her eye-to-eye with her dad.

Lazy afternoons…

And then an evening outing to Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City, which is my hands-down favorite spot in the area.

We climbed this sand dune when we were here back in June and decided the view pay-offs at the top warranted another slog.

Climbing uphill in sand is so intense!  I pretended I was stopping every few steps to take pictures, but really I just needed to catch my damn breath.

Here’s Shane pretending like he’s casually enjoying the view, but really he’s about to keel over.

The final push!  How she was still running at this point is beyond me.

Made it!

And worth it.

This view, with these two in the foreground, has got to be as dreamy as the coast gets.

The race downhill takes about 15 seconds compared to the 15 minutes it takes to go up.

We did a little anemone-hunting in the tide pools while we were waiting for our table at Pelican.

My best beach buddy:

The fog rolled in on Tuesday morning, which was our cue to hit the road back to Seattle.  I walked with the girls down to the market and the beach one last time so that we could bid a proper farewell to the ocean.

Adios, Coast.  You were a breath of fresh air.

Summer is breathing its last smokey gasps here in Seattle, but I’ve still got a couple of sunny hurrahs on the photo reel.  We spent a long weekend in Idaho back in July – I was eager for a change of scenery and wanted to leave Juliette there for a few extra days at “Grandma and Grandpa Camp” (we needed a break from being all at home, all together, all the time).  We spent our most of our weekend in Idaho lakeside, walking or wading or floating.

Juliette hasn’t been on a set of monkey bars for six months, so she was pretty pumped to see that the playground across the street from my mom and dad’s house was open for business.

With an ice cream truck to boot!

Juliette and my mom were always the first up in the morning – I rolled out of bed each day to find that they had already made their mug muffins and brewed their tea.  These two also apparently shared some good heart-to-hearts – my mom says Juliette is wise beyond her years…

But when the chit-chat ended, it was right down to business…

Juliette has been asking for awhile to go fishing, so we took advantage of Grandpa’s gear and the quiet little pond at Falls Park and spent Sunday morning with a line in the water.

No bites, but she was a good sport about it.

I was bound and determined to watch Juliette reel in a fish, so that evening we tried our luck on the Spokane River at Corbin Park.

Still no bites, but she got some excellent casting practice and the water cooled our heels after a 90-degree afternoon.

I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu, watching Juliette poke at the worms and take casting lessons from my dad – the childhood memories came flooding back.  It was like I got to vicariously be six again.

Juliette came up zeroes on fishing, but she and my mom blitzed that puzzle.  Success!

My mom and I took an evening walk around the neighborhood on Sunday and I got all googly-eyed over the wheel lines and chaff and barns.  Country stuff looks so good at sunset.

Shane and I worked from my mom and dad’s house on Monday while Juliette bopped around with Grandma and Grandpa, then all of us got out in the evening for a paddle at Black Bay Park.

Make a wish, kiddo!

Shane and I headed home on Tuesday while Juliette stayed back with my mom and dad.  It was nice to be able to focus on work for a few days without a bored six year-old as my office mate, but gosh, we missed her!  And I know it was a little tough for her to be away from us after so many months of being all together, ALL THE TIME, but she knocked out several more puzzles with my mom, caught two fish with my dad, and apparently devoured a pancake twice the size of her head at my parents’ favorite local breakfast spot.  She was in good hands.  In fact, maybe I need to make my reservation at Grandma and Grandpa camp?

This was not a banner year for camping, but we did make it out once in July for a glorious weekend at Cooper Lake.  The Rusts snagged a perfect lakefront site for us and we settled right in.  I love the sound of Juliette snapping tent clips onto poles.

Jules spent her first-ever night in a tent here at Owhi a few years ago and it rained and rained and rained, so we were thrilled to return in swimsuit weather.

Like, really thrilled.

And it felt so good to be back on the paddle board after a largely land-bound summer.

Juliette is in the midst of a bout of severe doggy-fever and spent much of the weekend coaxing Biscuit onto her lap.

Someone get this kid a puppy already!

Sunset paddle with my first mate.  NOTHING BETTER.

My heart aches a little looking back at these photos from just a few weeks ago…I’m sorely missing the evening campfire, the satisfying snuggle-in at the end of day, the reading by headlamp while sandwiched between my two favorite people.

We enjoyed our requisite 3-course leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning and then Juliette and I set out on the paddle board to follow J and the boys to the other end of the lake.

We rowed ourselves into a bed of fallen floating trees and hopped out to test our balance beam skills.

This is the point where I would have turned back, but crazy Uncle J kept on going, teetering across logs that mostly floated.  But just mostly.

“Let’s go tell Daddy what we found!”

Back at camp we spread out on our lakefront property to paddle and play.

We drove over to the river in the afternoon to take a half-dip in the freezing cold water.  Or maybe a quarter-dip?  It was frigid.

Though you’d never know it from looking at the way this kid kicked back.

Jordan asked if he could borrow our big floatie to ride the rapids, which I thought was a terrible idea, but curiosity got the best of me and we told him to go for it.

Hang on, buddy!

Nailed it.

Jason couldn’t resist doing some dare-deviling of his own.

And then we went “home” to eat and lounge.

And snuggle.

(Yes, that’s 20 flaming marshmallows on the end of Jordan’s skewer.)

We squeezed in one more long paddle on Sunday morning – I suspected this would be our only camping trip of the year and we were going to make it count.

Juliette and I made a quick paddling detour to rescue Jordan’s kite, which had dipped into the water, and then poof.  The tent was down and the paddle board was deflated and the car was packed and we were city-bound.  This summer was too damn short on time in the woods.  TOO SHORT.  But we’ll always have Owhi 2020.

More summer photos!  Despite our hunkered-down, socially-distanced mode of operation, there is a small handful of summer routines we’ve managed to uphold (with adaptations) this year.  Backyard pot-lucking and lawn-gaming is a summer favorite, and we had the crew over on the Third of July to celebrate Nance’s birthday with tritip and cupcakes and ladder ball.  These two have missed each other dearly these last few months – it felt so good to see them be silly together again.

Because it was Fourth Eve and all the larger fireworks shows had been cancelled, we busted out our own small arsenal of party poppers and sparklers and smoke bombs.

Dinky fireworks are perfect proof of how easily impressed children can be.

Given the exuberance over the previous night’s sparklers, I made a follow-up trip to the fireworks stand on the Fourth for another haul of explosives and invited the Rusts to come back on over.  First though, a game of Spike Ball and the requisite photos of Juliette.  She was looking so grown up in her cuffed denim jacket that I put her hair in braids in an attempt to make her look six again.  It hardly worked.

Let the festivities begin!

The fountains were a hit, as was Old Glory, which shot brightly colored sparks 50 feet up in the air.

And then someone started blaring Bon Jovi on their phone for reasons I can’t quite remember and a flash dance mob broke out in the middle of the street.  This is how white middle-aged folks bring the party.

Happy Fourth!

 

We agreed to forego a trip to the San Juans or Whidbey this summer, but we did manage to squeeze in the smallest of island getaways with a Sunday trip to Vashon.  The ferry terminal is 10 minutes from our house and the crossing is another 20, so the stakes were pretty low, but it succeeded in scratching my itch to get out of town.  We spread out our blanket on a sandy stretch of beach, read books and ate grapes and watched the tide come in.

Photo cred a la Jules.

Plus, the ice cream shop was open for business.  Score.

 

Though Juliette’s single home-grown strawberry was VERY tasty, we still felt it was worth making the trek out to Remlinger for an afternoon of picking.  The sun was shining, the raspberries were plump, and I was exceedingly thankful that this tradition with my girl lived to see another year (we’ve been doing this since she was one!).

Get in there, Jules!

Dang, summer tradition tastes so good.

This summer, for obvious reasons, has been spent much closer to home than usual.  We typically fly through July and August weekends on-the-go, camping and hiking, maybe island-hopping in the San Juans or eating mussels on Whidbey.  This year, not so much.  And it’s thrown us off.  Juliette came out of her room a couple of weeks ago, dressed to the nines with a backpack full of stuffies and books.  “Where are you going?”, I asked.  “Not sure yet…”, she replied.

However, we’re finding the bright sides to being “stuck” in West Seattle…home ain’t so bad.  Our backyard makes a great campsite, with clean bathrooms just a few steps away.

While the water parks and splash pads are closed, a sprinkler and a pack of water balloons suffices just fine.

I didn’t know if berry-picking would be on the docket, so we planted a strawberry plant in a sunny patch of our front yard in hopes it would bear a little fruit.  Juliette lovingly watered it every day and finally, in mid-July, she plucked one single, perfect, juicy berry.  Savor it, kiddo.

Biking continues to be a favorite family pastime and we have discovered the perfect loop – thrilling downhill runs to Alki, mellow water-side cruising to our favorite pier, and then a heart-pumping uphill slog that ends in a coffee shop where we can hydrate with iced lattes and Italian sodas.

I can usually coax Juliette into a lunchtime walk to the Junction to drop something at the post office or grab a coffee, but only if she can push the stroller.  She’s such a little mama.

This little corner of Genesee is my favorite.

The shady trails of Schmitz Park are perfect on hot days.

And the water.  We’re so thankful that we’re close to the water, where we can paddle board and skip rocks and hunt for crabs at low tide.

Early July held the Sound’s lowest tide of the year, which transformed some of our favorite beaches into miles of muck.  The rocks were rough on the feet, but the crab-hunting was very good.

And speaking of crabs, Shane recently took up crabbing and spends his Sundays shuttling his crab pot around the Sound near Lowman Beach.  He and Juliette headed out early one morning and I met up with them an hour later – as I spotted them snuggled together on what has become our favorite log, I had one of those breath-catching moments of deep, deep gratitude for love and beauty and home.

The paddle board has proven to be the perfect crab shuttle – Shane has yet to come in empty-handed!

And so crab has become the star appetizer to our Sunday evening backyard meals.  This is summer.

Juliette was a little crest-fallen when I told her that our favorite pools are all closed until Covid is under control, but she was thrilled when our kind neighbors invited her to take a dip in their backyard.  So THIS is summer.

In other momentous close-to-home news, Juliette graduated kindergarten with flying colors in June, via Zoom, which was strange and a little anti-climactic, but we rolled with it.

We joined a number of other neighborhood kids on the sidewalk in front of the school that afternoon to watch the principal and teachers drive by in a celebratory parade.

We’ll take it!

And then we made our own mini field day in our backyard with some neighbors. The kids had a blast doing frisbee toss and water balloon relays.

Juliette and I capped off graduation day with our very favorite beverage.  Thanks for being so adaptable, kiddo.

Later that month, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we joined thousands of other West Seattleites for a march down California Avenue to chant for justice and respect.  It’s hard for a six year-old to grasp the realities of racism, but she does understand her responsibility to be kind and to raise her voice when she sees people being treated unfairly.  USE THAT VOICE, JULIETTE.

Father’s Day was quiet and uneventful, but the breakfast chilaquiles were scrumptious and the love lavished on Shane by his baby girl was extra-special.

And now, here we are:  mid-way through August with still not a whole lot on our calendar.  I suspect we’ll find a way to make the most of it.