Archive for the ‘jules’ Category

One final summer photo dump, because memories of those warm August pool days are what pull me through the wet, gray days ahead…

That said, less pleasant than those warm August pool days were those HOT June days when PNW heat records were shattered and we pulled out every stop imaginable in an effort to stay cool.  We slept on air mattresses in the basement and waited in line for a portable AC unit (no luck) and drank iced tea by the gallon.  Also, there were sprinklers…

And popsicles…

And kiddie pools…

And the incredible kindness of neighbors, who invited us to use their own pools, small and large.

Count lunchtime swim breaks as another perk of working from home!

We spent an ultra-hot Saturday at Rattlesnake Lake, bouncing back and forth between our shady blanket and the icy lake.  It seemed that about half of Seattle had the same idea and so the lawn grew increasingly crowded as the day wore on, but there was plenty of open water for us to stretch out on the paddle board.

Juliette recently completed an assignment at school where she had to note favorite family traditions and “paddle boarding with Mama” was near the top of her list.  One of my favorites, too, kiddo.

Juliette climbed off the board before we reached shore and bobbed along behind me in her life jacket.

Nintendo break!  But even the shade was HOT, so we didn’t stay out of the water for long.

Though the drive and the parking and the schlepping of stuff always feels like a bit much when we head to Rattlesnake, we always leave feeling like the effort was well worth it.

Colman Pool was another summer happy place – they started selling only limited tickets for one-hour time slots due to the pandemic and so the pool was wonderfully un-crowded.  We spent several afternoons there working on Juliette’s swim skills and bobbing around with buddies.

Plus, the walk/bike ride to the pool from where we park our car is not too shabby.

In other noteworthy news, West Seattle is finally on the boba map with the recent opening of ShareTea.  Juliette and I have already filled multiple punch cards.

Shane started playing pickle ball on Monday nights with a couple of friends and has become a bit obsessed with the game.  He’s a pickle ball evangelist now, asking everyone we run into if they play or if they’d like to play.

Juliette is still honing in on her technique, but she shows definite promise.

We squeezed one more tip to Jack and La Verne’s vacation house on Marrowstone Island at the end of July.  We were all thankful for the buddy time and for the lovely beachfront walks.

These three play so well together…

And with that, the sun has set on another glorious PNW summer – these sweet freckles are already beginning to fade!  But this girl looks damn cute in rain boots and a beanie…

It seems I always find myself in mid-September with a pile of summer photos to go through, and this year is no different…therefore, ringing in Fall with Fourth of July fireworks!  We spent a few days in Idaho in early July, summering our hearts out.

We rolled up to my mom and dad’s house on the afternoon of the Fourth, as they advised us that their neighborhood goes big for the holiday and the festivities were not to be missed.

Indeed, these folks don’t hold back!

While sky-high fireworks exploded around us in every direction, we opted to stick to fountains and sparklers, which are still pure magic for a seven year-old.

Our own grand finale:

While the show on the other side of the park was just getting started!

We were all up past our bedtimes on the Fourth and got a slower start the next morning – Juliette and Grandpa played games while I had a second cup of coffee.

And then Shane, Jules and I piled back into the car and headed to Sand Point for a day of lake play.  These freckles!  I love them so much.

Pend Oreille is a lake-lover’s dream, with sandy shores, crystal waters and plenty of space to float to your heart’s content.

This girl is such a water-bug and could have spent all day in the lake.  Actually, she did spend all day in the lake.  Shane and I each needed frequent shade-breaks, but Juliette always opted for another layer of sunscreen and another cool dip.

Ah, that belly…I love having Isaac in my arms, but he was much easier to tote around a couple of months ago.

We took a brief lake-break to grab burgers and non-alcoholic beers from MickDuff’s.

And then, after dinner, back at it…

Juliette asked me to jump off the dock with her, but there was no way I was hoisting myself up onto that thing at seven months pregnant, so she summoned the courage to make the leap by herself.

And then found a few friends to jump with her.  Several times.

Several, several times.

The very best kinds of days are rounded out with ice cream and a lakefront stroll.  Mission accomplished.

We stayed in Sand Point that night and then were up early to take a 7:00 am dip in the hotel pool (she’s insatiable!) before heading to Silverwood for a day at Coeur d’Alene’s famous water park (seriously insatiable).  Juliette had a hard time containing her excitement as we waited for the gates to open.

We dropped our towels on a couple of beach chairs and were floating down the Lazy River within seconds of the park’s opening.  This is THE LIFE, huh, Jules?

I wasn’t able to go on any of the big waterslides, but was just as content to hang out at the bottom so that I could see Juliette’s giddy face as she and Shane landed with a splash.

The Riptide Racer tested the limits of Juliette’s bravery, but she rocked it.

The Lazy River was very much my jam – I must have done 20 laps around it over the course of the day.

We ventured over to the next-door amusement park in the afternoon to take a train ride in search of the Bigfoot that’s rumored to live in the park.

(Found him!)

But the trains and roller coasters were no match for the water park.  Back to business…

Shane ended the day on the park’s fastest slide, where riders clock in at over 50 miles per hour – Juliette thought this was a terrible idea, but he lived to give it two thumbs up.

We left the park in the evening totally exhausted but grinning from ear-to-ear.  Juliette declared it one of the most-fun days ever.

The next couple of days in Post Falls were on the quieter side, but still so good for our souls.

This little stretch of the Spokane River at Corbin Park is a must-visit every time we’re in town.  Perfect for lounging and rock-skipping.

Plus, you can squeeze in a few holes of disc golf when you’re done at the river.

Black Bay park is another go-to for waterside chilling.  The bay is perfect for floating on an inner tube, or a paddle board, or, in Juliette’s case, just a life jacket.

We spent our final hours in Post Falls squeezing in a few more Bernie snuggles and piecing together one last puzzle.

And next time we visit Idaho, we’ll have Isaac in tow!  Let’s hope that kid inherits his sister’s love of water – we’ve got some things to show him.

Rule #1 of parenthood: you can’t control everything. Why do I keep forgetting this? I must have told eight people on the first day of my maternity leave that the baby would surely be late. Passing-by neighbors asked “How are you feeling?”, and I said, “Feeling good – this baby certainly isn’t in any rush!” I had lined up the painter and the electrician and the floor finisher that week to put the final touches on the kitchen so that we could bring the baby home to a fully-complete remodel. I asked my mom that afternoon to buy a plane ticket to be here for Juliette’s first day of school on September 1st, because I really didn’t think the baby would come by his August 28th due date and imagined we might be at the hospital on the 1st. I ran into my friend Amanda the evening of August 23rd while Shane was playing pickle ball and told her, “I’ll keep you posted, but don’t expect to hear from me anytime soon!”

Well, well, well. He showed me.

Juliette and I left Shane at the pickle ball court that evening and headed home for a night of Mama-Jules chilling. Juliette hung out in the bathroom with me while I showered and we made our plans – an episode of Property Brothers, some ice cream, some reading time together in bed…the next day we were going to head downtown to visit the Great Wheel and grab lunch at the waterfront. The week was my oyster!

It was just as I was stepping out of the shower and felt a gush of liquid leave my body that those plans ground to a screeching halt. Juliette looked up at me with wide eyes while I did my best to stay cool: “Uhhhh…that was interesting, kiddo. Not sure what’s going on, but I think maybe my water just broke? Which might mean the baby is coming?” But before I could urge her not to panic, Juliette was on her feet, tears streaming down her face while she frantically ran in place, crying “But Daddy’s not here!” I quickly called Nance (it’s a Godsend when one of your closest friends is a birth doula), who confirmed that it did sound like my water had broken, and postulated that the greenish-brown bits that spattered on the shower floor were likely meconium (baby poo), which meant that my doctor would want me at the hospital sooner rather than later. Next call was to Shane and was short and sweet: “My water just broke. Come home NOW!” And then to my doctor’s office, who did say they wanted to see me at the hospital within the next hour or two. It was go-time.

I pushed aside the voice in my head that was screaming, “BUT THIS ISN’T THE PLAN!” and said, “This is so exciting, kiddo! We’re going to meet your baby brother soon!” I calmly (though maybe in an octave higher than my normal voice?) told Juliette that she needed to be brave and we needed to get ready to leave – she had to pack an overnight bag for her stay at the Rusts and I had to make sure my own bag was ready. We flew into a packing frenzy and as Juliette began to shift from panic-mode to prep-mode, she stopped to grab my hands and look up at me with watery eyes and a chin quiver to say, “I don’t want to you to worry about me, Mama. Just worry about taking care of you. Now what else can I do?” And then my eyes watered because how did my baby become so mature?

Shane came home, sweaty from his fastest-ever bike ride, and started tossing things into his own duffel bag. In no time, we were headed out the door, equal parts excited and anxious. We dropped off Juliette with the Rusts, snapped one last picture as a family of three, gave our girl several big hugs, and then Shane and I were off to the hospital with Nance right behind us.

I spent the car ride to the hospital texting our contractor about our abrupt change of plans (“but feel free to finish up the painting while we’re gone!”) and felt only a couple of very light contractions. If not for the meconium that I knew our boy was floating around in, I would have asked Shane if we could stop for a latte to face the long night ahead.

We were ushered into our labor triage room at the hospital and I was hooked up to the monitors – it was a relief to hear baby’s heartbeat fill the small room and I laid back on my stack of pillows. Contractions started coming a bit more frequently, though the pain was still light enough for me to easily breathe through them.

We were led to our delivery room around 11pm and then things started gettin’ real. The pain intensified and I tried to distract myself by neatly repacking my thrown-together hospital bag (I clean when I’m anxious), but shortly after midnight no amount of tidying up was going to keep me sane and so I put in my request for an epidural. Shane held my hands and looked at me understandingly as the anesthesiologist poked at my spine and mused that I must not be in that much pain at only 3 centimeters dilated. If he wasn’t about to pump me full of pain meds, I would have turned around and slugged the guy in the nose.

The next few hours are a blur of trying to get some rest, trying to stay calm as the doctor and nurse debated the stability of the baby’s heart rate, and desperately just wanting to hold my boy safely in my arms. I was assured throughout the night that the baby was fine, but as I obsessively tracked my contractions on my watch and saw them remain at five minutes apart, I began to wonder if this kid was going to come out without some heavy intervention. A new nurse came in around 4:00 and rearranged my body in an effort to get things moving along more quickly. The contractions soon intensified, and then intensified some more, and by 5:00 they were setting up the bed for delivery. I watched them prep the small bassinet with a heat lamp and warm blankets and that’s when it really, really hit me – though our son had been growing inside me for the past nine months, I don’t think it was until that moment that I truly believed in my heart of hearts that he was real.

The contractions were excruciating by 5:10, even with the epidural, but Shane and Nance coached me though them while I gave Shane an array of confusing orders. “Squeeze my hand! No, don’t touch me; I’m too sweaty! Come here! Give me space!” By 5:20 the doctor gave me the all-clear to start pushing and I bore down and pushed through the pain. At 5:29 am on August 24th a slippery, crying babe was placed on my chest and I sobbed tears of joy, overwhelmed with relief and gratitude and love for this little one we’ve longed for.

Welcome to the world, Isaac Henry!  7 lb 1 oz, 18 3/4” long, and a head of hair just like his sister’s.

Isaac means “he will laugh” and speaks of the way Abraham and Sarah laughed incredulously when they discovered they were pregnant with their own son Isaac. Though Shane’s 41 years of age doesn’t hold a candle to Abraham’s 100, it still felt fitting – oh, how we’ve waited for you, baby!

The rest of Isaac’s birth day is a haze of feeding sessions and round-the-clock nurse visits and mango smoothies from hospital food service. We weren’t allowed to leave our post-partum recovery room due to COVID protocols and while Shane started feeling stir-crazy about 12 hours in, I loved those 24 hours of having no responsibility other than to feed the baby, hold the baby, and memorize every feature of his soft and squished newborn face. I don’t even think I changed a diaper in that first day!

Shane and I both thought Isaac had freckles until we discovered that was just dried poo on his face.

…Much better!

It’s been a long, long time since I held a newborn, but oh, how it all came back to me…he felt so right in my arms.

I know…so many first-day photos, but he got cuter every time I looked at him!

We weren’t allowed any visitors due to COVID protocols, so Isaac met all of his biggest fans over FaceTime, #1 being his big sister who cooed “Awwww, he’s so cute!” when she saw him on-screen.  She didn’t know the half of it.

While room service and a personal nurse were nice, by Wednesday morning we were ready to get home to our other child. We packed our things, strapped Isaac into the car seat, and moseyed on out of there, much less anxious about leaving the hospital than we were the first time around, but no less excited to be bringing a new family member into our home.

We were greeted by a living room full of blue streamers (this is what happens when you give kind neighbors a spare key!) that eased the pain over our not-done remodel and the absence of any furniture in our living room. This wasn’t quite the homecoming I’d envisioned, but whatever.  Shane got Isaac and I settled and then headed back out to pick up Juliette.

Juliette bounded in the front door several minutes later and then tip-toed toward the bed as she entered her room where I was holding her sleeping brother. “He’s adorable!”, she whispered. And then she asked tentatively, “Can I hold him?” I tucked him into her arms and she was immediately smitten – tears sprang to both our eyes as our collective years of waiting and hoping came to an end. HE’S HERE!

That first day at home was a mix of big, big emotions. Mostly bliss – it felt so good to have us together under one roof! But also anxiety (Juliette was very unsettled by Issac’s wailing as we changed his diaper), exhaustion, and a little bit of sadness over what once was. As I rushed to get ready for bed that evening so that I could feed an antsy Isaac, Juliette asked, “Wait…can you still lay with me sometimes before bed?” I stopped what I was doing and immediately wrapped my arms around her as the tears began to flow from both of us (we did a lotta crying that day!). “Everything is just so different now, Mama…”.  And she’s right – that little babe has caused some big changes in all our lives. But as I nursed Isaac in Juliette’s bed that evening while she drifted off to sleep, one of my arms cradling his tiny body and one of my hands running through her long hair, I was assured: these are changes we can roll with.

Lazy weekend mornings in our bed are a little more crowded, but a lot more sweet.

Books in bed now include a baby.

And though Isaac (and Shane?) sleep through our evening episodes of The Great Pottery Throw Down, Juliette still appreciates the extra company.

She’s such a doting big sis and has given up her reign as only child with grace. She loves to hold Isaac and takes great pride in how carefully she supports his wobbly head as she picks him up, cooing, “Hellooooooo, buddy, helloooooooo!”.

But before she picks him up, she smooths his hair flat and to the side, insisting it’s best this way because “it makes him look like a handsome teenager getting ready for a ball”.

And while Juliette isn’t the single center of our universe anymore, Shane and I are making space for quality one-on-one time with her – much as I love watching her play the role of big sister, it also feels good to spend time with her as my best little buddy.  We’ve had a couple of very satisfying coffee shop dates…

And Shane busted out his 2,000-piece Father’s Day gift for some serious Daddy-Jules Lego-building sessions (Isaac was occasionally invited to the party, though he gets no credit for the actual build).

When Juliette’s at school and Shane is working, I get the babe to myself; I let the feeding sessions linger and then transition to long snuggle sessions on the couch. These newborn days are even more precious than I remember, maybe because I know this is it for us. I’m soaking it up, wanting to remember forever the weight of his milk-drunk body on my chest, the way he spontaneously smiles in his sleep as if he’s having the sweetest of dreams, that little crinkle at the bridge of his nose…

Baby boy sleeps a lot during the day.  There were times in that first week when I hardly felt like I saw his eyes open (which was ok – he’s quieter when his eyes are closed!).

We’re still working on prolonging the nighttime sleep sessions and begin each night with the best of intentions:  “Tonight’s the night we’ll keep him swaddled and in his bassinet!”  Somehow, though, he always ends up in our bed.

There are worse things to wake up to…

We’re nearly three weeks in and still have plenty of figuring-out to do, but we’re in this together, the FOUR of us.  I like the sound of that.

Welp, when I started putting this post together a week ago I had only one surprise announcement: we’re having a baby! Baby boy Schnell due…today! Turns out I wasn’t quick enough on the Publish trigger, though, because as of last Tuesday the even bigger news is: we HAD a baby! I’m saving that jazz for another post and going back to the beginning here…

And when I say back, I mean waaaay back, about six years ago when we first started casually throwing around the idea of a sibling for Juliette. We played it fast and loose for a few months, thinking how crazy it would be if I just happened to get pregnant this time around, without any of the planning and waiting and loss and waiting and intervention and waiting that we endured with Juliette. I mean, this time around my body might just know the drill – I had living proof that I could have a healthy baby! Silly me, though…I didn’t just happen to get pregnant. I was Infertile with a capital “I”.

Dozens of ovulation kits and a couple of unsuccessful IUIs later, I was completely exhausted by the waiting game. At the end of 2019, Shane and I found ourselves at a fork in the road: to the left was a letting-go of the hope for a second child; to the right was a last-ditch all-in try via IVF. We chose the latter, buckled up, and began the barrage of hormones, needles and ultrasounds.

In keeping with sentiments felt round the world on a much grander scale, 2020 was tough. More waiting, a heart-wrenching loss, and moments of deep mourning as my visions of a kid anchoring each side of our Subaru’s back seat blurred at the edges and began to recede. We certainly had a good thing going, the three of us, and Juliette had brought me more mama-joy than I ever could have dreamed of, but damn. I didn’t want to be done. In December of last year we transferred our second embryo and began yet another cycle of hand-wringing and waiting. At the 6-week ultrasound, I held my breath as the nurse searched for the flicker of a heartbeat on the black and white screen. I’d been here before, felt the sting of stillness where there should have been life. But PRAISE THE LORD, there it was! A tiny little heartbeat coming from our tiny little boy. We still had a long ways to go, but as I walked out of the doctor’s office, hope came back. It was a cautious hope, still shadowed by anxiety, but there was hope.  These shots (so many shots!) weren’t all for naught.

Three weeks later, after another encouraging ultrasound, Shane and I decided to share the news with Juliette. I felt my guarded heart soften as we told her there was a baby growing inside my belly – her joy was contagious as she jumped up and down on the couch and exclaimed, “I’m going to be a big sister?! I’M GOING TO BE A BIG SISTER!!!” We ate cupcakes and answered all of Juliette’s burning questions and shit got real in the very best way.

COVID kept Shane and Juliette from attending any of my doctor’s appointments, but I’d always call them the minute I left the building to assure them all was well.  They were the best pregnancy pep squad.

By week 18 my belly was really rounding – thank goodness for work-from-life and stretchy pants all day, every day! We nicknamed the baby “Grogu” after the sweet little baby Yoda in Mandolorian and Juliette checked in with me daily on his progress, asking first thing in the morning, “How’s Grogu doin’, Mama?”.  I would reply, “Still growing!” and then Juliette would turn my body so that it was in profile to her and exclaim, “He sure is!”  I have a pregnancy app on my phone and Juliette would excitedly check it each Saturday morning to see just how big the baby was.  “He’s an orange!  A coconut!  A…stalk of celery?”  That one had us all perplexed.

I remember feeling very large when we went to Semiahmoo in April – now I look back at these week-21 pics and chuckle.  The heartburn and the shortness of breath were setting in by this point, but oh, Kel…just wait for it.

Juliette had a tough time making much sense from my reels of ultrasound pictures, but nonetheless, she found them thrilling.

At week 26 I felt like I had a soccer ball under my shirt.  Again: oh, Kel…

Week 30 in Neskowin – now that’s a belly!

 

By week 33 the baby was kicking regularly enough and hard enough that Juliette was guaranteed to get a good high-five from her brother if she left her hand on my belly for a few minutes.  She fell asleep like this a few times and I felt affirmed in my suspicions that she’ll be the sweetest big sis ever.

Week 34: belly as a head-rest!

And the loveliest baby shower with my mama-friends!  I stumbled through early motherhood alongside these friends eight years ago and these ladies showed up big-time for me in July to assure me that I can do it again.

We played a round of “guess whose birth story” that had us all howling with laughter as we shared the full gamut of indignities that come with labor and delivery.

Week 35: it appears as though I have an alien trying to escape through my belly button.  Juliette tunes in like it’s prime-time programming.

 

Week 37 was my pregnancy sweet spot.  Only three(ish) weeks left, so the discomfort felt short-lived enough that I could focus on savoring those final days of having a little one growing inside of me.

Brunch and a beach walk at week 38 (can you tell I was running out of wardrobe choices by this point?!).

Ok, you win, Jules!

A lunchtime belly snuggle from Juliette…while an eight-year age gap wasn’t really the plan for our two kids, I gotta say, it sure was fun to watch her watch me grow a little human.

And here it is, my bump in all its glory at 39 weeks + 1 day, one day before I went into labor. This was back when I was certain that I had a full five days ahead of me to convert the home office into a nursery, finish all the touch-up painting in the kitchen, repack my pillaged hospital bag, spend boatloads of quality one-on-one time with Juliette, AND enjoy evenings stretched out on the couch with my hand on my belly, relishing those final baby kicks. OH, KEL…the best-laid plans.  Sure, it would have been nice to have a few days to settle into my maternity leave and prep for baby’s arrival, but whatever. I wouldn’t trade the past five days for anything – they’ve been a long, long time coming.

The past two months of summer have been a blur of remodel chaos, but the date stamp on these photos tells me that we enjoyed a few mellow days down at the Oregon Coast right after school let out.  Juliette had been counting down the days till this trip for weeks and begged could we please stop in Portland and pick up Morgan for the rest of the rest of the drive to Neskowin?

Thank goodness for backseat buddies.

Our car was the first to arrive at my brother’s beach house and we wasted no time making our way down to the ocean.

I’m so happy these girls haven’t outgrown the thrill of playing at the water’s edge.

SO HAPPY.

Juliette’s stamina for beach runs is unmatched, so Shane took a shift when Morgan pooped out.

Sunday was Father’s Day and Mitch gifted himself some solo fishing time down at the beach in the morning.  Shane and I walked down to the corner store to grab some coffee and then popped by to see if he’d caught anything (he hadn’t, but he sure looked content in his element!).

Morning snuggles, cards, and gifts…

Shane asked for this 1900-piece Lego set for Father’s Day, not so much for the space shuttle, but for the promise of more quality time with his little buddy.  Because he truly is one of the most devoted dads on the face of the planet.

We spent the afternoon back down at the beach.

I know this is a silly amount of pictures of Juliette, but I can’t help it – this kid’s joy over being with family is too good to not share.

Uncle Mitch might very well be the funniest man alive.

Sealing this afternoon of simple, silly family time away in the memory bank…

Mitch had packed a crowbar and some work gloves in the beach bag and their use became clear when the tide receded enough to expose a treasure trove of mussels locked to the base of Proposal Rock.

We dined on pasta with steamed mussels for dinner on Sunday and got a slow start on Monday.  I sipped coffee while the girls giggled over who-knows-what.

Shane and Kathryn both worked on Monday, so Mitch and I took Juliette and Morgan for a late-morning hike while Elise slept in.

The woods were packed with mosquitos that morning, so we quickly changed course and opted for the wide-open beach.

A mama, a daughter, and a newfound pet ladybug…

Though I suspect Juliette would take a chihuahua over a ladybug any day.

Shane has recently taken up pickle ball and Kathryn is a certified pickle ball champion, so we spent Monday evening down at the courts getting a few pointers.

Get it, Jules!

…but I think you may be holding your paddle wrong?

When the kids tired of the courts, I took them down the street to the arcade, which was a total blast from the past.

The Jarrells all headed back to Portland early Tuesday and Shane holed up in the guest room for another day of work, so that left Juliette and I free to find our own adventures.  Or not…

I could have read books and drank tea all day, but the call of the Coast is strong, so we left the house before lunch for a hike at Cape Lookout.

Pals.

Cape Lookout is a fitting name, huh?

And…back to the car!  I don’t have Shane’s talent for a detailed retelling of Lord of the Rings, so instead Juliette spent the hike back telling me everything (every. thing.) about the characters on Miraculous, her latest favorite Netflix series.

We lazed in the afternoon and then headed back toward Pacific City once Shane was done with work, making good on our ritual of climbing the giant sand dune every time we’re in the neighborhood.

It never gets easier…

And Juliette never fails to be first to the top.

But also, the views never disappoint…

Juliette ran most the way down the hill, then climbed back up to do it again, just for fun.  Lord, I wish I could bottle that pizazz and take a shot of it each morning.

Wednesday was go-day, but Juliette and I had a couple of hours in the morning to play in the sun while Shane worked.  Hot chocolate and bare feet for the win.

And…leisure tank filled!

Ah, May – back when we slept in our real beds rather than on air mattresses on our basement floor (that June heat wave was INTENSE!).  Back when we cooked on a stove in our kitchen rather than a hot plate in our basement mud room (in-progress kitchen remodel has further upended our lives).  Back when our backyard was filled with colorful spring blooms and we wore sweaters during Saturday brunch.

May was good (though summer still holds plenty of promise).  Mother’s Day 2021 was extra-special this year, as Shane and Juliette thoughtfully schemed a day that struck the perfect balance between activity and leisure.  After a quiet breakfast and the presentation of a sweet card from Juliette in which she called me “her treasure”, Shane and Jules told me to get dressed because we were headed OUT for a Mother’s Day surprise. 

Shane tossed a few fancy groceries in a cooler and then we made the short drive to the West Seattle ferry terminal.  We were island-bound for a day of bumming around Vashon.

With friends, no-less!  It was so fun to see the Chens and the Rusts in the parking lot as we rolled up to the Island Center Forest for a hike (I use that word generously).  We sauntered through the woods and spotted salamanders and baby chicks in the pond and took our sweet time winding our way back to our cars.

We ate a picnic lunch at sunny KVI beach, played games, and lounged to our hearts’ content.

Not to gush, but while some moms want a spa day to themselves on Mother’s Day, I’ll take all the bonus time with these two that I can get.

We rounded out a perfect day with rhubarb pie and gin rummy and damn, I felt loved.

With the onset of warmer temps we felt the itch to be outdoors as much as possible each weekend.  We drove east one Saturday to drop off Shane in North Bend so he could do a long bike ride with some friends and then Juliette and I headed to Gold Creek Pond for a springtime hike.  But…snow?  It was 70 degrees out there!  The trail was too slippery to navigate in our tennis shoes, but we found a picnic table by the lake where we could still enjoy the view.

Vitamin D joy…

We met up with Shane at the tail end of his 30-mile bike ride and then Juliette hopped on her own wheels to do 12 miles of the Iron Horse Trail with her dad.  Their journey started with a two-mile ride through this abandoned train tunnel, which was pitch black and freezing cold – headlamps and jackets required.  I’ll catch you on the flip-side, guys…

Shane took this picture of Juliette at the other end of the tunnel – she later told me that she was freezing and scared through the whole thing, but that she told her dad it was fun because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  Sweet little trooper.

I did a nice little solo hike at McClellan Butte and then offered my weary bikers a ride home.

We don’t head east too often anymore, what with the hassle of getting around the closed West Seattle Bridge, but when we do, we make it count.

We rounded out May with a couple of days on Marrowstone Island with the Chens.  There are few better ways to kick off a weekend than with a sunny ferry ride.

Much as she likes a ferry ride, Juliette can think of few things better than settling in for a long weekend with a buddy.

The Chens’ vacation home is tucked along a quiet edge of the island (actually, all edges of Marrowstone are quiet) and we loved mellow evening strolls followed by plenty of kicking back in their water-view Adirondacks.

Jack booked us a tour of a goat farm on Saturday morning and it was a definite weekend highlight.  Look at these baby goats!

(But watch your dress, Jules!)

After wearing out our welcome in baby goat pen, we wandered out to the idyllic field to see the grown-ups.

I love this guy – look at his smile!

Our tour guide was a 12 year-old girl who lived on the farm and knew every intricate detail of raising and milking and caring for her animals.  She answered all of our questions with striking maturity and then we got to taste the cheeses produced right there at the farm.

Ok, just a couple more baby goat pics, because…baby goats!

The kids and the dads biked to the beach that afternoon while La Verne and I met them there with the cars.

And then the rest of the day was filled with Nintendo-time, some intense Lego-building sessions, and delectable pizzas a la Jack.

Plus, s’mores!  With a little pre-game action in which the skewers were wielded like wands by these two Harry Potter fans.

Careful with that thing, Juliette…

Goodnight, guys…

Sunday’s most important agenda item was to celebrate the birthday boy, who turned the big EIGHT while we were there!  Juliette couldn’t wait to watch him open the Nintendo game she’d been waiting to gift him for months.

Post-waffles, we drove over to Fort Flagler for a late morning hike.

How do you coax a couple of kids through the woods when they really just want to go home to play Mario Odyssey?  Like this:

We spent our last island evening at Finnriver Cidery, sipping cider and doing the limbo and running through the open fields.

And finally, cake and Clue.  Such a good day.

Juliette and I were up before the rest of the house on Monday morning and drove into town for coffee and donuts before heading to the beach for an early Mama-Jules stroll.

Back at the house, there was one last hangout on the bunk beds…

One last go at lawn games…

And one last huddle with friends we’ve sorely lacked time with over the past year.

Time to board that ferry.

And say a cool farewell to the marvelous month of May.

With three days left till Summer Break, a quick look-back to Spring Break, where we lived large for a weekend at Semiahmoo Resort up near the Canadian border.  It was a quick trip – just a couple of nights – but it felt like the perfect way to tip-toe out of pandemic mode and celebrate our vaccinated status.  It helped that it was 70 degrees in Blaine that weekend and this place had a pool.  A POOL!  I forget how much Juliette loves the water until I see her in it.

And I can’t get her out.

The resort also had a rack full of bikes out front free for the borrowing, so we did a pre-dinner cruise along the spit.

We grabbed dinner to-go and ate on the lawn near the water.  Then, rock-skipping.

Lots of rock-skipping.

Some campfire s’mores…

And good night, sun.

Saturday morning was misty and mellow, with blues where there were oranges 12 hours earlier.

Juliette asked to hit the swimming pool at 8am, but we coaxed her into settling for a game of billiards in the common room.

We walked for awhile along the beach, Juliette looking very incognito-celebrity in her sunglasses and hoodie.

Ah, there’s my girl!

We explored the northern tip of the spit, with its old docks and decaying boat.

And then finally hit the pool.

Juliette made a friend and spent an hour jumping into the pool with her again and again and again.

And then pre-dinner recreation back out on the lawn, gaming to our hearts’ content.

Pizza with a view…

Juliette’s cheeks got sun-burned that day and she went to bed whimpering over how hot her face felt.  I kicked myself for not packing sunscreen, but…there’s are worse things than a little too much Vitamin D.

I woke up early on Sunday and took a quiet solo walk while Shane and Juliette snoozed.

I felt like I had the spit and the bay all to myself.

I spotted a seal and watched him cut back and forth through the glassy water for awhile before heading back to check on the sleepy-heads.

Juliette and I grabbed a latte and a vanilla steamer and sat on a log while the sun finished rising, savoring the last of the morning’s quiet.

We squeezed in one last game-packed hour before check-out.

And then it was time to pack it up.  What a perfect balance of playing hard and resting hard.

Last on our weekend to-do list was hiking hard – we pulled off Chuckanut Drive and set out for a trek up to Fragrance Lake.

Ah…that first glimpse of water on these destination-lake hikes!

And that perfect log to settle into for a snack…

We’ve missed traveling this past year, but gosh, what a weekend getaway can do for a family’s soul.

Welp, there’s no time like the end of May to blog about March!  Getting caught up this week and culling through photos of cherry blossoms that have long since dropped and been swept away…

Actually, early blooms aside, I have very few pictures from March, which tells me we didn’t do or see a whole lot.  Weekends were devoted to home projects, like endless weeding sessions and the laying of new sod in the front yard…

“Look, Mama!  A dirt heart!”  This girl finds the magic in everything.

And weekdays were the same ol’ work-from-home, school-from-home rigamarole.  Juliette and I made a habit of seizing on our flexible schedules as opportunities to sneak away for 10am coffee dates.

…and then back to it!  We have tried out Juliette’s desk in just about every room in the house and finally decided just to give her reign of our dining room table from 8:00-3:00 – she likes the room to spread out and can pop over to her bedroom desk if we have simultaneous Zooms.

And finally…this.  March was so much of this:

April brought sunnier days and northwest-style beach dates (with jackets and rocky shores):

And Easter!  Juliette loves an excuse to dress up and was donning her bunny ears and her Spring dress before I’d even gotten out of bed.

It was a quiet Sunday, like all Sundays, with virtual church and an indoor/outdoor egg hunt.

After Juliette cracked open her plastic eggs, I rolled out her second basket, stuffed with all things pink.

This book of riddles was her favorite – she loves to stump her dad and me.

We pulled out the candles and the champagne flutes for a fancy dinner and, as has been typical over the past 14 months, missed our friends and family dearly while being buoyed by the warmth of our little three-person bubble.

Also, this Springtime view makes hunkering down not so bad.

Our quarantine bubble has slowly started to expand though, as evidenced by Juliette’s return to in-person school!  I was going to miss having this kid stop by my desk for random hugs throughout the day, but it was time.  We were ready.

She was ready.

Also, who am I kidding?  She’s only gone for three hours a day, four days a week.  We’re still swimming in Mama-Jules time.  And our walks home from school have become such a lovely part of our day.

Also, Juliette doesn’t go to school till 11:30, which means we still squeeze in the occasional weekday coffee/hot chocolate.  We recently discovered that Met Market puts the whipped cream on top of the cup lid.  Brilliant.

Warmer weather brings out Shane’s sporty vibes and he is quick to ask Juliette to toss the football around or shoot some hoops across the street as soon as he wraps up work for the day.

Meanwhile, Juliette’s been feeling so sporty herself that she rarely takes off Shane’s baseball cap.  Cutest thing…

We had our first visitors of the year last month when my parents came out for a long weekend.  We brunched at our favorite Alki spot…

Played a lot of cards…

And cozied up for Sudoku sessions.

We also got out for a stroll through Schmitz Park, which was growing greener by the minute.

So good to have visitors!

And speaking of visitors, Grandma and Grandpa Schnell rolled into Seattle just a couple of weeks later!  More card-playing…

Some baking…

And lots of sunshine.

Juliette’s grandpa could not love her more – these two really ate up the together time.

Until it was time to say goodbye…that hug Denny gave Juliette on her way out to school was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

One more…

And finally, the last of our April guests was this mama bird that roosted in our porch planter.

…with four little eggs in a cozy little nest!

Checking on the eggs became a daily ritual, until one day Shane peered in there and excitedly announced that they had hatched!  Four odd-looking little nestlings, with bulbous eyes and wide-open mouths.

Checking on the birdies became a new daily ritual and in less than a week, all four had left the nest to hobble around our porch.  None of them looked near-ready for flight, but by the next morning, they were gone…  I was a little sad to see them go and felt some literal empty-nester vibes each time I opened the front door and spied that vacant planter.

Such is life, though…  Birds fly away, blossoms fall to the ground, and I have to continually remind myself to just be thankful for the fleeting beauty of the present.

Thankfully, Juliette is a stunning example of living in the bliss of the moment (also, check out that grass!  Shane’s new pride and joy…).

Spring is so full of reasons to smile.

Last snow post of the (already-long-gone) season!  We had such a good time in Leavenworth that I couldn’t resist booking us a February weekend near Winthrop.  Our cabin was in the small town of Brewster and overlooked the snow-covered vineyards at Lone Point Cellars.  I’d love to see this view in the summertime, preferably with a crisp Sauv Blanc in hand.

We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday, but when Juliette and I wrapped ourselves in blankets to step out and take in the view from the porch, we saw blue skies in the distance.

Juliette and Shane have become a couple of downhill junkies this winter, so we agreed we’d do one ski day on the slopes and one ski day on the flats.  We spent Friday at Loup Loup, a little gem of a resort tucked into the mountains between Okanagan and Twisp.  I suited up with my rental skis and hopped on the mini-lift right behind Juliette, inspired by her confidence.

“You can do it, Mama!”

We got in a few good family runs on the lower slopes and then Shane and Juliette hopped on the big-kids lift for a looooong run down the mountain.  I was feeling good on my skis but not that good, so I stayed behind and sipped my thermos of tea.

20 minutes later, Juliette came barreling down the mountain with her arms raised in victory, Shane on her heels.  Such a little champ.

We did a few more family runs, checked out a couple of detours, and then Shane and Juliette were back on the lift while I happily unbuckled my heavy boots and called it day.

I decidedly can’t keep up with these two, but trying was awfully fun.

We ate dinner back at our cabin, played a couple of rounds of Rummy, and then piled into the king-sized bed for a movie.  We slept hard that night.

Saturday was cross-country day, so after carrot cake and cinnamon rolls from our beloved Rocking Horse bakery, we hit the Methow Community Trail for a few hours of skiing in the slow lane.

THIS PLACE.  Gets me every time.  Get ready to scroll…

The downhills on this stretch of the MCT were just right – fast enough for a minor rush, but not so steep that I crashed and burned.

We covered quite a bit of ground before trudging through knee-deep powder to take a snack break under a tree.

And, back to it!

Cross-country skiing with Juliette certainly takes more coaxing than a day at the lifts, but still, this girl’s got stamina.  Plus, I keep a pocket full of gummy worms.

Rallying for the final stretch back to the car – get it, Jules!

We made it back to the car and then Juliette asked if we could do just a little of the downhill run the other direction.  But of course!

We did ten minutes of an uphill shuffle and then turned around for the payoff.  It was a long and steady run back down, but this girl kept knees bent, head up, body in control.  Another skier watched her fly past and then said to me, “Looks like she’s a little Olympian!”

Her freckles sure shine on a bluebird day!

We had late lunch reservations at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which offered “private heated domes” on their back patio, each with their own HEPA filter.  We were intrigued.

It was a pretty sweet little setup, though I can tell you that a layer of plastic and a tiny space heater hardly keep you toasty in the midst freezing temps.  BUT, hot fries and a burger are so freaking good after a full day of skiing.

Back at the cabin, after some icicle shenanigans, we cozied in for the night with more cards and the rest of our movie.

Sunday morning was lazy as we milked our 11am checkout time…

And then put another idyllic snow-cation in the books.  Now bring on Spring!

And, before the cherry blossoms fully burst forth, more snow pics!  We spent a long weekend in Leavenworth back in January, logging some serious miles on our cross-country skis.  The Sleeping Lady Lodge is such a dreamy winter retreat…

…even if COVID forces you to eat your pizza out on the patio in 30-degree temps.

We were up and at ’em early on Saturday to hit the nordic trails at Stevens.

It was a bit of a slow start with a lot of uphill in the beginning, but we eventually found our groove.

Juliette took a couple of tumbles that momentarily shook her confidence, but she always managed to muster the will to get up and go on.

Snack break!

That early-on uphill I mentioned made for some pretty fast downhill on the way back, which Juliette and I conquered with mixed degrees of success.

She’s got the downhill form down pat.

And…she sticks the landing!

Meanwhile, as I was skidding to a stop on my butt, a well-intentioned man that was passing by said, “You know, there’s no shame in walking down some of these hills!”.  Thanks, dude.

We spent the afternoon back in our cozy room, reading and napping.

And then headed back out before dinner for some sledding.

I’m telling you, this girl’s got a serious need for speed.

We traipsed around the playground for a bit, Juliette found a snow-baby she could rock in her arms and feed with an icicle bottle, and then we called it a day.

We stayed closer to “home” on Sunday and decided to carry our skis over to the trail right near our cabin.

It’s been awhile since we’ve wintered in Leavenworth and I forgot how beautiful the Icicle River Trail is on a bluebird day.

I could follow in the tracks of these two all day long.  Such a happy sort of zen.

We found an idyllic little spot near the river to sit on our jackets and eat our lunch.  I mean, I just don’t know how winter gets any better than this.

Fueled by beef jerky and gummy worms, we trekked back to our cabin with record speed.

We spent another lazy afternoon in our room and then went for a short hike before dinner to stretch our legs and toss some snowballs.

The Christmas lights were still up in town and were kitschy as all get-out, but worth a nighttime stroll.

And then, one more game of Rummy (we’re a bunch of card sharks now!) to close out a stellar day.

We begrudgingly checked out of our cabin on Monday morning, but decided to have one last go on our skis at Wenatchee State Park before heading west.  The three of us camped here a couple of summers ago and I was curious to see what it looked like with a blanket of snow.

We off-trailed a bit (without our skis) to get down to the lake – last time we were here, these mountains were hidden behind a veil of forest fire smoke.  I much prefer this view.

Back in the grooves…

Oh, ski bunny.  I LOVE YOU.

Our legs were feeling rubbery after a couple of miles, so we tossed our skis in the trunk and then walked over to the mondo sledding hill to get our final snow fix.

Soak it in, Juliette.  These perfect winter weekends don’t come around too often (unless Mama catches ski fever and promptly books a February trip to Winthrop – that’s up next!).