Archive for the ‘shane’ Category

After January’s relative quietude, February felt full, with trips to the snow and the sun, much talk of big changes (the house-hunting bug bit us hard), subsequent talk of little changes (should we just clean out our closets, repaint our bedroom, and stay put for awhile?), and great big joys held in tension with deep, deep sorrows.  A few (dozen) photos to recap…

It’s been an unusually snowy winter in Seattle, and I find myself giddy with child-like “hope-school’s-cancelled” excitement each time flakes start to fall.  School actually was cancelled one Monday a few weeks ago, which meant that Shane and I both stayed home from work to hang with Jules because, well, it takes two.  Plus, which one of us was really willing to head into the office and miss out on this magic?!

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We kicked off the day with a walk through the whiter-than-ever greenbelt across the street…

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We heard a tree come crashing down in the forest as we were on our walk, likely due to the extreme snow loads, so we high-tailed it to the Columbia City Bakery to seek shelter and coffee with our southside friends.

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And then right back out we went, to Jefferson Park for sledding and fort-building.

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Shane had this snowman up in about six minutes – his Minnesota roots really shine on days like this.

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An hour in, we were all soaked by the downpour of huge, wet snowflakes, but this girl wasn’t the least deterred.

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Eventually we bribed her indoors with the promise of pizza and gelato at Tutta Bella…

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And then set her loose for the catching of a few last flakes before this all turned to slush.  It was fun while it lasted.

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My mom spent a couple of days in Seattle in the middle of February, and Juliette was attached to her hip throughout her stay.  “Sit by me, Grandma!  Hold my hand, Grandma!  Read to me, Grandma!”

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Kombucha cheers!

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We took our annual winter stroll through the Mercer Slough on a clear(ish) Saturday…

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I feel like I snap the same photos here year after year, but…the colors!

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Juliette looks like such a big kid in this picture, doesn’t she?

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And finally, in news that cast a melancholy shadow over last month’s goodness, my dad’s dad, Grandaddy, passed away two weeks ago.  He had been weak for quite some time and living under the care of my aunt and uncle in their home for the last several months, but still, saying good-bye was obviously painful.

As I mourn, I’m feeling all the feelings, often all at one time…gratitude for the man Grandaddy was and the lives he touched; sadness over the fact that this giant piece of the Jarrell family puzzle will be physically absent from all future family gatherings; comfort that he passed away in a home filled with love and that his hand was held more often than not in his final days; and intense regret that I didn’t make it out to Maryland to see him in the past several years.

Gosh, how I wish I’d spent more time with him.

Growing up, I usually saw Nannie and Grandaddy once a year – they’d come out to visit us in Colorado or Oregon or California, arriving with suitcases heavy with country ham and homemade fudge, or we’d make a family trip out to Maryland to stay at their cozy home on Windy Hill Road.  I loved that house – sneaking hard candies from the well-stocked crystal dish that Nannie kept on the coffee table, flying down the gravel driveway in a plastic wagon that rattled so hard I thought the wheels would fall off, the sound of crickets in the backyard on those hot, humid East Coast nights.  And the merriment.  Where two or more Jarrells are gathered, there will inevitably be laughter.

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The visits became fewer and farther between in my college and post-college years – my grandparents were older and less prone to travel, and I was eager to spread my traveling wings wider than the reaches of Maryland.  But still, even when I went several years without visiting, there was reassurance in knowing that Nannie and Grandaddy were there in Maryland, holding down the fort and anchoring our family with love and joy.  The boat was rocked when Nannie died in 2008, and then it wobbled again when Grandaddy sold the house on Windy Hill Road to move into a senior apartment, but even in his grief, he was ever the steadfast, thoughtful, fun-loving patriarch.  He was faithful in his letter-writing and I received a page or two of hand-written updates each birthday and Christmas.  I saved a handful of those letters and dug them out this afternoon, desperate to draw close to him as his absence hit me with a new wave of sadness.  I chuckled through my tears when I read this snippet from a few years ago about his senior living experience at “The Home”, as he so fondly referred to it…

Last week the social director arranged a “fashion show” for the old ladies.  She thought it a good idea to have an escort to help steady their walk down the runway.  Guess who was asked to be “the escort”?  I said, “Why not?”  I told the social director after the show that I had admired models for 70 years but had never touched one before!  Bear in mind, these models were mostly in their 80’s, so the thrill was dampened just a bit!

His funny anecdotes are all knit together with an overwhelming tone of kindness, generosity, and unwavering devotion to all things family.  As I sniffled through a letter from 2007 in which he marveled at how quickly 61 years of marriage to Nannie had gone by and wished Shane and I the same good fortune, Juliette looked up from her coloring book and asked, “Why are you sad, Mama?”  “I just really, really miss my grandpa,” I replied.  She furrowed her brow, a look of utmost concern on her face, and then followed up with, “Well, why can’t he just come over?”

Oh, if only, kiddo.  If only.

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We’ve made something of a ritual of heading down to California in late winter for a Vitamin D fix.  And you know what pairs perfectly with Vitamin D?  WINE!  Jack and La Verne recommended a long weekend in Napa in lieu of repeating the Santa Monica trip we took last year and Shane and I jumped at the chance to wine-taste with our aficionado-friends.  We landed in Oakland last Wednesday after an uneventful flight and made a quick stop at In-N-Out for burgers and fries before jetting toward Napa.

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We rolled up to Artesa Winery mid-afternoon after winding our way through sun-kissed vineyards.  I forgot how beautiful this valley can be…

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would fare at these grown-up venues, but they were troopers – Juliette used her carton of milk to toast to Shane’s Chardonnay and remained (relatively) well-behaved while we tasted our way through the menu.

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Just when I thought we’d had our last round, another four glasses would appear.  MAGIC.

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Finally, after sipping the range from bubbly Brut to rich Cabernet, we’d had our fill and were ready to head out.  Run free, Jules!

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Cabernet makes you jump, jump…

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Thick as thieves…

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Dreamy, isn’t it?

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Even Shane couldn’t resist the pull of that wide-open lawn!

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(photo by La Verne)

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(photo by La Verne)

Cheers to a very promising start to this trip!

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We checked into our vacation house in Sonoma and promptly changed into our swimsuits to hit the hot tub.

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This girl loves a good long soak, apparently!

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Jack had packed a jar of homemade pesto in his suitcase because, well, he’s Jack, and he whipped up a decadent pasta dish for dinner, perfectly paired with a bottle of Chardonnay we’d picked up at Artesa.

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The kids went down with very little struggle and the grownups stayed up later than we should have, drinking and talking and settling comfortably into vacation-mode.

The guys headed out early on Thursday for a run while La Verne and I stayed back to feed the munchkins.

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After breakfast, we sent the kids out to the backyard to burn off a little energy before heading out for our grand tour de wine.

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It was a longer-than expected drive out to El Molino due to an accident and a re-route, but nearly two hours after we set out, we arrived!

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We were all eager to stretch our legs.

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This little gem of a winery is run by a couple that does it all and the owner/winemaker/grape-stomper, Jon, spent a couple of hours graciously showing us around.

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Juliette carefully arranged pinecones while the rest of us intently listened to Jon about his process (i.e., schemed about how to run our own winery someday).

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While Jon poured us a tasting, the kids got friendly with the chickens.  Seriously, this place was a dream.

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As was the Chardonnay!

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With a bottle of Chardonnay under one arm and a bottle Pinot under the other, Jack left there a happy man.

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We grabbed sandwiches to-go from a deli in St. Helena and blazed onward.

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We landed at Pride Mountain mid-afternoon and opted to skip the hour-long cave tour due to the dubious looks cast Juliette’s way by the host.  We settled on a patio tasting and a romp through the vineyards.

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When we booked this trip, there was a part of me that wondered if it was fair to ask Juliette to come along on a wine-tasting excursion.  Looking back at these photos, I’d hardly say she suffered.

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Sufficiently wined, we headed out, making a quick stop at the Napa outlets and then settling in at the house for crafts, hot tubbing, a very active round of Simon Says, and takeout burritos.

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We awoke Friday to the sound of raindrops – a storm had moved in and the forecast called for a soaking-wet day.  We grabbed a bite at Bouchon Bakery and then took our seats at the tasting table at Sullivan Vineyards.

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Juliette was stoked that this place actually served something she could consume – she pounded about eight of these breadsticks!

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(photo by Jack)

We leisurely sipped our way through the menu while the kids got their daily dose of screen time.

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And then we all spent awhile looking longingly out the window while the skies gushed – this definitely wasn’t vineyard-strolling weather!

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(photo by La Verne)

We lunched on burgers at Gott’s and then treated Juliette to ice cream at the Oxbow Market.

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The upside to a pouring wet California afternoon?  No shame in holing up indoors for a good long nap!

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The house was pretty quiet all afternoon – most of us dozed and then La Verne and I did a little living room Barre3.  Jack and La Verne prepared another mighty-fine meal and we were joined by Jack’s mom and sister for dinner.

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I almost went to bed with Juliette at 8:00 but rallied – as this was our last night there, we had wine and snacks to polish off (Cabernet and Cool Ranch Doritos for the win!).

The skies had cleared on Saturday morning, so Juliette and I took the hot tub for one last spin.  When I asked her what her favorite part of the trip had been, she quickly replied, “The cave!” (at El Molino).  But a moment later, after glancing around the yard, she changed her mind and said the vacation house was her favorite.  I wasn’t too eager to leave, either…

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A rousing game of Ring Around the Rosie…

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And then we said farewell to the Chens as they headed to the airport.

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Shane and I were sticking around California for a couple more days to visit our friends in Turlock.  Before heading to the Central Valley, though, one last winery…  We popped into Ravenswood for a 10:30 am tasting (!).

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This girl…I’m so proud of her for hanging with us while we imbibed.  You’re a good sport, Jules.

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And on that note, we said good-bye to Napa’s rolling green hills.  Next stop, T-Town!

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We stayed close to home last month, keeping true to our annual commitment to a frugal January – no eating out, no shopping for non-essentials, no spending money on entertainment.  Shane made it the entire month without a single drop of alcohol.  On February 2nd, we patted ourselves on the back for our incredible restraint and then counteracted said restraint with a three-day getaway to Sleeping Lady Lodge in Leavenworth.  On Thursday morning we loaded up the car, swung by REI to pick up my rented skis and a pack of hand-warmers, and jetted toward the mountains.  We rolled into town around lunchtime and chowed down on pizza and beer.  No doubt, Leavenworth has a very faux vibe about it, but there’s no arguing the natural beauty of that backdrop!

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We popped into the candy store after lunch and told Juliette she could pick out a treat – she was over-the-moon thrilled with her single piece of cherry saltwater taffy.  I’m so thankful for the way this kid finds joy in the smallest of things!

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We made our way to the lodge, not entirely sure what to expect (traveler reviews ranged from “bare-bones rustic” to “wonderfully luxurious”).  But from the moment we stepped out of the car and saw the sunlight streaming through the trees onto snow-capped cabins, I was certain we were someplace special.

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Free cider in the lobby?  Juliette’s day just kept getting better and better.

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We had some time to kill before our room was ready, so we headed over to the “Play Barn” to shoot pool and spin foosball.

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Once we had our keys, we settled in for some quiet time – Juliette claimed this little sleeping alcove as her own cozy play space.

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Quiet time was short-lived, as Shane was itching to try out the ski attachment he’d scored on Craigslist for the bike trailer.  We bundled up and hit the nearby Nordic trail.

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I wasn’t sure how Jules would fare in the cold, but with a couple of blankets, a hand warmer, and another cup of hot cider, she was more than happy to sit back and enjoy the ride.

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I know, I’ve said it before, but this man is a STUD.

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We ate dinner Thursday night at the lodge’s bar and all fell into bed satisfyingly exhausted.  Juliette was out like a light by 7:45 and I think I followed suit around 7:50.  Who says a pre-8:00 bedtime is just for kids?

Snow started to fall sometime during the night and we awoke Friday morning to a freshly powdered winter wonderland.

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“Breakfast buffet in the dining hall” usually isn’t a promising phrase in terms of flavor or ambiance, but wowsers, this place does breakfast right.  And those windows!

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After breakfast we strapped our skis to the top of the Forester and drove over to Leavenworth Ski hill for a romp in the freshy-freshy pow-pow.

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Good God, it was gorgeous out there.  And blissfully quiet, the only sounds being the swish of our skis and Juliette’s voice as she belted out “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart“.

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These downhill stretches made me awfully nervous, but Shane stuck ’em all. (I didn’t.)

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Seriously, guys – I think I discovered peace on earth.

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Our zen was momentarily interrupted when we got a little off course, tried to ski through some bushes, and all ended up face-first in the snow, but we quickly dusted ourselves off and found our bearings.  I like to think we’re making the quite the adventurer out of Juliette…

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We ate lunch in town and then settled in for an afternoon of Candyland and books.

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The snow started dumping again late afternoon and wielded its magnetic powers on Shane, so we all headed out for sledding and snow angels.

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This icicle just about blew her mind!

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We ate dinner at the lodge again, too tuckered out to venture any farther.  Juliette was asleep before I’d even finished her bedtime song, but I rallied and opened up a bottle of wine while Shane queued up a show on Netflix.  We ate popcorn and drank wine and watched The People v. O.J. Simpson until the wee hour of 10 pm, at which point we joined Juliette in her deep, deep slumber.  VACATION.  SO GOOD.

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Shane got up early Saturday morning for a solo ski.  Juliette got up early to play Candyland for the 87th time.

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Our morning stroll to the breakfast buffet…

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We soaked up every last minute at Sleeping Lady, doing puzzles in our cozy nook until the clock struck checkout time.

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Even after we’d turned in our keys and loaded up the car, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, so we played in the snow outside our front door for a half hour.

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Magic, I tell you.

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And one last family photo at our little sliver of heaven on earth:

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Still not ready to head back to Seattle, we headed back to the Leavenworth Ski Hill to do some tubing.

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I was a little alarmed when we were told that Juliette would have to go on her own tube rather than sit in Shane’s lap, but once she saw people zipping down the hill, there was no turning back.  She was adamant that she was a big kid and could do it all by herself.  I had a minor panic attack watching that rope tow her away from me…

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Sure enough, she held on and landed safely at the bottom of the hill, slightly stunned (that course was fast!) but quite proud of herself.

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Tubing was fun, but sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate with my arm securely around Juliette felt much better.

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We polished off our hot chocolate and debated whether to head back to Seattle or to make one more snow stop.  Snow for the win!  We drove over to Enchantment Park to play on some slightly smaller hills.

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How many times did she pile snow onto the slide and then launch into it?  Fifteen, easy.

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By this point, I was cold and damp and had my fill, but it was near impossible to tear Jules away.  She most certainly had found her happy place.

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We headed back to the car and peeled off our wet coats and snow pants and mittens, satisfied that we had made the most of our snowy getaway.  Still, it was a little hard for me to wave goodbye to these mountains.  I didn’t know when I booked the trip back in December that we’d be so desperate to unplug and find serenity, but it turned out that this place was exactly what we needed when we needed it.

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Adios, Leavenworth.  Muchas gracias.

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Ohhhhh, January.  January.  JANUARY!!!  What a friggin’ month it was.  Cold and dark and fraught with political turmoil the likes of which I’ve never seen.  Looking back at my photo log, I see it held a few bright spots, though…

We spent a Friday out at the summit watching Juliette get her ski on.  This kid is a natural!

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Before long, she’ll be zipping down mountains like these!

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The chant of the morning was, “Faster, Daddy!  I wanna go faster!”

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I was so proud of her unshakable spirit – even after a tumble, she squealed with laughter and popped right back up.

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The staff member at the top of the magic carpet became Juliette’s new best friend, as she exuberantly high-fived her at each dismount.

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This place we live in really is somethin’ else…

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There were a handful of lovely (though freezing) sunsets last month – Juliette and I enjoyed this one from the grass at Jose Rizal Park in Beacon Hill.

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A buddy turned four on the 14th and we partied hard.

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On the 21st, we gathered with our crew and 130,000 other Seattleites to take to the streets for the post-inaugural Women’s March.  It was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and incredible kindness.

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This girl refuses to despair.

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And oh, the dinners!  So many warm, restorative, good-for-the-soul meals shared with friends (these two make a mean cornbread).

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Today marks the beginning of a new month.  The world outside is still feeling awfully shaky and dark.  But as I was taking my lunchtime walk today and listening to the latest report on immigration reform, I heard a voice: TURN IT OFF.  I paused my podcast and queued up Oceans by Hillsong.

I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

The waves are indeed huge.  The future is so uncertain.  And yet, God offers rest to the weary.  I sensed Him urging me to unplug for a couple of days as I head into the mountains tomorrow for a snowy getaway with Shane and Jules.  I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to stay informed, concerned that I can’t properly empathize or advocate if I’m not up to speed on all the latest coming out of D.C., but I need a detox.  I need to let God pull my head above water.

And once I’ve rested?  I will march on, this verse ringing in my ears:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

We closed out 2016 with our favorite kind of party – a low-key evening in our pajamas with wine and some of our closest friends.  These two were pretty pumped to be having a sleepover:

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While the kids ran circles around the house, the grown-ups sipped champagne and ate caviar-topped galettes.  Jack Chen for the win, once again!

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Finally, at 11 pm, all was quiet in the kids’ rooms.  We laid out a chocolate smorgasboard, poured ourselves one last round of Veuve, and toasted to 2017.  Bring it!

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We bemoaned the little ones’ refusal to sleep in on Sunday morning, but perked up when Jack laid out a spread of his famous chilaquiles for breakfast.  It was cold that morning and we reveled in the coziness of sipping hot coffee in a warm house while looking out on the nearby frosty rooftops.  It was a perfect day for hunkering down inside.  Or…was it a perfect day for a swim?  The latter, apparently.  We all convened at the shores of Alki after breakfast and these crazies stripped down just in time to take the Polar Bear Plunge with the dozens of other adrenaline junkies that had gathered at the beach for the event.

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Juliette watched with equal parts amusement and confusion – I can’t tell if that’s a smile or a grimace!

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Shane shot out of that water like a bat out of hell, wrapping himself in a bunch of towels while the other three enjoyed a celebratory embrace.

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Y’all are NUTS.

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I much prefer Alki in July, but hey, winter beach days can be fun, too.

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We got a text from Jack and La Verne as we were driving home, asking us if we wanted to frolic in the fresh dusting of snow at Jefferson Park.  We swung by the house to grab our sled and a thermos of hot cider, then headed back out to play.

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After a couple of sled runs, Jules and Nico got to work on their snowcastle.

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Shane and Jack got to work on the biggest snowball ever.

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Juliette spent much of the morning carrying a chunk of snow around, asking if I wanted to pet her puppy.  “He’s so soft, Mama!”

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Nicely done, gentlemen.

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Between snowman-building and dragging Jules and me around in the sled, Shane got quite a workout that morning.

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When he got tired, Juliette offered to pull me.  I think she moved me about a half-inch before telling me to get up and walk.

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The hill beckoned…

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And we answered.

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What do you do when you start to feel a bit chilly?  Nuzzle into a good friend.

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Oh, Jules

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There’s a special kind of magic in the air on a Seattle snow day – you feel like you’re playing hooky, even if you already have the day off.

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Cold and tired, we left one last set of tracks in the park and then tucked ourselves into the car for hot cider.

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Juliette took a long, late nap and woke up roaring to go again.  I had one last holiday tradition up my sleeve, as we hadn’t yet visited Gene Coulon park for their annual Clam Lights display.  It was on its last night, and, well, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.

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It was awfully chilly that night, and I was pretty beat, but I’m so glad I rallied for this.

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Happy New Years, friends!  2017 is off to a lovely start.

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After our busy pre-Christmas week, it felt good to pull up to Mitch and Kathyrn’s house on Christmas Eve and settle in for a few days of laying low with family.  I missed these kids!

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THIS.  This is what I needed.

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My dad helped with some last-minute light-stringing in the front yard…

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And then it was time to eat!  Salmon, chicken wings, roasted veggies, a couple of bottles of good wine – these Jarrells do tasty+healthy right.

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The girls got to open their new Christmas pajamas from my mom that evening…

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And then, there wasn’t anything left to do but hunker down and wait for Santa to come down that chimney.

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We heard the pitter-patter of excited feet running circles around the house early Christmas morning and sleepily made our way upstairs to see if Santa had indeed made a stop at Chez Jarrell.  HE DID!

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Watching Juliette unwrap this stuffed puppy was the highlight of my morning.

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Unwrapping my new boots was highlight #2!

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Elise, the budding scientist, was over the moon about her new electricity kit.

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My mom, meanwhile, was thrilled with her jars of duck fat and clarified butter (to each his own!).

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That blessed moment of post-gift peace, when everyone sits back for a minute to admire their new wares…

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We rode that post-gift wave for most of the morning, as the girls set up shop in the dining room to play with their new art supplies and magnets.

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Eventually, though, we were all ready to get out, so we hopped in the car and drove over to Westmoreland Park to bike and run and climb.  Poor Shane came down with a stomach bug the night before, so he stayed back at the house to sleep it off.

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Morgan was eager to try our her new running shoes.  It looks like Mitch has just realized he can no longer outpace his daughter!

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There was some more quiet afternoon play…

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And then I settled into the couch with the girls for our traditional viewing of The Polar Express.

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Turns out, this movie is a bit more intense than I realized!  Juliette nearly jumped out of her seat as the train skidded across the ice.

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We ate a hearty Christmas dinner and then it was back to the chessboard.

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And, a Christmas dance party!  Courtesy of Juliette and Morgan.  What a day.

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The day after Christmas was quiet – we slept in a bit and then walked over to the neighborhood Starbucks with the kids for muffins and hot chocolate.

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My mom and dad left later that morning, pausing on their way out the door for a few family pics.

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The rest of the day was a bit hazy…more chess, I think.  Mitch and I got out for a long walk while Juliette napped.  I drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of ginger cookies.  The girls were thick as thieves.

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Tuesday, sadly, was go-day.  Elise read Juliette’s new books to her for the umpteenth time while Shane and I loaded up the car.

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We grabbed coffee and a scone on Division Street…

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Played a round of hide and go seek in the yard…

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And then, fare thee well, Jarrells!  ‘Twas a very merry Christmas.

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The past 10 days have been a whirlwind of holiday cheer – we’ve fondued and light-gazed and made all kinds of cookies.  Baking has become my go-to Mama-Jules activity, as this girl seems to love the kitchen more than any other room in the house.  We really milked the whole sugar cookie experience – Day 1 was spent mixing dough:

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Day 2 was spent rolling and cutting:

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Day 3:  FROSTING!

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Having a steady supply of sweets on the counter necessitates extra doses of veggies and exercise.  Cue the Fondue 5k, where we brave the cold with the gang to do a loop around Seward Park.

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And then, of course, the post-run gluttony!  We gathered with friends last Saturday to chow down on cheese and chocolate and exchange White Elephant gifts.

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La Verne lucked out with these perpetually full beer mugs, huh?

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Jess barely had time to pull someone’s liquor cabinet remnants out of the gift bag before…

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Shane exercised his right to swipe her pick.

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We ended the night with our traditional charade of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Jules and I fluttered across the room as the French hens.

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I can’t tell here if Shane’s a maid-a-milking or a drummer drumming…it was all a bit hazy by this point.  I think Brian’s back there as the pregnant goose-a-laying?

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And I thought La V’s beer mugs were a special gift…

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Cheers, gang!

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The next night we met up with the Chen clan to take in the lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  The place was kind of a mob scene, but the lights were pretty and the kids were amused.

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(photo by La Verne)

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Juliette’s school was closed a couple of days last week, and as I was in deadline-mode at work, Shane took some time off to hold down the fort.  I admit, when he told me he wanted to taking Juliette skiing on Thursday, I raised my eyebrows and asked, “Are you sure?”  I envisioned all the falling and the whining and the likely tears, reminding Shane that the toddlers he’d watched zipping down the slopes on YouTube were probably only the best and the brightest.  Around 10 am that morning, this pic popped up on my phone:

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And then this:

She rocked it.  Kudos, Shane – you’re a braver parent than I.

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That evening we convened at Chez Rust for dinner and gifts, feeling all kinds of gratitude for our Seattle family…

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And then, on Friday, Juliette and I conquered Seattle’s downtown holiday scene.  We met up with a few buddies at the Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village, which was full of absurdly elaborate edible creations (Mama, can I lick that?).

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We then walked over to the Fairmont Hotel to check out the Teddy Bear Suite, a room on the second floor decorated in Christmas bling and packed with teddy bears of all shapes and sizes.  It was precisely as weird as it sounds.  And right up a three-year old’s alley.

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That tree in the lobby, though!

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I wondered as we left the Fairmont if we should just call it a day, as the weather was increasingly cold and wet, but I’d told Juliette earlier that we were going to ride the carousel, and rain or shine (rain, it turns out), that kid was going to hold me to my word.  We made our way to Westlake Plaza and she picked out a horse with a checkered handkerchief around its neck, looking back at me with equal parts nervousness and excitement as we waited for the ride to start.

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Once we got going, though, JOY.  Pure joy.

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Ain’t no rain gonna keep us down!

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We made one final stop for hot chocolate by the Westlake Christmas tree…

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And then both decided we were done.

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We zipped home, spread out the camping pads and blankets by the tree, and slept off that morning’s excitement.

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Post-nap, inspired by the gingerbread castle we’d seen earlier, we decked out one last gingerbread man.

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Such could hardly believe how delicious it all looked.  I could hardly believe how much sugar had been packed into a single cookie.  ‘Tis the season, I guess…

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Next up:  onto Portland for the main event!

Lord knows I love a sunny July in the PNW, and a richly colored October, but December is chock-full of its very own charms, rich with old (and a few new) traditions.

The month kicked off with a kid-free weekend for Nance, La Verne, and me as we trekked a whopping 15 miles south for a weekend at the Cedarbrook Lodge for our annual ladies getaway.  We upped the ante this year and booked a reservation for two nights, skipping town on Friday evening and enjoying a leisurely dinner at the hotel bar before hitting the hot tub and queuing up Serendipity back at our room.

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Our pilgrimage to the Auburn Supermall has become an integral part of ladies weekend, so after breakfast on Saturday we hit the outlets.  Hard.

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I always walk out the mall wondering if maybe I overdid it a bit – did I really need five new sweaters?  That’s buyer’s remorse written all over my face, in case you can’t tell.

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We landed back at the room late afternoon and wondered if maybe we should fully revel in our freedom with drinks and a fancy dinner out on the town.  Nah.  Instead, we spent an hour trying on our new clothes, oohing and ahhing over the deals we’d scored, and then venturing as far as the hotel bar for dinner (again), ending the day with ice cream in bed while SJP affirmed that Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

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I thoroughly enjoyed our little escapade, but was happy to be back with Juliette and Shane come Sunday morning.  We had a cozy family day at home and then bundled up before heading over to Lake Washington to watch the Christmas Ship pull into the bay and serenade us with 20 minutes of carols.  We huddled on a little stretch of beach with dozens of other families while the choir’s voice rang out across the water.  This was the first year we’ve done this, but it’s been officially added to the list of Schnell family traditions.

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Seattle got its first dusting of fresh snow last week – Juliette was asleep by the time it really started to accumulate, so I ducked outside and snapped a few quick pictures at 11 pm, just in case it all disappeared by morning.  You never know here.

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Sure enough, that lovely blanket of white had turned to gray slush by mid morning the next day, but we ventured into the mountains on Saturday to frolic in a foot of fresh powder.

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Juliette had a blast!  For about 30 minutes.  I’m afraid that girl has inherited my intolerance for being cold.

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Ah, well.  It was good while it lasted.

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My mama’s intuition told me to stick a lollipop in my pocket when we left the house.  It turned out to be just the consolation I needed when Juliette got snow in her mittens.

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We stopped at Dru Bru on the way home for beer and Italian sodas.  CHEERS, kiddo!

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Being a part of Juliette’s Latino-centric school has opened us up to a host of new rituals and traditions.  On Tuesday we gathered with her classmates and teachers to celebrate Las Posadas, a Mexican festival commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph.  There was music and dancing, bowls of pozole and cups of hot chocolate.  Juliette was quite taken with the whole thing (one bite of a giant pink polvorone cookie, and she was ready to profess her love of all things Mexican!).

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Up next:  Fondue, Christmas lights, maybe a ride on the Christmas Carousel – we’ve got some more December’ing to do!

Holiday Season 2016 went into full effect on Thursday morning as we rolled out of bed and into the kitchen to begin Project: Turkey.  This was our first year eating at home and I was eager to spread my culinary wings.  I pulled the bird out of the fridge, poked it a little, and then…left it to “rest” for a bit while I built up my confidence with cranberry sauce.  You really can’t mess up cranberry sauce.  Right, Jules?

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I spent much of the day in the kitchen, reveling in that coziness that comes with oven warmth and good food smells and the sound of daddy-daughter giggles.

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The Rust clan showed up late afternoon and Nance helped me with the finishing touches.  Turkey, green beans, sweet potato casserole, broccoli bacon salad, corn bread, two kinds of cranberry sauce, and mulled wine, plus mashed potatoes and onion soup and apple pie a la Jason.  LET’S EAT.

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There was a short moment of panic as we wondered whether or not the bird was fully cooked, but we decided we’d chance it and dig in.

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There is much to be thankful for.

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We spent Friday morning cleaning out the garage and then headed over to Seward Park for a breath of fresh air.

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Juliette is always thrilled by the sight of downtown Seattle, pointing and shouting “that’s Daddy’s building!”  (His office is in the one with the green roof).

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<<insert heart emojis here>>

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I don’t know that we’ve ever hit this park this hard, biking the loop and “hiking” the trail and sitting on the beach and running the dock.  There was even a romp on the playground to wrap it all up!

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We ate a leisurely, indulgent breakfast at Super Six on Saturday morning and then headed home to hunker down for what looked like would be a wet, wet day.  Shortly after lunch, though, the sky brightened and we got a text from Jack: “dudes. unexpectedly devoid of rain right now. should we go get a tree?”  Yes, please!  To Mountain Creek we went.

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Jules and N spent quite a while standing at the base of this tree and arguing, “I want this one!”, “No, I want this one!”  Move along, kids!

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We found a perfect 7-foot Noble Fir and Shane hacked it down in true lumberjack fashion while Juliette cheered him on.

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The Chens went big.

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I had to promise these kids apple cider and candy canes to pose for a quick shot.  Worth it.

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This place, though!  It never disappoints.  The same kind lady has been handing us candy canes at the register for the past 11 years, and I expect we’ll be here 11 years from now.  At which point Juliette will probably insist on just sitting in the car and texting with her friends while Shane and I pick out the tree…

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Better grab all those happy family selfies while we can!

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We spent the rest of the day stringing lights and sipping egg nog while A Charlie Brown Christmas piped through the speakers.  I think I say this every year, but this might really be our best tree ever.

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Oh, holidays…I’m so glad you’re here.

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We thought Juliette had gotten her trick-or-treating fill in Seabrook, but when I asked her if she wanted to head out on Monday evening for another round with the boys, her eyes lit up with that irresistible twinkle.  So we grabbed her costume, headed over to the Rusts, and fluffed her feathers.

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Jules was a little timid at first, but with the Hulk, a fearless fireman, an astronaut, a ninja, and a bird-creature-man thing (what exactly were you, J?) by her side, she quickly got the hang of asking strangers for candy.

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After each house, she’d peer into her bag and exclaim, “Look, Nancy!”, thrilled by her growing stash.

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It was chilly and wet that evening, but the kids weren’t the least bit deterred by the rain.  I found myself patting Shane on the back for his foresight in mixing a round of hot toddy’s for the grown-ups to take along on the walk.

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Bag full and feathers drenched, we called it a night.  Juliette picked out one treat to eat on the way home (M&Ms for the win, always), and with that, Halloween 2016 was in the books for our little flamingo.

Shane’s had a string of flex days and vacation days that have granted him several Fridays off in a row, and we’re reveling in the extra family time.  Also reveling in sunshine when it sporadically breaks through the clouds.  We spent last Friday romping around Carkeek Park, on a search for the biggest leaves and the best shells we could find.  This place has it all.

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I mean, come on.

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COME ON!

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Our super-sunny Friday was followed by a Saturday of relentless rain.  We passed the hours with some solid indoor activities, though, like a visit to our new neighborhood bakery for macarons and Kouign-amman’s.

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And storytime with La Verne at the neighborhood bookstore.

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Shane came through in a clutch when he offered to set up the tent in the living room.  Juliette was over the moon about the prospect of camping in November.

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She spent much of the day in there, watching a movie, (not) napping, reading books and tucking all of her stuffed animals into her sleeping bag.  The novelty wore off by late afternoon, but hey, we made it through a mostly-homebound day without tears, yelling, or anything getting broken.  That’s no small victory in our house!

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Rain or shine, November is off to a very good start.