Archive for the ‘shane’ Category

Psalm 118:24 was read aloud several times over at church on Sunday morning and rattled around in my head throughout the day:

This is the day that the Lord hath made.

We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Indeed, it was a weekend full of rejoicing.  Because…Easter!  And sunshine!  And this sweet kid’s 7th birthday!

We spent Saturday morning at the Rusts’, ringing in Isaiah’s 7th.  There were lawn games and presents and pizza and popsicles.  And smiles.  This! Boy’s! Smiles!

Happy birthday, Bups!

Post-party, Shane and Juliette went on a 1.5-hour bike ride while I wandered the aisles of Target in blissful solitude.  I expected Juliette to be antsy and tugging at her bike helmet by the time they got back as she’s never spent more than 30 minutes in the bike seat, but this girl was such a good sport.  It seems she’s cherishing Daddy-Jules time more than ever.

I hated to spend the day’s last few sun rays indoors, so Juliette and I took a stroll through the Greenbelt before dinner – this little patch of woods has become our go-to when we want a nature-fix.

The birds seemed particularly exuberant that evening – one jay (?) had Juliette a bit spooked with his extra-loud calls.

Eh…no worries!

There are times when I open up a photo I’ve taken and my stomach flip-flops at the sight of how grown-up and lovely this girl has become.  Hard to believe she’s only three.  And yet hard to believe she’s already three!

We ushered in Easter Sunday with pastries at Cafe Besalu, sensing God’s goodness in the form of buttery croissants and rich coffee.

After church, we headed over to Discovery Park to do some exploring with the Rusts.

The woods were bursting with bright, bright green, poignantly heralding signs of new life.

After a few wrong turns, we finally landed down at the beach, where we muddied our shoes and flipped over rocks in search of crabs.

Jules and I hung tight in this driftwood fort while Shane trekked back uphill to get the car.


We all snoozed through much of the afternoon and then woke up rearing to go again.  I hid a few eggs out back for Juliette to find and loved watching her react like she’d won the jackpot every time she cracked one open.

She quickly amassed all 15 jelly beans, looking into her bucket with bright-eyed wonder and exclaiming, “I think I have a thousand jelly beans, Mommy!”.  I put together a grander basket this year as the ultimate prize, stuffing it with art supplies and a new doll.

We headed over the Rusts’ again that evening for an egg hunt with the bigger kids.  I was glad Juliette had gotten her own private hunt at home, because she didn’t stand a chance against these rascals!

The boys were actually pretty great about sticking to their 10-egg limit and leaving the easy-to-find ones for their kid sister.

We feasted on roast chicken and then let the kids run off their jelly bean high.  Isaiah was kind enough to share his birthday walkie-talkies with Juliette, who spent 15 straight minutes jabbering into the thing without letting him get a word in edgewise.

Sometimes rejoicing comes so very naturally – my heart is full.  Thanks be to God.

Springtime in Seattle!  It’s when all of those gray, rainy winter months pay off in the form of beautiful new blooms.  And man, the blooms were hard-fought this year, as we’re coming off a particularly dark and stormy season (please tell me we’re finally coming off this dark and stormy season!).  We usually kick off our Spring-soaking with a trip to UW to visit the cherry blossoms – Jules and I headed out there on a sunny(ish) Friday a couple of weeks ago to take in all the pink and white.

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The quad was packed with other petal-peepers, but we managed to get in a few laps.

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Even on cool and cloudy days, the flowers beckon – we spent a gray Saturday romping through our favorite spots at the Arboretum.

This little magnolia grove is some kinda magic…

“I’m freeeeee!  And it feels so good!”

And then, one more post-church trek over to UW, since we missed having Dad with us the first time around.

Not to project too far into the future, but this kid looks good on this campus, doesn’t she?

There are other signs of Spring around here – like the reappearance of the trusty bike seat!  This is by far Juliette’s favorite way to commute to school.

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And flower-filled murals gracing the walls of our church – Emily and I spent an evening last week chalk-arting in the kids’ ministry area.  I forgot how fun it is to doodle!

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Jules and I have taken some epic walks together lately, marching up and down the hills of Montlake at Interlaken Park…

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And logging over five miles on the Chief Sealth Trail near our house (there was a boba stop somewhere in the middle there, for sustenance, of course).

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We’ve been hitting the Spring birthday circuit pretty hard – this party at the gymnastics academy was a hit.

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And last but certainly not least, hellooooo GIANTS!  Baseball season is upon us, and though our guys are hardly off to a rip-roaring start, tuning into the games together is still a favorite weekend and evening pastime.

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Inspired by the likes of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, this little slugger has been working on her swing.

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This face, though!  Breathe through your swing, Jules!

I’m cherishing this age when good sportsmanship comes naturally, when swinging and missing is no less enjoyable than hitting a homer.

Welcome, Spring.  We’re thrilled you’re here.

It’s hard living so far from Shane’s family, particularly since we had Juliette, so we were all pretty pumped Grandma and Grandpa rolled into town a couple of weeks ago.  Welcome, Schnells!

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Beloved Uncle Doug and Aunt Val are in the process of moving to Washington and were also in town for the week, so we all convened at Frelard Pizza to celebrate Biz’s birthday.

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Last Thursday we high-tailed it out of busy Seattle and set out for a couple of low-key days on Whidbey Island.  Nothing puts me in vacation-mode faster than a ferry ride.

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My little seagull…

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We docked mid-morning and drove over to Useless Bay in Langley for lunch.  The sun was trying awfully hard to break through those clouds!

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We got settled at the house and then Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa in hopes that the sun would make a full appearance for our walk at Ebey’s Landing.  TA-DA!

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Green and blue for dayyyyyyyys…

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We made good time on our 3-mile “hike” and then headed back to the house to soak up the day’s last rays on the deck.  We saw an eagle bobbing in the water below and then watched it awkwardly paddle on-shore, wondering if it was injured.  Turns out it had a full-sized duck gripped in its talons!

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It was like an episode of National Geographic, watching that ferocious eagle tear into its prey.  And mid-meal, another one swooped down to finish the job!

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To quote Denny, “God Bless America…”

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A third eagle spent much of the afternoon perched in a tree just over the deck.  After seeing what that first eagle did to that duck, I understand Juliette’s slightly concerned expression.

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We put our binoculars away and Jules and I took a happy hour dip in the hot tub, which has become our new favorite vay-cay pastime.

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We cracked open a bottle of bubbly and then feasted on takeout from Toby’s for dinner – the Penn Cove mussels we ordered were freshly plucked from the very water we overlooked!

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Bellies full, we hopped in the car and made the short drive back over to Ebey’s Landing to catch the sunset.

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That lovely blue foam lapping over those shiny smooth stones is just so…Whidbey.

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We closed out the day with marshmallows roasted in the outdoor fireplace at the house, watching the sky fade from pink to gray.

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What a DAY.

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Friday was gray and cool, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the outdoors and drove up to Deception Pass to walk in the woods and romp on the beach.

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Juliette rock-hunted with intense focus, enamored with each purple stone she found.

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Skip it, stud.

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Such joy, this kid.

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The wind eventually drove us back into our cars, but you can’t leave Deception Pass without a quick stroll across on the bridge.

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Val and Elizabeth joined us for lunch at the house and then we all walked down to the beach to enjoy the day’s last few rain-free minutes.  The seafood scene was serious down there – check out the size of that oyster!

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And this cluster of mussels!

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We drove into “downtown” Coupeville for ice cream and spent the rest of the rainy day cozied up inside, playing Mancala and Bingo.  And Mancala.  And Bingo.

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And then Shane busted out the 200-piece puzzle sitting on the shelf.  Bold move, Schnell!  But we put that baby together in record time (minus one heartbreaking missing piece…).

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Despite the evening drizzle, Denny got a rip-roaring fire going and we closed out the day with roasted mallows once again.  Props to Grandma for packing graham crackers!

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Saturday was also wet, so we flipped on the fireplace when we woke up and got down to business with colored pencils and hot tea.

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I jetted out for a jog during a short break in the rain and was reminded how much I love these wide open spaces.

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Juliette and I took a final dip in the hot tub, spent a few minutes gazing out at our beloved cove, and then…that always-dreaded check-out time.

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We eased our check-out woes with coffee and cinnamon rolls at Knead and Feed before heading to the ferry.

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We’ve always walked right past the 1000-piece puzzles spread out on the ferry tables, but Juliette was feeling extra-confident after the previous day’s bonanza.  Girl’s got skills now!

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Whidbey for the win, always.  That island never ever disappoints.

After a round of teary-eyed hugs on Sunday morning, Denny and Pat hit the long road back to Minnesota.  Juliette spent the rest of the day asking when Grandma and Grandpa are coming back.  Not soon enough, kiddo!  Not soon enough.

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!