Archive for the ‘shane’ Category

Ahhh, June. We spent more weekends last month sleeping on the ground than we did in our bed!  Back in February I came across a Facebook post about family-friendly Lake Sylvia and promptly booked us a June weekend at a waterfront site.  We did waffle for a moment about whether or not we really wanted to head back outdoors just four days post-Bainbridge, but we ultimately decided to go for it.  I was eager to see someplace new, and a lot of our gear was still in the back of our car, anyway.

We rolled into camp on a Thursday afternoon and…our brows furrowed a little. Sites were tight. RVs outnumbered tents. Kids zipped by us left and right on bikes and scooters. We’ve held our remote Canadian enclave of last summer as the pinnacle of campground dreams, and this was hardly it.  But we pitched our tent and blew up our paddle board and set up our chairs at the lake’s edge.  Then Juliette wandered over to the site next door to toss rocks with two other little girls while I watched a gaggle of geese float by and I decided, alright, this place was amazing!

Plus, free salmonberries for the taking!

The campground loop was relatively flat and relatively small, so it was the perfect place for Juliette to get back on two wheels after a winter/spring biking hiatus.  I jogged along side her for a couple of loops, thrilled to see that her sense of balance was still intact.

And then she asked me to stay behind while she did a loop with the neighbor girls – a lump rose in my throat, as she ended up with a bruised a bloodied shoulder the last time I let her pedal out of my sight, but I swallowed that lump right down and told her to Go For It.  And except for one minor brush with a bush, she rocked it.

Shane eventually coaxed Juliette off her bike and onto the paddle board, so that they could go salamander-hunting while I got dinner ready.

And then, after brats and veggies, Juliette and her new buddy settled in together for some puzzle-making.  Jules can actually be quite timid with strangers at the get-go, hanging back to observe and get a vibe, but after about three minutes the urge to engage completely overwhelms her and she inserts herself into the fold – when faced with an option, she always chooses the company of others.  Shane and I are often the only “others” around I want to cry out, “Can’t you play alone for just FIVE MINUTES?!”, but really, I admire her boldness and vulnerability and desire to connect.  She didn’t get those extroverted genes from me!

Sadly, our neighbor buddies rolled out on Friday morning, but Juliette befriended the resident geese and spent much of the day feeding leftover hot dog buns to Fella, Gree, Greeda, Greedo, and Beeba.

Lazy mornings…

We set out around lunchtime for a hike on one of the park’s many trails, crossing a bridge into the deep, dark woods.

And the woods were stunning.  Lush and green and dotted with the most magnificent fuchsias and yellows.

 

Oh, Daddy.  So strong…

And so tall!

We had trouble finding the bridge that was supposed to lead us over the creek to the trail back to camp, but we made a way.  Barely.

And…done!  Four miles deserves a high-five!

Jeepers, I’m proud of this little northwestern kid.

Back at camp, I kicked back with my book and a can of Rose while Shane and Juliette rested in the tent.  Mary Oliver and sunshine and bubbles, oh my…

And then, just as I took my last sip, our go-getter was begging for a spin on the paddle-board.  Shane rowed her over to the beach on the other side of the lake while I hoofed it across the bridge to meet them at the shallow waters.

We made a quick trip into town for firewood and a latte (this campground scores two points for easy access to espresso!) and then laid low the rest of the evening.  Jules did a few (dozen) solo loops on her bike and beamed at me proudly each time she rounded the bend and saw me waiting for her back at the site.  We sat by the water and then by the campfire and ate Indian food and s’mores.  These two people + water + woods are…LIFE.

The realities of a busy campground smacked us in the face on Saturday morning when we heard kids scootering past our tent at 7 am, but this girl’s smile (and sleeping accessories!) did much to relieve my crankiness.

I drank my coffee while Juliette took some star shots of Shane.  “Be funny, Daddy, be funny!”

Before we officially packed it up, Juliette really wanted to pet a salamander and I really wanted to get out for one more paddle.  We both scored.

This was actually the first time that Shane, Jules and I have camped without any of our crew, and while I missed seeing our friends pop out of their tent in the morning, missed the evening game of s’more du jour, I did relish the three-of-us time.  Shane and I talked more that weekend than we have in weeks.  Juliette snuggled into my lap for long stretches in the evenings, seeking warmth and rest.  Roughing it, schmuffing it – camp life is nothing short of luxurious.

Camp season continues!  Mid-June brought what has become our annual group camp trip to Bainbridge Island; all of us had a grand time spreading out on the lawn here last summer and felt we were due for a reunion.  We trickled into the site on a sunny Friday afternoon and made ourselves at home, cracking open cold beers while setting up our tents and watercraft.

There was such a happy, chill-but-active vibe around the site – seemed a ball was always being tossed around, seemed there were always a handful of people kicking back near the fire pit.

Also, seemed like Jack was always grilling up meat of some sort…

Note:  pack extra, extra wet wipes when camping with kids!  Another note:  the super-sized marshmallows I picked up at the store are too much mallow.

We were one of the last families to emerge from our tent on Saturday, reluctant to leave our cozy nest.

But once we unzipped our front door, Jules was off, eager to play with her best bud.

We walked down to the beach after breakfast to toss the ball around, catch some rays, and squish sand between our toes.

Felt so good.

We capitalized on the super-windy conditions and pulled out our kite for awhile.

Then, took refuge in the fort.

Golly, I adore this kid.

While the kids lunched…

La Verne, Nance and I got out for a paddle.  The water was crazy-choppy, so I never made it into the full standing position on the paddleboard, but a good time was had by all.  Despite our wet butts!

The grown-ups happy-houred before dinner and Baby J took a snooze.  The kiddos played hard all weekend and this girl was feelin’ it!

I’m all for a creative s’more, pro-potato chip or peanut butter cup between the graham crackers, but when J started mixing in barbecue chicken, I tapped out.

Juliette and Shane hit the hay a little early on Saturday night, which left me free to walk down to the water for my beloved solo sunset stroll.  The sky was…wow.

…And, happy Sunday morning!  Don’t mind if I do, Jack!

We sipped mimosas and ate Jack’s famous chilaquiles and the kids gathered around Father Goose for a story and a good laugh.

We went down to the beach one last time before heading out, to get a little more sun and search for crabs.

It was Father’s Day, and as I watched these papas hang with their kiddos on the beach, I was struck by how uniquely wonderful each of them is at loving their kids.

My numero unos…

We made a quick stop in Winslow for lavender lemonade from Blackbird Bakery and then hopped in line for the ferry back to Seattle, a little grubby and a lot happy.  Emily is already talking about next year’s Bainbridge getaway.  COUNT US IN.

We spent a few days earlier this month in Minnesota, celebrating our niece’s high school graduation and catching up with our beloved Schnells. While there was some busy-ness with festivities and ceremonies, there was also ample time to slow down, to sit on the porch and drink beer, to stand by the fence and coo at the brand-new baby calves.

We arrived Thursday evening and after a round of hugs from Grandma and Grandpa, Juliette darted across the yard to say hello to the animals.

While Jules fell head over heels for the cows, I became smitten with these golden greens…

The temperatures weren’t quite warm enough for us to pull out our swimsuits on Friday, but Shane was still up for a ride on a french fry floaty at Lake Latoka.

Meanwhile, Jules and Hayden snuggled up together under beach towels.

We spent most of the afternoon setting up the church for Shanay’s big graduation shin-dig and then headed home for a stroll around the farm.

Denny just bought ten baby pigs and they are the cutest.  We loved watching them dart from one end of the pen to the other, wooing them closer to us by dumping a heap of leftovers into their food trough.

 

Fatten up, little ones…  Grandpa’s got big plans for you.

Outside the barn, we stopped to hang out with the cows.  This sweet baby calf was just a few days old!

Back at the house, the cousins caught up with each other on the porch while Shane grilled up a whole lotta hot dogs.

We ended every day around this table, eating and drinking and laughing with the family.

We used the time change to allow ourselves (Juliette included) to stay up late and sleep in late.  Our mornings were lazy – Juliette romping around the porch in her underwear, Shane and I taking our sweet time eating our breakfast.

We drove over to the church late Saturday morning for Shanay’s big graduation celebration.  We’re so proud of this lovely young lady – she’s bright and generous and incredibly kind and now, a bonafide adult!

We spent the afternoon tinkering around the house, watching Grandpa work on his motorcycle and then spending more time with our cow friends.

This girl loves her grandpa somethin’ fierce – any time he entered a room, Juliette ran to him with arms wide open, exclaiming “GRANDPA!”, as if she hadn’t seen him just ten minutes earlier.

By late afternoon Jules was getting a case of the crankies, so I took her out for a lemonade reboot at the coffee shop.  A little one-on-one time does wonders for the both of us.

The weather had turned super-warm and I still had our beach bag in the trunk, so we detoured on the way home for a toe-dip at the lake.

We dined at Chet’s that night with the whole family, feasting on fried chicken with our lovely graduate.

And as we settled into our porch chairs for beer and a sunset show, we saw tiny flickers of light appear over the field.  Fireflies!

Shane offered to catch one for Juliette in a jar and I admittedly doubted his prowess, wondering how on earth he’d capture one of these fleeting-and-few-between bugs.  But alas, DAD FOR THE WIN.

The country in the summertime is a magical place.

I went for a blissfully quiet walk on Sunday morning before heading to the high school for the big ceremony.

Shanay!  You did it!

After setting our graduate free to hang out with her friends for the afternoon, we all headed home for yet another stroll through the farm.  Never got old.

Roo, the cow Juliette is trying to feed, is known as being particularly troublesome, breaking loose from the pen any chance she gets.  Jules developed a special fondness for this rascal, cooing, “Oh, Roo…” every time she came close.

Hayden loves animals, but does not love the resident bull, Pretty Boy.  She avoided eye contact at all costs.

Hey, piggies!

Gosh, I miss these little fellas!  They had so much personality.

These Minnesota Schnell kids are top-notch.  Patient and fun and affectionate – Juliette hit the cousin jackpot.

We gathered on the porch again on Sunday evening, this time raising our glasses to Avery, who had just turned 14.  Happy Birthday, Bud!

We lingered especially late around the table that night, Tiff and I savoring our super-sized beers and Shane sipping his little shot glass of top-shelf scotch.  I can’t imagine feeling more at home with a family that’s not actually my blood.  Thanks for a makin’ a girl feel welcome, Schnells…

We pulled away from the farm on Monday morning and set out for Minneapolis, Juliette yelling “Bye, Roo, you old troublemaker!” as we made our way down the road.  We had a few hours to pass in the city before our flight, so we took a walk along the Mighty Mississippi and then grabbed lunch downtown.

 

 

 

We parked ourselves in this hip little coffee shop for a solid hour, sipping our drinks and playing game after game of Go Fish.  I’m so glad that Juliette loves cafe time as much as I do.

Eventually, later than planned, we boarded our plane for Seattle and headed west.  We rolled up to our house after midnight, weary but rested.  We’re self-declared city folk, Shane and I, but a few days in the country sure does us good.

The past couple of months have been pretty spectacular, what with the beach-combing in Florida and the partying in Portland and the camp-firing at Fort Flagler.  PLUS, there’s been a smorgasbord of April and May goodness right here at home.

Home.  HOME!  We super-duper love our new one!  We got our keys the evening before we left for Florida and hauled a carload of boxes right over, eager as we were to settle into our new place.

Moving was a bear, but family really came through in a clutch.  Clearly, Jules was a stellar assistant with all the unpacking:

And my parents!  They were heroes.  As soon as we all returned from Florida, my dad and I got right to work giving all our rooms a nice fresh coat of white while my mom meticulously organized the kitchen.

And then Shane’s mom came to visit for a weekend in May – we hit Ikea together and she helped me get our closets in order.

We warmed our house with a (furniture-less) picnic dinner at the end of April, determined to have the Hickory clan over before they set off on their Colorado move.

We’ve shared so many big ups and big downs with this crew – breaking bread with these people in our new house is an up I’ll remember forever.

But saying good-bye to Brian, Nicole, Eden and Stella…total down.  We miss these guys so much already!

Juliette gave one final farewell to our townhouse the first weekend in May and then we were officially out.

This place was good to us for the past eleven years.  It will always be our first house, the place where we hosted the small group that turned out to be full of our life-long nearest and dearest friends (the very same ones that were there for our first meal in our new house!).  Our townhouse was the place that we watched Juliette take her first steps, the place in which we decorated a decade’s worth of Christmas trees.  I sniffled just a bit when I pulled out of the driveway for the very last time.

But then I drove across the bridge and we ate dinner in our new backyard and Juliette and Nico frolicked in the grass and I was overcome with the feeling that this next chapter in our lives is going to be a good one.

Getting to know our new neighborhood has been such a joy – meeting the super-friendly families on all sides of us, discovering the views around every corner, soaking up these western skies…

I look forward to my evening walks with a whole new kind of fervor.  I never really pictured myself as a West Seattle-ite, committed as I was to the South End, but suddenly I’m all in.

And golly, this backyard of ours…  We’ve loved dining al fresco, feeling like we finally have space to play the role of host.  The Rusts popped by one Saturday night just to say hello and then did a little jig when we told them we had extra burgers and dogs on the grill for them.

Aunt Val came to visit while Shane’s mom was in town and she filled me in on what exactly is planted in our yard, pointing out the peonies that were about to bloom and the lilac bush that smells so, so good.

We moved in at the right time of year, I tell ya.

This corner lot comes at a cost, though – we’ve quickly discovered the amount of work that goes into keeping this yard in tip-top shape.  Yowsers!  (But more gadgets for Shane!)

In other good-things news, Mother’s Day was lovely this year – Shane and Juliette made french toast and grapefruit mimosas for me and Shane’s mom and then we all headed to Alki Beach for a sun-break.

And Jules and I have been loving lots of quality time with LaV and Nico, soaking in our last couple of months of Fridays together before this guy heads off to kindergarten in the Fall.

We had a grand time celebrating his space-themed fifth birthday, watching him blast off to a year of new adventures.

These two…making each other smile since 2013.

They were especially awesome together on our Memorial Day hike to Coal Creek Falls, trooping through the trek with very little complaining – La Verne didn’t have to bust out the gummy bribes until mile 2.5!

This is our fourth or fifth time on this trail, and it continues to be one of our faves – not too crowded, not too steep, and always a rock to sit on mid-way to take a rest and have a snack.

And now, June.  We just got back from Minnesota, we’ve got a couple of camping trips on the books over the next two weekends, and my peonies are at their peak.  Life’s good.

It’s CAMPING SEASON!  The most wonderful time of the year!  We knew we were rolling the dice weather-wise when we headed out at the very beginning of June, but we were exceedingly eager to take a break from house to-do’s, pull out our tent, and fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees.  Nancy booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park, since we had such a grand time there last year and felt it was worthy of a repeat.

Juliette is more and more helpful with each subsequent year and was a perfect first mate for Shane as he set up the tent.

Mission accomplished!

Once we’d properly gotten settled, Juliette and I took a walk down to the water to check a few things off of her Junior Ranger Treasure Hunt list.

Found crabs!  And a feather, and clouds, and other miscellaneous outdoor goodies.

Back at camp, Isaiah dazzled us with his champion fire-builder skills as he coached Juliette on finding the perfect sort of twigs to toss into the ring to really get the flames roaring.

The question of the weekend, from all three kids, was, “Can I throw this in the fire?”  The answer was usually yes, though we learned we needed to add a few qualifiers – crumple up that paper bag before it’s tossed into the flames!

We ate our traditional fare of bratwursts and grilled veggies for dinner, paired with red wine that somehow tasted so good out of a plastic cup.  I tell you, these trees work wonders on your taste buds!

After s’mores and clean-up, we walked down to the water with mugs of hot tea to skip rocks and watch the sun go down.

Juliette has a particularly fierce fondness for Jason these days and snuggles up next to him every chance she gets.  I think he likes the attention.

We made it through the night with no significant wake-ups, but Juliette was up early with the birds, so I brewed myself an extra-large cup of coffee with our skillet of sausage, eggs, and hash browns.

And then, after breakfast, I just…sat.  The kids ran around and tracked each other with their walkie-talkies, Shane strung up the hammock, Jason walked his slack-line, and I reveled in being completely stationary.

Eventually, though, the trails beckoned and we packed up a lunch for a hike along the bluff.

This trail is amazing.  Lush and densely green for long stretches, and then it will open up to an expansive view of the water or a glowing, grassy pasture.

It’s also dotted with relics from its days as a World War II military fort, which make for some fun-but-slightly-spooky detours.

There’s no other crew I’d rather trek with…

Seriously, parts of this path felt straight out of The Shire.  Dark green!  Light green!  Yellow-green!  Olive green, Emerald green, Kelly green, oh my.

We all chilled for awhile when we got back to camp and then busted out the Monopoly cards for some friendly competition.  It’s nice to play with people that don’t gloat when they win.  (HA!)

Juliette had no interest in post-hike chill-axing, so we took her down to the water to let her try her hand at kite-flying at the park’s breezy coastline.

There’s always a little bit of let-down when the kids realize the actual monotony of flying a kite, but Jules got a huge kick out of trying to catch the kite as Shane reeled it in.  And so he reeled it in, and tossed it back up, and reeled it in, and tossed it back up.

Also, watching the boys work on their headers was kind of hilarious.

Once the kite and the soccer ball lost their charm, we walked down to the beach for some fort-building.

Isaiah quickly declared himself captain.  Jules was the driver.  Jason was the chef.  I was the ship’s photographer.

We dined that night over another roaring fire, courtesy of Isaiah.

There were a couple of boys close to G and Z’s ages at the site across from us and Juliette did her damnedest to keep up with the big kids.  She was thrilled when they invited her to come along on their race around the campground loop.

And then, S’MORES.

Such a good life.

After the dishes were washed and the kids were pajama’d, I walked down to the water for a solo sunset stroll.  (There goes that Moana song again!)

We broke down camp on Sunday morning immediately after breakfast – I’ll begrudgingly give kudos to Shane for rushing me through my morning campfire coffee as it was awfully nice to have the tent packed up as raindrops began to fall.  The kids stayed dry in the car as we gathered up the last few things.  I mean, it wouldn’t be a true June PNW camping trip without a little drizzle!

Cheers, gang!  Camp season 2018 is off to a very promising start.

I loved our evening treks across the beach bridge.  At this point we had seen our sights and made our family visits and eaten our meals for the day; there was nothing left to do but revel in sun and surf and quality time with one another.  Saturday’s beach-time was especially satisfying, as the sunset was particularly beautiful and Jules was particularly fun.

Moana’s voice piped through my head every time Juliette waded out into the water – I’m the girl who loves the sea, It calls meeeeeee…

The ocean calls me too, kiddo!

Juliette and I romped in the water for a good hour that night, playing until my dress was soaked up to my waist and we were both exhausted from wave-jumping.

A swell of foreboding storm clouds rolled in and we wondered if we should dart for cover.

As quickly as the clouds rolled in, though, they rolled out.

We were packing up shop for the night when Juliette found this amazing sand-plane a short ways down the beach, so we delayed bedtime by a few minutes to let her take a quick flight.  Such a magical place, this little stretch of sand…

By Sunday I was itching to get out of town, so my mom and dad offered to hang with Juliette while Shane and I drove down to Saint Petersburg to check out the scene there.  We grabbed coffee at a hip little shop and then strolled down the main drag, ending up at The Mill for brunch.

We walked off our bacon and eggs with a trip down to the Dali Museum on the waterfront.

And then, not wanting to deprive my parents of additional solo time with their granddaughter, Shane and I lingered over iced Americanos and Monopoly cards at Indian Shores Coffee.

We landed back at my parents’ condo mid-afternoon and heard all about their turtle-watching adventure with Great Grandma Alice.

Then, POOL.

Then, BEACH.  The ultimate daily rhythm.

We ate dinner that night at a beach bar on the waterfront, feasting on crab cakes and broiled shrimp one last time.

The ocean seemed extra-warm and extra-mellow that night, so Shane and Juliette waded way out in search of dolphins.

When they didn’t find any, Juliette asked Shane to be her dolphin.  Being the stellar father that he is, he obliged.  My happiest of happy places is on a quiet stretch of beach, my feet dug into the warm sand, watching these two be silly together.

On Monday morning we packed up our things and turned in the keys to our beach-front abode.  Knowing that we had a long day of travel ahead of us, I caffeinated with a double latte at the Coffee Mill.  My Grandma opened this store 40 years ago in a brave, faith-filled effort to make a living for herself after she and my grandfather divorced.  Though business ownership was demanding, it sustained her and the few of my family members who worked there in various capacities throughout the years.  I so vividly remember visiting this store as a kid, staring wide-eyed at the rows of candy jars, feeling like I’d hit the jackpot when Grandma handed me little bags of gummy fish and jelly beans and Holland mints.  My Aunt Karen eventually took over the Mill and just recently sold it, but I couldn’t resist returning for a stroll down memory lane.  The smell of roasted coffee and the creak of the wood floors took me back, though I dearly missed the sight of Grandma’s smiling face behind the cash register.

We met up with my Aunt Karen and my mom’s cousin Gail for breakfast that morning, getting the scoop on more family happenings…

And then set out on an alligator hunt.  We found what we were looking for at Taylor Park, in the form of two beady eyes peering out from the water 30 feet off-shore.  Juliette gasped excitedly, but lost interest once she realized this particular alligator wasn’t going anywhere.

We stopped by my Grandma’s place before heading out of town and I was thrilled by her exceedingly warm welcome.  She hugged me and grabbed both my hands and gushed over how happy she was to see me.  She knew me!  Like old times!  And then she went to introduce me to the friends at her lunch table and drew a blank with my name, remarking that she hadn’t seen me in years and years.  It was as if our visits over the previous few days had never taken place.  I held back tears, knowing that by the next day she’d likely have forgotten me completely.  I’m not so good at living in the moment – I’m much more prone to reminisce about days gone by or look ahead to the next great adventure.  But for Grandma, the moment is largely it.  So I took a deep breath, steadied my voice, and asked her if she wanted to show me around her place.  And just as she did on my previous visit, and on the one before that, she took my hand and led me through her endless courtyard, remarking about the trees and the squirrels and the sun overhead.  I nodded encouragingly, telling her how beautiful it all was, how happy I was to be there with her.  In that moment.

I hugged Grandma extra-tight as we said our good-byes and then she wrapped up Juliette in the warmest, most grandmotherly embrace a kid could wish for.  I’m so glad Jules had a chance to meet Alice, a woman who has lived a life of unwavering kindness and generosity and faith.

Tears stung my eyes again as we made our exit and the door swung closed behind us, Grandma smiling and waving from the hallway.  My heart overflowed with both gratitude and sadness on our drive to Tampa.  Gosh, good-byes hurt.  But after lunch, as I watched Juliette happily slurp up drips of key lime popsicle juice and chatter about Great Grandma Alice and turtles and pelicans, I felt the scales tip toward gratitude.  This trip was all I’d hoped it would be.

We spent Friday morning with my Grandma, playing a rousing game of “Name That Tune” with her and her friends.  As I listened to her dash off verse after verse of Amazing Grace, I was reminded that all of the old Alice was not lost.

We thought about doing some sight-seeing in the afternoon, but…POOL.

My parents offered to hang with Juliette for dinner while Shane and I snuck away for a happy hour date.  I was itching to scope out the legendary Don Cesar, with its abundance of green palms and pink stucco, so we headed there for a couple of patio cocktails.

Swanky!  Some day, we’ll get a room.

We rejoined my parents and Juliette just in time for some sunset beach play.

This picture makes me so happy, to see my mom and my daughter so happy together.

It was about a mile walk from the beach near my mom and dad’s condo to the beach near our rental, so Juliette and I decided to walk it while Shane took the car.  We strolled and chatted and stopped to carefully inspect this dead fish that had washed up on shore.  It’s the little things…

Golly, I love hangin’ with this kid.

Once again, Shane did bedtime while I got out my nightly walk – I have never breathed so deeply so often.  Salve for my soul, the ocean is.

I was really intent on showing Juliette Florida’s wildlife, so we headed to Eagle Lake on Saturday morning in search of turtles and alligators.

Found an egret!

And turtles!  So many turtles!

We met up with my family for a lunchtime picnic at Largo Central Park.  Juliette really liked the rock wall there.

Like, really.

As comfortable as my grandma seems in her home, she was clearly thrilled to be out on the town.  She looks good, doesn’t she?

My cousin Kristen was there with her family and we spent awhile trading notes on motherhood and Harry Potter.  Four generations of lady power in this pic!

And then…POOL.

I’m gonna save Saturday’s sunset for my next post, ’cause it was extra-good and deserves an opening spot.  So stay tuned!

Golly, this ol’ blog has taken a hit with all the packing and the moving and the unpacking and the yadda, yadda, yadda.  But I’m back!  With vacation pictures!

We’ve come to rely on a March or April sun-break to get us over the final hump of Seattle’s eight-month rainy season, opting for a long weekend in Santa Monica the past three years for our Spring doses of Vitamin D.  But this year we made grander plans, booking a trip with my mom and dad for a week in Florida to catch some rays and catch up with the extended family I haven’t seen in years.

We were up well before dawn to catch our non-stop flight to Tampa and checked into our beach-front cottage late that afternoon.  We shed our sweaters and our shoes before we’d even unlocked our front door, eager to see how the Gulf waters felt on our feet.

Answer:  they felt GOOD.

 

Seriously, you guys, those past few weeks of rain and gray skies had been rough.  We were sun-starved.

We joined my parents for dinner that night at one of the multitude of beach bars in the neighborhood and then headed right back out to our happy place.

Shane kindly offered to get a tuckered-out Juliette ready for bed while I went for a sunset walk and slipped quite solidly into vacation mode.  I needed this.

We woke up Wednesday morning eager to be out and about in the 80-degree sunshine.  Shane and I took turns going for long morning runs along the beach while Juliette ran shorter laps from the water to the beach chairs and back.  SO MUCH BLUE!

We hit up the smoothie stand and the playground and then met my parents and aunt at my grandma’s place, a memory care home she settled into last year.  My grandma has been dealing with progressing dementia for the past few years and I had prepared myself for the fact that she likely would not know me as her granddaughter.  She didn’t.  But still, she was as kind and welcoming as ever, and took great pride in showing me around, touring us past the gazebo and the activity studio and the resident one-eyed cat, Winky.  It was hard, having to limit our conversation to the immediate present and roll with Grandma’s frequent confusion, but there was comfort in seeing glimmers of the same thoughtful Alice I’ve always known.

We spent the afternoon bouncing from the beach near our house to the pool at my mom and dad’s condo down the road.

I accidentally left Juliette’s trusty Giants cap back home, so we grabbed this fancy straw hat at Target, which ended up popping off every time the slightest bit of wind of blew by.  But dang, she worked it for those first few minutes…

Once we were all pooped from running in the sand and splashing in the waves, we rested up with…a trip to my mom and dad’s pool.  This kid’s got stamina!

We closed out the day with wings at Abes and a quick peek at the sunset.  Vay-cay 2018 was going swimmingly.

We met up with Shane’s uncle and his wife in Bradenton on Thursday morning for brunch and caught up on their latest Florida haps.

And then spent some time at the Riverwalk Splash Park, because we hadn’t yet checked that form of water play off our vacation list.

These springtime trips are a splurge for us, but the joy that spills forth from water and warmth has assured us that this is time and money well-spent.

My goofy little tree-hugger…

Photo cred a la Jules!

We drove along St. Pete Beach on the way back to our house and were detoured along the waterway side by some construction.  I kept my eyes peeled for pelicans, wanting to show Juliette the real-life version of the birds we love on Finding Nemo.  Found some!

We perched on the waterfront for awhile to watch the birds and have a snack.  These are the moments I relished in a relatively plan-free week.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach, playing fetch with the ocean and challenging the waves to dual after dual.  Jules was knocked off her feet once or twice, but just laughed hysterically and popped back up – these warm, gentle gulf waters were made for four-year-olds!  As were the pineapple-flamingo goggles we grabbed at Marshalls on a whim last month.

“Come at me, ocean!”

I took a late afternoon stroll and had stretches of beach entirely to myself.

We ate dinner at the house and then desserted at John’s Pass with giant mint-chip ice cream cones.

My parents popped over in the evening to catch a particularly glowy sunset with us.

Juliette coached my mom on the appropriate way to jump over each cresting wave.  She got some impressive height!

It’s a magical world we live in, isn’t it?

After our totally-dreamy getaway to Leavenworth last winter, Shane and I committed to making an annual tradition of a February snow-cation.  This year we opted to stay a little closer to home and booked a room at Suncadia Lodge near Cle Elum, setting out a couple of weeks ago with blue skies overhead and the promise of snow in the forecast.  As our check-in at the lodge wasn’t until late afternoon, we pit-stopped at the Snoqualmie Summit to strap a pair of skis onto Juliette and let her have a few rides on the Magic Carpet.  Arms out, knees bent.  She’s got it!

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what our end game is in teaching this kid how to ski, as neither Shane nor I have been willing to invest the time or money it would take to turn ourselves into downhill skiers.  We won’t be taking week-long family ski vacations to Whistler.  She won’t be the next Lindsey Vonn.  But if we can’t sustain the skiing thing (she’ll quickly surpass my skill level!), we can just chalk this up to an early-childhood exercise in confidence-building.

There are few greater joys than watching this girl’s bravery and perseverance cumulate in an emphatic “I did it!”.  This was the first time Juliette pizza-pied her way to a stop at the bottom of the hill, rather than plowing full-speed right into her dad’s arms, and she was stoked.

It was a bluebird day, so lovely and sunny that Juliette peeled off her jacket at one point.  Gosh, I love those karate chop arms!

Once the clouds rolled in and the temperatures dropped, we traded Juliette’s skis in for her purple boots and headed to the car, eager to crack open the thermos of hot cider I had packed.

First, though, a quick romp and a hunt for the biggest “snow baby” we could find.

It was a short ride to Suncadia and by 4 pm we were unpacked and settled into our weekend abode.  Fireplace?  Check.  Mountain view?  Check.  All the coziness a girl could ever want?  CHECK.

Shane watched a lot of curling that weekend while I read and Juliette pleaded for figure skating to come back on.

We popped over to the sledding hill on our way to dinner that evening, taking a few runs on the super-slick snow.

And then closed out the day with a mellow brewpub dinner in Roslyn.  I’ll tell you, that town is quiet at 7 pm.

We woke to purple skies and snow-capped mountains on Friday morning and took our sweet time getting going.

Finally, we rallied just enough energy to walk down to the lobby and get a cup of coffee and a hot chocolate.

I could get used to sipping my latte in these chairs!

After a bit more lounging and a serious self-pep-talk (so hard to leave that fireplace!), we picked up a pair of rental skis for me from the lodge’s shop and set out toward Salmon La Sac for a winter adventure.

We figured this may be our last chance to tow Jules in the bike trailer, as she’s quickly outgrowing her chariot…

The trail was freshly groomed and the woods were so, so serene.  We crossed paths with only a couple of other skiers during our two-hour trek.

We stopped at a campground mid-way to let Juliette run circles in the fresh powder.  We chased and rolled and frolicked, giddy with the freedom and joy of having an entire snow-covered campground to ourselves.

(Hat swap!)

I’ll be honest – getting geared up and schlepping the trailer and stopping every five minutes to adjust mittens and dig out new snacks isn’t easy.  By God, though, it’s worth it.  So worth it.

Snow started falling on our way back to the car, significantly upping the wonderland factor.

Again, I could have happily passed the rest of the day with my book and the fireplace, but Juliette was jonesin’ to get back out, so we walked over to the hot tub to take a dip.  In the snow.  Dreamy, but…yowsers.  Getting out was not so fun.  Particularly since Jules decided she really wanted to stay in for a few more minutes after I’d already wrapped myself in my towel and put on my boots.

Clearly, she wasn’t at all bothered by my chattering teeth.  Take your time, lady.

We ate at one of the lodge’s restaurants that night and returned to the lobby to find a full spread of s’mores fixin’s set up by the bonfire.  Don’t mind if we do!

Saturday was go-day, but we milked every last minute in our room, reveling in the snow-capped view until check-out time.

Eventually, though, our time was up, so we packed our things and went over to the sledding hill to play in the foot of fresh snow that had fallen overnight.

Faster, Daddy!  FASTER!

While Juliette and I practiced our luge form, Shane made quick work of putting together a friendly (though slightly lumpy) snowman.

Sunshine and snow.  So happy togetherrrrrr.

Shane insisted on the testing the limits of the freshly frozen pond.

We found a pristine wide-open field on the other side of the busy hill and made our mark with an intense game of tag.

By noon, we were tuckered out and ready to head home.  Shane’s capacity for hauling this kid around never fails to amaze me.

Before we’d even made our way back over the pass, I was checking AirBNB to see if our little enclave was available for the following weekend – life has been hectic lately and I wanted more of the quiet, more of the beauty, more retreat with my two favorite people.  Alas, the room was booked solid and reality was beckoning, anyway.  So I’m tucking the weekend’s memories away in my serenity bank – Suncadia stuffed it full.

February.  I’m so glad it’s FEBRUARY!  Because, January.  January.  It’s my least-favorite month of the year.  The post-Christmas let-down and the dark, cold days and our damned virtuous ritual of frugality, where we don’t shop or eat out or “indulge” during the month…it’s the worst.  I want to welcome the fresh year with wide-eyed optimism and excitement, but the reality is that I am always exceedingly eager to turn this first page of the calendar.  And January 2018 felt particularly hard.  Work was more intense for me than it has been in a long time – too many nights my job was the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep and too many mornings I woke up with a ball of stress in my chest.  Shane and I spent our free time trying to make good on our decision-making resolution, visiting open houses and elementary schools in an effort to gain some clarity in our family’s crystal ball, but all our research left me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.  And since Shane goes “dry” in January and doesn’t drink any alcohol for a month, we couldn’t even unwind together over a bottle of wine.  I had to drink alone!  The despair of it all!

<<end rant>>

In the midst of the darkness and the latte-deprivation and the long hours at the office, though, there were glimmers of light.  (C’mon, you knew this was all leading up to a photo-dump of Juliette pictures, didn’t you?)

The sun came out twice last month and when it did, we were OUT, biking or walking or jogging.  We spent one bright Saturday afternoon at Seward Park, brushing the dust off Juliette’s pink bike.

It had been two or three months since Juliette was last on two wheels, so it took a mile for her to find her groove.  Once she did, though, she was jammin’.

On rainy days, we were IN, watching movies or tea partying with friends.  This girl’s got some mad hosting skills.

She’d hold an apple slice up to panda’s mouth and then turn her head and secretly devour it herself, desperately wanting me to believe that her stuffed animals were really eating their snacks.

Cheers, kiddo.  Way to be my sunshine when skies are gray.

I broke our no-spend rule for a Boba date with Juliette one Friday afternoon.  It had been a long, lazy morning and we were both itching for a little something special.  The look on her face when she sucked that first tapioca ball into her mouth was priceless.

I mean, how can you resist?

The Seattle Women’s March on January 20th was another ray of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.  Shane, La Verne, Jules, and I made the trek from Capitol Hill to Westlake Plaza to take a stand for kindness and inclusion and respect.  Though this year’s march felt smaller and quieter than 2017’s event, the streets were still a sea of friendly faces, reminding me that unity and empathy do still exist in the midst of these divided, distrusting times.  Hope is not lost.

And finally, the slough.  Gosh, how I love a January stroll through the Mercer Slough.  We drove over there last Sunday after a particularly dreadful open house tour in Bellevue, and this boardwalk was the perfect place to shake the scent of mildew and cat pee.

I don’t know that we’ve ever actually visited this place in the summer, but I can say that winter suits it well.

And then, as if the skies knew I needed a little extra pick-me-up, SUN.

And now, it’s February.  I have a big deadline in a couple of days that will significantly lighten my work load once it passes.  The 10-day forecast shows only a couple of days of rain.  Juliette and I have been to the bakery and the coffee shop, and Jack cracked open and shared one of the finest wines I’ve ever tasted a couple of days ago.  January had its small handful of good days, but February is looking predominantly good.