Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

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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Seattle was very somber in the wake of the election last week and by Friday Shane and I were ready to get out of town.  So we packed our bags and headed to the faraway land of…Portland!  Which was actually just as somber a city as Seattle, if not more so, but there was comfort in being with family.  We rolled up Friday afternoon and headed right to the playground, as Juliette was eager to run free with Morgan and Elise.

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Sitting on Mitch’s front porch and watching the kids play tag has become one of my favorite Portland pastimes.

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Juliette bunked with her cousins that night, and as soon as all was quiet in the kids’ room, the grown-ups gathered in the living room to crack open a bottle of wine and pour our post-election hearts out.  I don’t know that I’ve ever spoken so candidly with Mitch and Kathryn about politics and religion, laying bare my hopes and fears.  I so appreciated their insight and refusal to despair; my brother is ever the optimist, my sister-in-law level-headed and fair.  We ended with evening with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, which had all of us doubled over with laugher, tears streaming down our faces.  Gosh, it felt good to get goofy.

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The kids woke obscenely early on Saturday and all of us dragged a little throughout the day as a result.  We lounged a lot, napped hard, played Candy Land and did puzzles and took inventory of Morgan and Elise’s 200 Shopkins.  Shane and I snuck away in the evening for a drink at The Bible Club, a cozy little speakeasy in Sellwood, and recharged with stiff cocktails and some kid-free conversation.

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Sunday morning was gray and quiet; Mitch made a frittata and the girls did more Shopkin-trading.  Juliette pondered the future from her window seat.

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By 10 am though, the kids were over the whole lazy-Sunday thing, so we headed over to Westmoreland Park to ride bikes and climb trees.

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We grabbed a treat at Grand Central Bakery in Sellwood and let the girls burn off their cinnamon roll sugar-rush with a walk through town.

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With that, it was time to say our goodbyes and hit the road.  Juliette cried as we pulled away from the curb, begging to go back to Morgan and Elise’s house.  Soon, kiddo, soon!  Christmas is just around the corner.

We had a couple of things on the agenda on Friday, the first of which was COFFEE.  I loved everything about Sisters Coffee Company, from the velvety lattes to the deer heads mounted on the wall.  Perfect spot for a proper Grandma-Mama-Jules date.

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Around the corner from the cafe is a beautiful little quilt shop – we popped in to drool over fabric while Juliette excitedly pointed to all the pretty “blankies” on the wall.

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Once we’d painted downtown Sisters red, we drove over to Smith Rock for a good dose of nature.  The desert landscape was stunning and in such sharp contrast to the densely wooded Metolius River we’d strolled along the day before – this place is like the southwest of the northwest.

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Lord knows I love green, but it turns out brown can be gorgeous, too.

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I spy Shane and Jules…

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We made our way down to the base of the rocks and then I peeled away from the group to hike up and over the cliffs.  Juliette wasn’t thrilled about being left behind, but the summit was calling my name!

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I breathlessly scampered to the top and then paused for a couple of minutes to take in the view.  That spire on the left is called Monkey Face.  It took me awhile to figure out why, and then I made out the strong brow and small mouth facing out of frame – see it?

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Kudos to Central Oregon’s weather for being so good to us that week.

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It was a quick, steep descent down the backside of the mountain to the quiet river below.

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I hooked up with Shane, my dad, and Jules and we stopped to eat our lunch in a patch of shade.

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I sometimes wonder if this girl understands how lucky she is…

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Hey, buddy!

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We made it back to the car just as Juliette was on the verge of crashing.  I thought she might doze on the way home, but there was just too much exciting stuff flying by the car window.  Like these alpacas!  I spotted those adorable little babies and asked Shane to slam on the brakes.

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I want one.

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We got back to the house and immediately passed out for a solid family nap – it seemed that a week of adventuring had caught up with us.

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Rested and refreshed, Shane and I skipped out before dinner for a little gin tasting at the Cascade Street Distillery.  We finished a gin/vodka flight and a round of cocktails in the space of about 30 minutes – don’t we look happy?

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There are few things this guy loves more than walking out of a liquor store with a hefty box in his arms.

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We ate dinner at the house and then made the short drive over to Sisters Meat and Smokehouse for a dessert of beer and beef jerky.  When in rural Oregon…

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We had breakfast in town on Saturday morning and waved to the deer that grazed in the field near the house.  I sure was going to miss these guys!

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We said our good-byes and hit the road to Portland around 10:00.  First, though, one more deer spotting…

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And one more Sisters latte!

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We popped by Suttle Lake on the way to Mitch and Kathryn’s.  Calm, clear water, a recently renovated lodge, and a lawn full of games – we’re already looking at making reservations for this place for summer 2017!

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We arrived in Portland late afternoon and kicked back on the porch while the girls partook in a joyous reunion.

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Ok, I kicked back.  Uncle Shane is just too fun to stay out of the fray.

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Morgan and Jules enjoyed a little downtime before dinner…

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And then really revved it up after dinner for a pretty intense dance party.  Miley Cyrus for the win!

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We squeezed in one final adventure on Sunday morning before heading back to Seattle, loading up the bikes and scooter for a ride across the Tilikum Bridge.

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I had my doubts about whether or not Juliette could make it across the whole thing, but she rocked it.

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We ended our ride at Elizabeth Caruthers Park, where the girls splashed in the fountains, hoodies and all.  65-degree weather be damned!

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And with that, Schnell Family Tour de Oregon 2016 was a wrap.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for showing us the sights and stoking those backyard campfires and making us feel so at home in your little corner of northwestern paradise!

We left La Pine Wednesday morning, full of energy after a hearty breakfast and a round of veggie-rich green smoothies (seriously, thanks, Mom!).  We decided to take the circuitous route to our rental house in Sisters and make a stop at Hosmer Lake, as I had heard that the super-clear waters were a good place to paddle board and kayak.  We had a little trouble finding the one small stretch of non-marshy water access, but once we landed, Shane pumped up the board, Jules buckled her life jacket, and they were off!

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They took a quick spin around the inlet and then came back to pick me up.  I wasn’t convinced that our inflatable board would support all three of us, but we managed a family loop and landed back at shore with only slightly wet butts.

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Since I was coming off four days of single parenting, I figured it was fair to ask Shane if I could sneak away for a solo paddle while he and Juliette ate lunch on the shore.  He happily obliged and I set off to find my SUP-mojo.

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Found it.

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I made my way through the channels, getting stuck in the reeds only once, while Mount Bachelor soared in the distance and rainbow trout glided beneath me.  The water was so clear.  So quiet.  So perfect.

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I rowed like hell back to Shane and Jules once I realized how long I’d been gone and then plopped myself down on a log to sip the jar of Rosé my mom had thoughtfully packed in our cooler.  Jules gulped down some of Grandma’s home-brewed Kombucha, and then we were off to Elk Lake for another water fix.

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We spread out our blanket on the rocky beach at Elk Lake and splashed for a bit.  It was gorgeous there, but Juliette was much more taken with the ice cream the kid next to us was eating than she was with the scenery.

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So we caved.  Ice cream for the win!

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I told her she had to share her scoop of salted caramel with her dad.  Which she did, happily.

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And then she swiped the rest of my mocha almond cone…  I really need to learn how to say no to this kid.

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But she lays it on so dang thick!

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We joined my mom and dad in Sisters later that afternoon.  We’d blown past naptime and had a little time to kill before dinner, so Shane set up his tent in the backyard for Juliette to play in.  When we asked her a couple of days ago what her favorite part of vacation was, she said, “Being in the tent!”.  Two year olds can be so wonderfully easy to please.

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We ate dinner and drank beer at Three Creeks and then Shane tucked in a wiped-out Jules while I headed out with my dad to snap a few photos of that gorgeous country evening light.

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Fields and mountains and sage brush…this is the stuff of my dreams.

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We kicked off Thursday in “downtown” Sisters, which consists of a few blocks of charming shops and eateries.  We met up with a couple of college friends for coffee, did the bakery circuit, and scored a like-new one-dollar Thomas the Train book for Juliette at the thrift store.

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We drove up to the Metolius River later that morning to check out the fish hatchery and walk along the water.  We pumped our quarters into the fish food dispenser and watched Juliette toss handful after handful of pellets into the tanks.

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She could have fed those fish for hours.

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When we ran out of quarters, Shane got thrifty!

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Finally, we pried Jules away from her fish friends and headed down to the bridge.

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I’ve never seen a river this color before – aqua and foamy in the fast-moving parts, deep deep blue in the calmer waters.

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Juliette looks a little concerned, doesn’t she?

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That’s better.

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We ate lunch on the banks of the river and watched the water change colors as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.

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Digging his new aviators…

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And I know, I’m gushing, but these colors.

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We walked for a bit, sat for a bit, and then headed home.

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While on his bike ride earlier that week, Shane had met a guy that described the Metolius as “magical”.  I now see what he meant!

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We ate burgers back at the house and then grabbed a beer at the pub around the corner.  Doesn’t my dad look thrilled to have a drinking buddy?

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We took the long way home, watching the clouds roll in over the mountains and waving to a few deer that hung out in the field across from the house.  I love Seattle, but…I could get used to this.

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Up next:  a rocky hike and some more time with the cousins!

Just as the post-vacation sheen from our time in Minnesota was beginning to wear off, we packed our bags and headed out again, this time for a week in Central Oregon with my parents – I love August!

To break up the seven-hour haul to La Pine, we spent last Friday night in Portland.  Bonus: a quick catch-up with Morgan and Elise!

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My dad was in town and joined us for a brew-pub dinner with the kids.

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These girls may have had one too many beers…

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We enjoyed a leisurely Saturday morning at the house, soaking up the cousin time.

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And then Shane strapped on his bike helmet, packed (and repacked, and repacked) his bags, and tossed me the car keys – my stud of a husband set out on a four-day 200-mile bike-packing trek from Portland to Bend!

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See you on the flip side, hon!

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Meanwhile, my dad, Jules, and I made the relatively short (but still sooooo long) four-hour drive to La Pine.  We were greeted by my mom and Bernie and quickly settled into life among the trees – evening strolls in the woods and subsequent bucket baths to wash away the dust that sneaks between your toes.

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Sunday was warm and sunny, so my dad and I took Juliette to the Sun River Aquatic Center for a dip in their pools.

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She dug it.

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So did I.

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We dined that night at La Pine’s finest Mexican joint and then hit the local playground for a sunset romp.

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That wink!

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As we turned onto my mom and dad’s street that evening, we spotted a deer and hopped out to say hello.

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It’s so nice to let this little spitfire run free on the traffic-less open roads…

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We came back from our deer hunt to find a campfire roaring in my parents’ backyard.  This is the face of a kid that knows without a doubt, fire=marshmallows.

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Jules and I woke on Monday morning to the smell of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon (thanks, Mom!).  I think this guy wanted in on the breakfast action:

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Fueled by caffeine and home cooking, Juliette and I headed out for a morning run/deer hunt.  No bucks spotted this time around, but we did encounter a very sweet bunny and several bushy-tailed squirrels.

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We spent the afternoon out at Cultus Lake, paddling and floating and splashing.  This may be my favorite of the several Cascade lakes we’ve visited – a large, shallow bay with ultra-clear water and then the prettiest rich turquoises as you paddle further out.

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She’s a great first mate.

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We’re still making use of the cheap little floaty boat we bought for Juliette two years ago – she cruised around the shallow waters for nearly an hour.

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We missed having Shane around, but…mama-Jules time was pretty special.  We’d start out each naptime laying side-by-side, and then Juliette would snuggle a little closer, and then put her head on my chest, and eventually just stretch out her whole body on top of mine, whispering, “I want to be close, Mommy!”.  Homegirl is gettin’ heavy, so I eventually had to roll her off of me in order to catch my breath, but those few minutes brought back such sweet memories of her baby days.

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Post-nap, Juliette “helped” Grandpa man the grill for dinner…

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And post-chicken, savored one more gooey s’more.

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This is the point at which I realized I was in for one heck of a bedtime battle…

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Juliette got her final wiggles out with a bike ride to the neighbor’s house to deliver some leftover chicken and then we called it a day.

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A fun-filled, dirt-packed, joyous kind of day…  Someone fill a bath for this kid, stat!

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Tuesday morning we had one main objective:  head to Bend and FIND DADDY!  We met up with a tired, slightly scruffy Shane at Drake Park around 11:30.  Jules shouted “Daddy!  Daddy!  My daddy’s here!” as he rounded the corner and then bounded into his arms – it was quite the reunion.

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We sat on a park bench for a few minutes to have a drink and hear the major highlights.

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Shane had rocked his ride, covering 200 miles and some serious elevation gain with his tent, sleeping bag, and food strapped on the back of his bike.  I’m so proud of him.  And so glad he got his adventure-fix – it’s good to have him back with us!

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We laid low in the afternoon, tossing the ball around with Jules and letting her roam a little on her bike.

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The weather was perfect for a river-side stroll, so after dinner we drove over to Wyeth Campground to watch the sun go down on the Deschutes.

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Juliette did some bird-watching while her dad skipped rocks.

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I love the pine trees and the water and the frequent deer sightings, but man, that Central Oregon dust makes for some seriously grimy feet!

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Jules spent a little quality time with Bernie on the back deck when we got home, and then there were baths/books/bed and a morning good-bye to La Pine as we set out for part 2 of our vacation, at a rental house in Sisters, Oregon.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for a perfect few days at Grandma-Grandpa camp!

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Our last couple of days in Minnesota were packed with more water, more family time, plenty of porch-sitting and sunset-gazing.  I had eased into country life, and it felt good.

We spent Sunday afternoon out on Blackwell Lake, floating aimlessly on Doug and Val’s pontoon.

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Shane, not usually one for swimming, couldn’t resist the chance to dive and swing and cannonball.

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With that life jacket strapped on, he was the perfect flotation device.

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Juliette loved being on the boat, especially when Doug put the pedal to the metal and the wind blew through our hair.  She’d laugh like crazy and yell, “Super-faster!  SUPER-FASTER!!!”

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I shutter to think what this kid will be like when she’s old enough to get behind the wheel for real.  Watch out, folks!

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I’m so glad we got to catch up with this crew.  It’s a special feeling, being with people that have known Shane and I since before we were “Shane and I”!

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Jules was wired from our boating bonanza, so I put her in the stroller for a walk when we got back to the house, hoping she’d chill out and doze.  But then we came across these dang cows and she was over the moon again!

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She eventually crashed, waking from her nap just in time to give Purple Baby a sunset bath on the porch.

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This porch swing was my happy place…

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Monday morning, it was Juliette’s and Grandpa’s happy place, too!  It makes my heart flip-flop, seeing how fiercely this guy loves his granddaughter.

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We had hoped to spend Monday afternoon back out on the water, but gray skies and drizzle kept us from putting on our swimsuits.  We settled instead for a trip to Carlos Creek Winery and a drink on the patio.

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We gathered with the whole gang for dinner at Zorbaz that night and then walked across the street to Lake Le Homme Dieu for one last water-fix and a quick family snapshot.

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The rest of the evening was spent…back on that beloved porch!  Shane staged his own version of the Olympics by pulling up the stopwatch app on his phone and challenging the kids to dart from one end of the house to the other in under ten seconds.  They took the challenge very seriously.

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Super-faster, Jules, SUPER-FASTER!

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A final sunset (a few final mosquito bites), a round of teary hugs, and…that was it.  We were off to the airport before sunrise on Tuesday morning.  I missed that place and those people before we’d even turned out of the driveway.  There’s a lotta beauty, a lotta peace, a whole lotta love in that little corner of the Midwest.

Saturday was sunny and warm – perfect parade-goin’ weather!  We staked out a spot on the sidewalk of downtown Garfield (I use the word “downtown” very loosely, with a town population of 350!) and settled in for Juliette’s first parade.

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The festivities began with some old dudes carrying flags and the singing of the National Anthem – at this point, Juliette had yet to be sold on the whole ordeal.

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And then…candy started flying out the windows of the trucks and tractors that passed us by.  Now this kid was on board!

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Shane’s special treat?  Gin and tonics from the pub conveniently located just behind us.  I mean, gotta stay hydrated, right?

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Hey…I know that face!

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27 tractors and 10 pounds of candy later, we threw our loot in the car and drove over to Lake Latoka to cool off in the water.

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All those years of visiting Minnesota of the dead of winter…I had no idea what we were missing out on!

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“I’m kicking, Mama!  I’m kicking so much!”

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After a post-swim PB&J and a round of frisbee, we packed it up.  Reluctantly.  I coulda hung out in the shade of that tree all day, but naptime beckoned.

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In the evening we gathered at Denny’s shop for his 60th birthday bash.  One pickup after another rolled up as half the town turned out to wish him well.  I was thankful for a few familiar faces and thrilled by the chance to catch up with Shane’s Aunt Val, as she and I go waaaay back.  Almost 20 years ago, she hired me as a baby-sitter.  I fell in love with her family, then really fell in love with her foxy Minnesotan nephew when he moved in with them for a summer internship in Turlock (Doug and Val should get a match-making medal!).  I was initially bummed when the Schnells left California for Washington, but when I landed a job in Seattle a couple of years later, Val took me under her wing, giving me a place to stay while I looked for an apartment.  She was there when I signed my first post-college lease and pushed the cart on my subsequent Bed Bath & Beyond shopping spree.  The countless meals I ate at their table did so much to ease my loneliness as I eagerly waited for Shane to move up to Seattle.  Doug and Val left Washington a few years ago and I realized Saturday night how dearly I’ve missed them.

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Hey, Birthday Boy!

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There was eating (so. much. pork!) and drinking and merriment…

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A few hugs for Grandpa’s tractor…

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A round of rides on the Gator…

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A pepper-hunt in Grandpa’s garden…

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And then, the sure-fire signs of a storm on the horizon.  That sky.

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The threat of rain wasn’t gonna get this crew down, though – there was still partying to do!

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I’m not entirely sure who this girl is or how her family knows Denny and Pat, but whatever – I turned around and Jules had a new best buddy!

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Eventually the skies completely opened up and everyone took refuge indoors while it poured and poured.  We let Jules run for a few minutes in the warm summer rain and then called a day.  Sun, sugar, swimming, Schnells…these are a few of her favorite things.

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I have fond memories of our many Thanksgivings in Minnesota – the snowfalls and the smoked turkeys and the Black Friday shopping with my mother-in-law – but since we had Juliette, we figured it’s best to visit the Midwest in the summer, to avoid the sub-freezing temps and let her run free outdoors.  And so last Wednesday we made the long train-plane-automobile voyage to Alexandria to visit Shane’s family.  Grandma and Grandpa, here we come!

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It was a long day of travel, but Jules held it together pretty well, protesting only when she was forced to put up her tray table during the plane’s descent.  We rolled up to Denny and Pat’s house around dinnertime, and once we opened that car door, this kid was ready to run.

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Shane’s sister and her family came over and we spent the evening catching up, enjoying grown-up conversation while Juliette played with her adoring older cousins.  Shanay French-braided her hair, Hayden read to her, and Shane’s mom fired up the blender for a batch of pina coladas.  We were officially on vacation!

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Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa on Thursday morning and jetted out for a quick run.  I like to think I’m a city girl, but gosh, I do love being out in the country, soaking in the unending stretches of green and wide open skies.

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I do not, however, love the 95 percent humidity.  Wowsers.

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We rushed home, not sure if Juliette was distressed over our leaving her.  Turns out, I’m not sure if she even noticed we were gone!

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We freshened up and then headed into town to run a few errands – these cool cats were ready to roll!

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The most important stop on our itinerary?  ICE CREAM!

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We enjoyed a lazy afternoon back at the house, and then dropped off Juliette at vacation Bible school with her aunt and cousins so that we could savor a kid-free dinner out with Shane’s parents to celebrate Denny’s 60th birthday.  What a luxury to eat my ribs and sip my wine flight without chasing down crayons that have fallen on the floor or listening to a toddler plead for one more french fry!

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We watched the sunset from Denny and Pat’s porch and then reconvened at the kitchen island, for what became our nightly ritual of laughing and drinking and reminiscing.

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Shane headed out early on Friday morning for a bike ride with Hayden and Avery.  Juliette was a tad young to join, so she settled for a bicycle breakfast on the porch.

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These poor kids had no idea what they were getting into when they agreed to go for a ride with Uncle Shane!  Avery really should have pumped up those tires and left the jeans at home…

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They made it, though, slogging through all 11 miles in the heat and humidity.  Their first words when they rolled up?  “We’re never doing that again!”

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We spent the afternoon across the road at Denny’s shop, tidying up for Saturday’s big birthday bash.

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When the kiddie pool lost its charm, a few of us drove over to Bergen Lake to hang out on the dock.

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Juliette got a kick out of seeing the swarms of bluegills circle below us.

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Shane had a Bear Grylls moment when he lured a fish into a baggie with a bread crumb.  Shane let Juliette give it a quick pat-pat and then released it back to its family.

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We went back to the shop for cold drinks and a final sweep.  Don’t mind the fact that Juliette is actually pushing all the dirt back inside…A for effort?

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I took Juliette back to the house for a nap and she fell asleep before her head even hit the pillow.  I dozed for a bit and then headed back outdoors for a walk, unable to resist the pull of the countryside – three miles logged and not a single car in sight!

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Elizabeth popped a bottle of bubbly on the porch (can you believe I used to baby-sit this girl as a wee little toddler?!) and we devoured several pizzas for dinner.  Shane’s cousin, Ben (who I also used to baby-sit), called us from Georgia, where he just finished his basic training for the U.S. Army.  As I watched everyone huddle around the phone, arms around each other, I was feelin’ the family love something fierce.  These Schnells are such a good bunch.

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We wandered back across the road to the shop after dinner to watch the fellas wrangle the pig into the roaster.  Think this looks intense?  I opened a nearby cooler in search of a drink and found a big bloody pig’s head inside!

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Hayden just got her learner’s permit and logged some driving practice by taking Jules and I for a spin on the Gator.

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Seriously, this farm stuff is just way too good.

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TOO GOOD.

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July 1st was the beginning of what turned out to be a pretty grand four-day weekend.  We toasted to the new month on Friday evening with beer and tacos at Chuck’s Hop Shop, and then headed over to Miller Playfield for a romp in the evening sun.  I couldn’t tear these kids off the swings…

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Until I muttered two magic words:  ICE CREEEEEEAM!!!  Meet Hello Robin’s happiest customers:

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The kids burned off their sugar rush with a quick yoga session on the lawn and a game of “Ding” Around the Rosy near the car, and then we called a day.

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Saturday held adventures of the indoor variety, as we met up with several of Juliette’s buddies for her very first movie.  She’s been a huge Nemo fan for awhile, so the chance to watch her experience Finding Dory on the big screen was pretty irresistible.  She sat through the whole thing, happily munching on popcorn and then exclaiming, “that was fun, Mommy!” as we walked out of the theater.  We hadn’t even hit the sidewalk before she asked to go again (not happening!).

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Mitch, Kathryn, and the girls rolled into Seattle on Sunday afternoon.  Shane grilled steak and veggies for lunch, I filled our glasses with white wine and beer, and then we settled into the patio chairs for a long, leisurely lunch.  Morgan and Juliette were thrilled to be reunited after several weeks apart.

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These girls and their babies!

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After a total naptime bust, Shane offered to haul all three kids to Seward Park on the bike.  Uncle of the Year!

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We spent a couple of hours down by the lake, tossing the frisbee and playing in the sand and eventually soaking a couple of pairs of pants.

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I know, I know, why do I wait until her clothes are soaked before putting on the swimsuit?!

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I ducked out in the evening for an art class I’m taking while Shane put our over-tired wound-up kiddo to bed (no small feat).  I met up with the guys after class for a late-night drink at Raconteur, followed by a late-late-night drink at Union Bar.  Mitch and I haven’t been out together past midnight in years.  Many years!

We spent Monday morning eating pancakes and watching Stage 3 of the Tour de France, then eventually rallying for a stroll through the Cheasty Greenbelt.

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We made plans to head up to Jefferson Park and Morgan begged Uncle Shane to take her in the bike trailer.  It’s quite a climb to the park, and we’d had those late-late-night drinks, so I wasn’t sure he’d be up for it.  But he channeled his inner Tour de France-r and went for it – somebody get this guy a polka dot jersey!

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We hit each and every piece of playground equipment in that big, sprawling park.

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Several times.

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We grabbed an afternoon cup of coffee in Georgetown and then the Jarrells hit the road.  Jules bawled her eyes when we said our good-byes.

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I barely held it together myself!

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Luckily, there was more fun to be had that day, as we spent the evening at the Rusts eating and drinking and playing.

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You’re cute, Jules.

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Brian showed up with a bucket full of fresh-caught live crabs.  We all had a good laugh while watching Jason ever-so-anxiously transfer them from bucket to pot.

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This scene looks so sweet and serene, doesn’t it?  It sounded like pure chaos.

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Isaiah keeps a pretty good beat, though!

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Happy Independence Day from this crazy crew!  Looking forward to more summer shenanigans with you all!

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Trips to Portland are fewer and farther between since we had Juliette, but it feels like every time we go down there, we think, “What took us so long?!”  We made it to Mitch’s house around lunchtime on Friday, after an easy (although not altogether quiet) drive.  As soon as we walked in the door, Morgan grabbed Juliette’s hand and said, “Do you want to come play in my room?”  And with that, they were gone!  The girls spent the next hour trading baby dolls back and forth while Shane and I ate a peaceful lunch and caught up with Mitch.  This cousins thing is money.

Elise came home from school a couple of hours later and we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the yard, cardboard sledding and testing the range of the rope swing.

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Last time we were in Portland, Juliette was happy to play the part of the baby.  Now it’s, “Come sit on my lap, Elise!!!”

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We ate dinner at the house and then took the kids out for frozen yogurt in Multnomah Village.  Nothin’ like an up-past-bedtime sugar high…

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Saturday was cool and damp, so we opted for a morning indoors at OMSI, bouncing from the giant sand box to the turtles to the earthquake house.

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When we got home, Morgan and Elise offered to put Juliette down for a nap.  I’ll give you one guess as to how well that went.

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But finally, once the cousins were sent upstairs and I let Juliette climb into our bed, she slept.  As did I!  We woke up refreshed and ready to hit the hot tub.

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We closed the day out with a trip to the library and playground, followed by dinner at the neighborhood Mexican joint.  Not a shabby Saturday!

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Sunday morning was quiet and lazy, perfect for coffee-sipping and lounging indoors (until the kids started climbing the walls, at which point we headed up the street to do our coffee-sipping at Starbucks).  Kathryn and Morgan went out to run some errands while Elise enjoyed some solo time with her little cuz.

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Elise is really into the Harry Potter audio books right now, but quickly learned that Juliette isn’t the most attentive listening companion…

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So out to the trampoline we went!

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We closed out our visit with what has become our traditional living room dance party.  The grownups and Elise pooped out after a couple of Miley Cyrus songs, but Jules and Morgan rocked out to what felt like Billboard’s entire Top 40 Pop.

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One last snuggle for the road as I prepared for that familiar ache of missing my nieces…

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See you sooner rather than later, Jarrells!