Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

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

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

Indeed, these folks don’t hold back!

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

Our own grand finale:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then, after dinner, back at it…

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

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

Several, several times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Found him!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank goodness for backseat buddies.

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

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

SO HAPPY.

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

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

Morning snuggles, cards, and gifts…

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

We spent the afternoon back down at the beach.

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

Uncle Mitch might very well be the funniest man alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get it, Jules!

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

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

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

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

Pals.

Cape Lookout is a fitting name, huh?

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

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

It never gets easier…

And Juliette never fails to be first to the top.

But also, the views never disappoint…

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

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

And…leisure tank filled!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was ready.

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

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

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

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

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

Played a lot of cards…

And cozied up for Sudoku sessions.

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

So good to have visitors!

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

Some baking…

And lots of sunshine.

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

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

One more…

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

…with four little eggs in a cozy little nest!

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

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

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

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

Spring is so full of reasons to smile.

It was a slow advent, but a fast January.  Work mayhem and national mayhem and maybe a lack of vitamin D have tuckered me out this month.  But I’m resetting work boundaries and taking my supplements and am back with a boatload of Christmas pics to share!

The lead-up to Christmas was quiet but fun – Juliette opened a few of her many gifts from Grandma and Grandpa Schnell over Zoom on the 23rd.  It was a very meager substitute for the gift-opening we had hoped to do together at Thanksgiving, but it was something.

The unicorn robe was a hit.

And then it was Christmas Eve!  Samuel, our countdown Santa, marked ONE day till Christmas, which was our cue to hit the road to Portland.

I know Juliette loves Shane and me, but it was clear from the moment we walked through Mitch’s front door that she’d been awfully desperate for some new playmates.

The girls hung a Do Not Enter sign on the bathroom door in the afternoon and spent a very secretive hour in there, only to emerge at dinnertime with glittery eyelids and freshly-brushed tresses.  Juliette and I were talking last week about how different siblings and family members can be from one another, at which point she reminded me that her and Morgan are a lot alike, because Morgan also likes to be fancy.

Dresses were swapped for cozy pajamas for the annual viewing of The Polar Express.  One of my favorite traditions.

Meanwhile, things got a little rowdy in the kitchen with a deck of cards and a bottle of Grand Marnier.

Milk and cookies for Santa, carrots for his reindeer, and then it was off to bed for these little elves!

Santa’s sleigh must have been extra-heavy this year, what with a new bike for Juliette and a kayak for Morgan and Elise.

I love the late hours of Christmas Eve, when all the shopping and wrapping and prepping is done and I’m able to sit back for a moment and quietly anticipate the joy and holiness of Christmas Day.

Morgan and Juliette were up bright and early, and HOLY CHRISTMAS!  Such a fun surprise.

Once Elise was roused from her pre-teen slumber, the wrapping paper started to fly.

Juliette very modestly asked Santa for a stuffy and a coloring book and he came through on both fronts.

Juliette was asking for weeks what was in the big big box under the Christmas tree…

A Baby Yoda for my Mando fan!  This “little guy” turned out to be MUCH larger than the online description led me to believe.

He’s been well-loved, even if he does often end up squeezed off the bed and onto the floor in the middle of the night.

Cheers, Shane.

Whew!  Damage done.

Gifts opened and breakfast eaten, the afternoon was a haze of snacking and game-playing.  Morgan gathered everyone in the living room for a game of Bean-Boozled, which she DJ’d on Juliette’s new microphone. (By the way, THANKS for the microphone, Auntie Tiff!  Juliette just discovered it has a robot-voice setting.  And the volume seems to be non-adjustable).

Juliette went first as we all sat by to see if her white jelly bean was flavored like coconut or spoiled milk.  This face says it all.

And this is the look of a man that just ate a jelly bean flavored like canned dog food.

I’m always surprised by how incredibly amusing it is to watch someone eat candy that’s flavored like rotten eggs.

Onto a safer bet…

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Parcheesi marathon!

It’s become tradition that my dad orders a country ham for Christmas dinner every year – one bite takes me back to my childhood days when Nannie and Grandaddy Jarrell would come visit us with one of these salty, delicious hunks of pork in their suitcase.  Almost as good as Nannie’s homemade fudge.

We kept the lazy vibes going the day after Christmas…

But did rally for some tennis practice.

We all parted ways on the 27th and spent the next couple of days back in Seattle getting Juliette comfortable on her sweet new wheels.

There was one last slumber party by the Christmas tree…

(Seriously, guys – this thing is HUGE!)

A quick post-boba stop at Occidental Square…

Some requisite family pics by the tree…

And then we were calling it quits on 2020!  We partied hard on New Years Eve with sparkling cider and two games of Clue.  I missed having our crew with us that night for our annual fiesta, but going to bed at 10pm felt pretty good.

Finally, finally we found ourselves turning the calendar page and ushering in a bright and shiny new year.  We’ve made a tradition of visiting Lincoln Park on New Years Day and zipped over there to bike and skip rocks during a short break in the rain.

This place always brings out the thankful vibes in me…partly because it’s so lovely, but also because it draws forth so many happy memories of our family’s simple joys.  Rocks and water.  All we need.

Happiest of New Years, friends (29 days late!).

In this season of feeling iffy about hotels and airplanes, I’m exceedingly grateful for family that’s willing to host us when we’re desperate to skip town.  We spent a few days last month at Mitch and Kathryn’s house on the Oregon Coast, which has proven to be an ideal home-away-from-home.  Plenty of places to explore, but also plenty perfect to just sit back and chill on the deck.  Plus, the house comes with this:

We started each morning with a bike/walk down to the market for coffee and donuts.

And I mean, the beach is right there, so you may as well drop by…

After lunch we suited up and returned with full beach gear in tow…

We lucked out and were in Neskowin during the warmest weekend on recent record.  Almost hot enough to go swimming!

ALMOST.

Her face tells you how stinking cold this stretch of the Pacific is…

Mitch and Shane were the only two brave enough for full immersion – something about the icy cold water being good for blood flow and heart health?  I can’t quite remember, as I was passed out on a blanket in the sun.

Happy hour on the deck…

And a sunset stroll with my favorite kid and pup.

We ventured 15 minutes up the road on Sunday morning to do some very serene paddling on the Nestucca River.

Juliette spent a solid half-hour manning our SUP with paddle in hand, but then…this:

Afternoon shenanigans at the house…

And then one more mini-adventure out to Sitka Sedge to do some exploring.

I love a hike that will take you from dense, mossy woods to wide open beaches in a matter of minutes.

I believe this is the point where little legs started to tire and Shane had to launch into another retelling of The Lord of the Rings to keep Juliette moving.  Works every time.

Mitch headed back to Portland on Sunday evening and the older cousins seemed in need of a little space, so Shane, Juliette and I set out on our own Monday morning to grab breakfast in Lincoln City and check out Drift Creek Falls.

I was aware here of relatively how little time we spent in the woods this summer compared to years past.  Felt good to hear the wind whispering in the pines again.

It was an easy trek to the suspension bridge, where the three of us jumped up and down to see how much we could make it bounce.  I didn’t love that game (step back from that railing, Juliette!), but being the ultra-chill mom that I am, I rolled with it.

Seems that now even short stumps give this kid enough height boost to get her eye-to-eye with her dad.

Lazy afternoons…

And then an evening outing to Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City, which is my hands-down favorite spot in the area.

We climbed this sand dune when we were here back in June and decided the view pay-offs at the top warranted another slog.

Climbing uphill in sand is so intense!  I pretended I was stopping every few steps to take pictures, but really I just needed to catch my damn breath.

Here’s Shane pretending like he’s casually enjoying the view, but really he’s about to keel over.

The final push!  How she was still running at this point is beyond me.

Made it!

And worth it.

This view, with these two in the foreground, has got to be as dreamy as the coast gets.

The race downhill takes about 15 seconds compared to the 15 minutes it takes to go up.

We did a little anemone-hunting in the tide pools while we were waiting for our table at Pelican.

My best beach buddy:

The fog rolled in on Tuesday morning, which was our cue to hit the road back to Seattle.  I walked with the girls down to the market and the beach one last time so that we could bid a proper farewell to the ocean.

Adios, Coast.  You were a breath of fresh air.

Summer is breathing its last smokey gasps here in Seattle, but I’ve still got a couple of sunny hurrahs on the photo reel.  We spent a long weekend in Idaho back in July – I was eager for a change of scenery and wanted to leave Juliette there for a few extra days at “Grandma and Grandpa Camp” (we needed a break from being all at home, all together, all the time).  We spent our most of our weekend in Idaho lakeside, walking or wading or floating.

Juliette hasn’t been on a set of monkey bars for six months, so she was pretty pumped to see that the playground across the street from my mom and dad’s house was open for business.

With an ice cream truck to boot!

Juliette and my mom were always the first up in the morning – I rolled out of bed each day to find that they had already made their mug muffins and brewed their tea.  These two also apparently shared some good heart-to-hearts – my mom says Juliette is wise beyond her years…

But when the chit-chat ended, it was right down to business…

Juliette has been asking for awhile to go fishing, so we took advantage of Grandpa’s gear and the quiet little pond at Falls Park and spent Sunday morning with a line in the water.

No bites, but she was a good sport about it.

I was bound and determined to watch Juliette reel in a fish, so that evening we tried our luck on the Spokane River at Corbin Park.

Still no bites, but she got some excellent casting practice and the water cooled our heels after a 90-degree afternoon.

I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu, watching Juliette poke at the worms and take casting lessons from my dad – the childhood memories came flooding back.  It was like I got to vicariously be six again.

Juliette came up zeroes on fishing, but she and my mom blitzed that puzzle.  Success!

My mom and I took an evening walk around the neighborhood on Sunday and I got all googly-eyed over the wheel lines and chaff and barns.  Country stuff looks so good at sunset.

Shane and I worked from my mom and dad’s house on Monday while Juliette bopped around with Grandma and Grandpa, then all of us got out in the evening for a paddle at Black Bay Park.

Make a wish, kiddo!

Shane and I headed home on Tuesday while Juliette stayed back with my mom and dad.  It was nice to be able to focus on work for a few days without a bored six year-old as my office mate, but gosh, we missed her!  And I know it was a little tough for her to be away from us after so many months of being all together, ALL THE TIME, but she knocked out several more puzzles with my mom, caught two fish with my dad, and apparently devoured a pancake twice the size of her head at my parents’ favorite local breakfast spot.  She was in good hands.  In fact, maybe I need to make my reservation at Grandma and Grandpa camp?

This summer has been rife with cancelled plans – day camps for Juliette called off, a trip to Minnesota postponed due to our concerns about a pandemic plane ride, campsite reservations forfeited due to rain…  I’m all for cozying up indoors in November, but June?  July?!  It’s painful.  I’m antsy.  SO ANTSY.  We’ve been looking for ways to safely leave our bubble and were immensely grateful when my brother and his family offered to host us for a long weekend at their vacation house down at the Oregon Coast last month.  Score!  We were able to pit stop at their house in Portland for a bathroom break and then powered through the final couple of hours to Neskowin.  It’s no small victory these days when you can endure a five-hour car ride without having to use a public restroom.

Made it!  And that view!

AND that long-lost cousin!  Together again.

We ditched our bags and then quickly walked/biked down to the beach.

I was afraid that “beach” would conjure up recent visions of Maui for Juliette and she’d be a little disappointed by this version of the Pacific, but I stand corrected.  Turns our she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sand and surf.

We balanced our beach runs with couch snuggle sessions with Bina.

I joined Mitch for one of his early-morning fishing trips and watched from the water’s edge as he cast into the waves.

My brother is so zen.

Hey, I know that guy!

We did some exploring near Depoe Bay and took in the views from above Devil’s Punch Bowl…

Then made our way down to the beach for some adventuring.

Miniature crabs and baby anemones for days…

Seriously, these girls were like little marine biologists-in-training.

Then, more snuggles!  Elise is 100% pre-teen now and seems to have little in common with Juliette, but these two are still so sweetly fond of each other.

I loved misty morning walks down to the neighborhood market for coffee followed by a beach stroll.

And then…you guessed it.

We struck out one afternoon to conquer the sand dune at Pacific City.  Kathryn had warned me it was quite a climb, but I had no idea.

NO IDEA.  This would have been tough climbing on solid ground.  But on silky-soft sand that sinks your feet with each step?  Grueling.

Worth it for the views, though.

Gosh, it felt so good to be out, exploring someplace new, taking pictures and seeing all the shades of blue, green, and brown.

The downhill climb was much more fun than the uphill one.

We were all warm from our hike and Shane jokingly offered to toss Juliette into the ocean to cool off.  She squealed and then agreed to just put her toes in.

JUST her toes.

Ok, and her ankles.

And…what the hell, kiddo.  Just go for it.

 

I know, this is entirely too many pictures of Juliette and Morgan playing in the water, but it gave me all the warm fuzzies to see them frolicking and fancy-free.

The grown-ups set up their own game of see-saw.

I love this picture of Mitch and Elise so much, but Shane, buddy…what’s goin’ on?

This is the look of a water-lover that wore leggings to the beach…

We stayed close to the house our last full day there, venturing down to the beach in the morning and evening, but taking a break mid-day for lunch and a patio painting session.

Shorts!  So much more sensible.

(But even these got wet!)

This little window seat was my favorite spot in the house and is where Juliette and I did our evening reading.

My little buddy and I packed in one final beach stroll on our last morning there, snapped a few photos, and then called it a wrap.

Travel itch scratched.  For now.

Juliette went bonkers waiting for Christmas to roll around, because Christmas meant Portland, and Portland meant COUSINS!  We arrived at Mitch’s on Monday afternoon and were there all of three minutes before Juliette was digging her swimsuit out of her suitcase and dashing out back to hot tub with Elise.

Then Santa hats were donned and Parcheesi was brought out and these two officially attached themselves at the hip.

I tried to lure the girls out of the house on Christmas Eve for a hot chocolate run or a playground spin, but they really just wanted to hunker down and cozy up.  I didn’t fight it.

Elise is 11 going on 16 these days, but there were a handful of times last week when I saw the kid in her come through, when she couldn’t help but join the “littles”.  Gingerbread for the win!

And then, Parcheesi…so much Parcheesi.

Morgan, my kindred tradition-keeper, insisted on Polar Express before bed.

Plus milk and cookies for Santa, with carrots for his reindeer!  The excitement in the house that evening was palpable, with Morgan running through the living room with the iPad every 15 minutes to give us an update on Santa’s whereabouts.  The Tracker says he’s in Poland!  Now Norway!  Iceland!  Once Santa reached New York, it was time to put these kids TO BED.

I awoke to the house-rattling pitter-patter of children around 7 am on Christmas morning – by 7:30 Morgan was taking roll call.  Let’s get to it!  Santa came through, big-time.

Santa brought me boots and cross-country skis – so glad my wish list made it to the North Pole.

And Juliette’s very own Parcheesi board!  Looks like I’m gonna need to learn to love this game.

My mom wasn’t quite up to making the trek to Portland this year, so we did a post-gift recap with them over Facetime.

Grandma and Grandpa were missed (on both sides), but technology is a wonderful thing…

…and speaking of technology, Morgan and Elise’s Nintendo switch won “gift of the year”.

If only Santa hats and Christmas PJ’s were in style all year round!  Such a good look on you, Jules.

We pried the Nintendo controllers out of the kids’ hands late morning and rallied the troops for a short hike at Tryon Creek.

Rocket balloon practice consumed a good portion of the afternoon…

…and then we gathered in the living room for a round of charades, where we learned that Morgan and Juliette are quite the actors and that Mitch’s rendition of “toy car” looks a lot like a terrified child running from a bear.

We ended the day sweetly and quietly, with a flute recital by Elise and a serious bracelet-making session on Juliette’s new rainbow loom.

We wrapped up Portland Christmas-Fest 2019 with hot chocolate cheers on Thursday morning and then said goodbye to the beloved Jarrell clan.  To cousins!

The one Christmas to-do still on our list was Juliette’s and my downtown holiday tour and when I asked her on Friday morning if she wanted to take a spin on the Westlake carousel, she replied, “Of course I do, Mommy!”  Deal sealed.  Shane dropped us off at the Fairmont, we took our quick spin through the gingerbread house, and then headed over to the merry-go-round.

The lines were so short and the tickets so cheap that I let Juliette ride on it twice.

 

Oh, kiddo…you have no idea how much I love doing this kind of stuff with you.

There was hot chocolate and a little shopping and one last look at the Macy’s star and then we officially called it a wrap.

There’s a lot about this Christmas season that just felt extra-GOOD.  Juliette’s anticipation was bigger than ever, and beyond the going-bonkers over the presents and the lights and the parties, she’s starting to grasp the deeper concepts of gratitude and generosity.  Our home felt so warm this season, our neighborhood so friendly and festive.  I missed having my parents with us in Portland, but my mom’s strength and positivity through her diagnosis and chemo has buoyed us all.  Our little advent tree, laden with hand-written notes about what we’re thankful for, is out of bare branches.

By the third week of November, I’m typically easing into the holiday season with an evening listen of Charlie Brown Christmas and a pint of egg nog in the fridge…the longer we can stretch out this most wonderful time of year, the better.

This year, though, I just didn’t feel ready.  Too much other stuff going on, too many other things in my head.  In the third week of November, we’d just gotten around to tossing out our pumpkins!  But when we crossed these snowy mountains the Tuesday before Thanksgiving on our way to Idaho, I started to feel my shoulders relax.  I started to think about Christmas gifts and holiday decor and go over the words to “O Come Let Us Adore Him” with Juliette in preparation for our church’s children’s program.

And then we rolled up to my mom and dad’s house and books were brought out and I raided my mom’s stash of tea and it was official – I was ready for a late-November slow-down.

Eager to get our veg on, we spent Wednesday morning at the Spokane movie theater catching the matinee of Frozen 2.

Survey says…SOOOO GOOD, MAMA!

Santa sighting!  And I do love a good mall tree…

Back at the house, we cranked up the Christmas tunes and decked the halls. Juliette arranged the nativity scene on the mantle and baked cookies with my mom while I strung lights on the tree.

Christmas is coming, kiddo!

Thanksgiving day was wonderfully quiet – I got out for a crisp morning walk, we put the ham in the oven to warm while I made mashed sweet potatoes and my mom made biscuits, and we just…chilled.

We ate, we drank, we lounged, and then we brought out the pumpkin and apple pies.  When we sat down in the living room to take turns talking about what we’re thankful for, we found no shortage of things to put on our lists.

Shane and I took Juliette on a holiday cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene in the evening – word on the street was that this boat had the secret scoop on Santa’s whereabouts!

And sure enough, just as we were finishing our hot cocoa and buttered rum, we came upon this decked-out dock.

It was quite the production – Santa read his “nice-list” over a megaphone for all to hear (Juliette was thrilled to hear her name was on it!), there was a Jingle Bells sing-along, and then the fireworks let loose.

P.S.  IT WAS COLD.

My mom and I got out on Friday morning to hit the coffee shop and peruse the shelves at Pier 1 and then again, we just…chilled.  Juliette watched Little Women with me in front of the fireplace in the afternoon and wrapped her arms around me when I started crying about Beth and all felt right in my world.  I love sharing my favorite things with my favorite kid.

There were a few last snuggles for sweet, blind Bernie on Friday night, a round of hugs on Saturday morning, and then we were west-bound.  Those mellow few days with my nearest and dearest had been exactly what I needed.

We made a pit stop at our usual tree fam on the way home and did our usual spin through the Douglas and Noble firs before circling back to our tried-and-true patch of Grands.

It was chilly out there, but sunny and crystal clear.  This place never disappoints.

Shane and Juliette are usually quick to hone in on a tree, but I always insist on just one more loop.  Why rush through this place?!

We’ve got a winner!

Cider+candy cane vibes…

Back at home, the beloved Christmas bin was brought out and opening it up felt just like…Christmas.  Juliette was thrilled by each ornament and knick-knack she pulled out of the box.  I forgot about this!  Oooohhhh, I love this one!  My favorite!  My other favorite!

See?!  It seems she’s inherited my sentimentality…

Juliette insisted that we lay out each and every ornament before hanging any on the tree, and I loved seeing them all spread out on the table – we’ve amassed quite an eclectic collection over the years.

Perrrrrfect.

Ham it up, Juliette.  ‘Tis the season for being adorable and dressing up your stuffed animals and cranking up that fireplace till it’s 80 degrees inside.

Egg nog cheers!  It’s official – the holidays are here, and I’m all in.

A Spokane contractor I worked with on a project once described Priest Lake to me as “heaven on earth”, so when I saw that there was a lakefront site available there for two nights during our week in Idaho, I snagged it and asked Mitch to pack his tent and sleeping bags before leaving Portland.  It’s a bit of a trek up to Lionhead Campground at the north end of the lake, but we arrived mid-day with plenty of hours left for swimming and sunning.  Except…RAIN.  RAIN!  Big, fat drops started falling just as we unrolled our tents, so Shane and Mitch made very quick work of getting the rainflies up, and then we all huddled in our tents, crossed our fingers and toes, and waited for the gray clouds overhead to pass.  And pass, they did!  The storm blew over after a couple of hours and we dashed into the lake even before peeling off our rain jackets.  The shore was sandy, the water was clear, and the beer was cold.  This. Is. Camping.

The evening was a haze of hot dogs and paddle boards.

The water was super-calm, perfect for paddlers-in-training.

Even little Bina went for a ride!

The girls grudgingly changed out of their swimsuits once the sun set and then joined Mitch at the lakefront for fly fishing lessons.

Seriously you guys – this was the view from my camp chair!  Heaven on earth, indeed.

We woke up to a misty lake on Thursday morning, demolished a pan full of breakfast sausages, and then were right back out on the SUPs.

 

It was toasty that day and by mid-morning I think everyone had taken a dip.

Show off!

My mom and dad joined us for the day and settled into the camp scene quite nicely.

Lake life 4-eva.

I had planned on a hike, maybe a ride to the general store, but we only made it as far as the campground ranger station for ice cream bars before heading right back to our little stretch of paradise.

We closed out the day with a sunset paddle to a little cove around the bend, where Morgan and Juliette hopped off the boards to grab a couple of special stones to bring back with them.  I’m sealing that evening away in the memory bank: sitting back on the board while Juliette paddled us, Mitch and Morgan to my left and the mountains to my right, the water shimmering and golden all around us…it was somethin’ special.

…And then, bedtime.  I took one last peek out our tent at the velvet blue sky before zipping it up and calling it a day.

Friday was go-day, but we squeezed in one last paddle, this time over to Upper Priest Lake, which was as quiet as quiet can be.  Shane and I aren’t shopping for retirement homes just yet, but the quaint lakeside cabins that dot the shore there sure are tempting.

Ahhhh, sayonara site 133…  This place was a dream!

The next couple of days were spent back in Post Falls at my mom and dad’s house, playing catch…

Visiting the biggest wagon EVER…

And checking out Farragut State Park, which was gorgeous but quite windy.

Juliette and I set out on the SUP, but turned around once I realized I was rowing in place.

The girls served up imaginary cherry Cokes for my dad at the playground, and he proved to be a very difficult customer…

But Elise got even.

We busted out the Bean-Boozled jelly beans on Saturday evening and shared a good laugh when Shane thought he was getting Peach, but actually ate Barf (and seriously, it tastes like barf).

My mom wondered aloud why we’d subject ourselves to such horror, but her face says it all.  There’s just so much delight in watching your son ingest a Spoiled Milk jelly bean.

Once we’d dried our tears and cleansed our palettes, we took a walk through the neighborhood to enjoy the evening’s stellar sunset.

And then, all too soon on Sunday morning, it was time for Shane and I to hit the road and leave Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa for a few more days of Idaho fun.  While I was the feeling the need to get back to Seattle and back to work, I certainly wouldn’t have minded another week of puzzle-doing and paddling.

Until next time, I guess!