Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

When I told Juliette back in July that Morgan and Elise would be coming to visit in mid-August, she excitedly said, “You mean they’re coming tomorrow?!”  I told her that their visit was still a month away, to which she replied, “You mean in two days?!”  And thus the torturous wait began.  We made a countdown calendar, but the boxes just couldn’t be checked fast enough – when Mitch and the girls finally rolled up last month, Juliette flew across the room to greet them.  Her cousin-love runs deep.

Kathryn was away on a work trip and Mitch was flying solo with his girls, so I figured I’d take Juliette to school on Thursday since I had to be in the office.  But when Uncle Mitch asked Juliette if she wanted to spend the day with him and her cousins instead of going to school, she about keeled over with joy.  They hit four playgrounds, the beach, and a coffee shop that day.  And he still had energy for a post-dinner round of Candyland.  My brother’s the bomb.

I was thrilled to join in on the fun on Friday.  Also thrilled to roll out of bed much later than usual and find these three quietly reading in Juliette’s room.

Also thrilled to be entertained by a super-fly dance trio during my morning coffee.

Mitch and Kathryn had just bought a new paddle board and the girls were eager to try it out, so we spent Friday afternoon bobbing around Lake Sammamish.  The new SUP was great, though for some reason Mitch had a tough time building any momentum.

These three are water-babies through and through.

Lake life 4-ever.

Before we left, I insisted that all three girls get back out on the mermaid one more time, as I had spent longer blowing it up than they’d spent using it.  All that effort couldn’t be for naught!

Juliette and Elise took my request very seriously and spent a good 45 minutes drifting around while Morgan took a nap on the beach blanket.

I’d say I got my breath’s worth.

We dined that night at home on Mitch’s famous burgers…

And then took our dessert down to the water for a sunset fix.

Heart: FULL.

Kathryn joined us late Friday night and then the Jarrell clan set out for Whistler on Saturday morning.  First, though, one more walk along the waterfront, so they could stretch their legs before the journey ahead.

Juliette, as expected, cried when they left.  I, as expected, pulled out my calendar and started planning our next trip down to Portland.  Cousins, we’re coming for ya.

After our June and July camping bonanzas, we stayed close to home this month, soaking in the beauty of our own backyard.  I mean, I would gladly spend the entirety of summer out on Orcas Island, but August in Seattle ain’t too shabby…

The extra-warm days were spent splashing in the kiddie pool…

And then reading bedtime books on the back patio.

(Meanwhile, I got out for a sunset walk as often as possible).

We occasionally hear a little knock on our door after dinnertime and find the neighborhood kids standing there asking if Juliette wants to come out and play – she has her shoes on before I can even nod yes.  We made numerous trips to the local playground, cruising on two wheels:

And then four:

Juliette’s not quite solid enough on the bike to bomb down the extra-hilly streets near our house, so when she wants to get out for a legit ride we head down to the flat, scenic waterfront.  Lincoln Park at sunset is A++ (even in the smoke).

And this little stretch of Sound-front down the hill from us is prime biking territory.

I was feeling that old Lake Longing a few weeks ago, so we packed up our paddle board and drove over to Beaver Lake in Sammamish to check out the scene there.  And the scene there was…good.

It’s a mellow little spot and the perfect place to drift around on a giant mermaid floaty (an impulse buy I have not the slightest regret over).

By mid-afternoon the lake was hoppin’, but Juliette navigated among the unicorns and rafts with total ease.  Next year, she might be ready for her own mini paddle board!

SO HAPPY.

The three of us checked an item off our Seattle bucket list when we spent a Friday afternoon at Colman Pool.  I’ve heard this waterfront outdoor pool is amazing, and it was high time that we saw it for ourselves.

Juliette sported Shane’s cool goggles and made excellent progress on conquering her fear of getting her face in the water.

Cannon ballllllll!

Every time we got out of the pool for a snack/warm-up break I figured we were finished with the swimming, but…

Nope.

Dad’s turn!

Seriously, see what we’ve been missing for the past 13 years?  Shame on us!

And so…August is a wrap.  And I’m fine.  It’s fine.  Everything is fine.  (Subtext:  SUMMER, DON’T GOOOOOOO!!!)

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.

Can we talk for a minute about my dad?  He’s pretty remarkable.  One of the most genuinely friendly people I know, he’ll strike up a conversation with anyone and seems to leave a sea of smiles in his wake.  He’s incredibly generous with his time, quick to offer to feed an injured neighbor’s alpacas or to coach my childhood softball team or to help me paint our new house.  And he’s the perpetual life of the party – not in a dancing-with-a-lampshade-on-his-head kind of way, but more in a makes-sure-everyone-has-a-good-time kind of way.  Which is why we were thrilled to meet up with him and my mom in Portland to celebrate his big 7-0 a couple of weeks ago.  On his birthday eve, we gathered around Mitch and Kathryn’s table to dine on Mitch’s famous grilled chicken and Gresham’s finest cupcakes for dessert.

And then the girls ran off their cupcake-crazies in the front yard…

So happy, but so tired!

We laid pretty low during the day on Saturday, but did make it out of the house to watch Morgan dominate the soccer field.

The rest of the afternoon was spent swinging and teeter-tottering.

Saturday evening was the main event: The Jarrell Birthday Brew Crawl!  Mitch and Kathryn had booked a sitter so that the grown-ups could get out and imbibe with my dad at a handful of Portland’s best breweries.  First though, gifts!  Mitch and I went in together to up my dad’s Growler Game.

And a couple of quick pics, before we kissed the little ones good-bye and hailed our extra-large Lyft.

We started our journey at Von Ebert Brewing, where the tots were hot, the spinach dip was rich, and the Hefeweizen was extra-wheaty.

From Von Ebert’s we walked over to Deschutes where the wait for a table was over an hour, so we trekked on…

And landed at Bridgeport, where we chowed down on pot pie paired with perfect IPA’s.

We grabbed another Lyft after dinner and went to Breakside Brewery for…more beer!  Dessert was a glass of Salted Caramel Stout and a nibble of dark chocolate.  We rolled ourselves out of there and headed home to our girls, full and happy and a little bit loopy.  My dad knows how to party.

Happiest of Birthdays, Dad.  May this be a year of new Ales, no ails, and abundant joy.

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?

We took down our Christmas tree today and I’m feelin’ all sorts of post-holiday blues over here.  SO, let’s go back a week, when I was hot-tubbing in Portland with these beauties and talking about what we thought Santa would bring on his sleigh!

It was a particularly cozy Christmas weekend, made all the warmer by snuggles with Bina, the newest member of the Jarrell family.

Shane brought his Nintendo down with us, which made for some some pretty intense Mario Kart sessions with the cousins.

The excitement was just too much for little Bina.

Icy roads kept us house-bound on Christmas Eve, so we made do with more Bina-time and some indoor shenanigans.

My mom and I are teaching Elise how to knit, a hobby she’s tackling with extreme focus.

The stir-crazies set in shortly after lunch, so we bundled up and headed outdoors to play in the…ice?

There were no snowmen, or even snowballs, but there was plenty of slipping and sliding on the streets and sidewalks.

We sought refuge indoors for a bit and sipped on mugs of Grandma’s hot cocoa, but the sight of big fluffy flakes and neighbors on sleds soon drew the girls back outside.

Morgan’s big birthday wish just a few days earlier had been for a snow day, so this was like a dream come true!

Lord knows I love beachy Jules, but snow-dusted stocking caps and rosy cheeks are such a good luck on both these girls!

And now I bring you…more Bina!  She’s pretty irresistible.

The girls opened their new PJ’s from Grandma that evening, which has become a Christmas Eve tradition.  This year, the dolls got new outfits as well!

And then we lit up the fireplace, made a nest of sleeping bags and pillows, and settled in for the Polar Express.  On a 10-point cozy scale, this gets an 11.

Post-movie, cookies and carrots were left by the fireplace for Santa and his reindeer and three exhausted-but-pumped-up little girls were tucked in with instructions to not get out of bed before 7 am the next morning.

At 7:15 on Christmas morning, the kids were tearing into their stockings, thrilled that SANTA CAME!

The morning was a flurry of wrapping paper and thank you’s.  Ironically, after the weeks I spent hemming and hawing over the perfect gift for Juliette, her favorite present was the Trolls-themed electric toothbrush I tossed in her stocking.

The Zelda action figure that Shane picked out for her was also a huge hit.

I much appreciated my own thoughtfulness when I opened the purse I had ordered on Black Friday.

Morgan was the first of the kids to get dressed that morning, eager to sport her new accessories.  This girl’s style is fierce.

And then…all was calm.

Snow continued to spit from the skies that morning, so once the kids had chowed down on their waffles topped with crumbled candy canes, they headed outside to burn off that sugar rush.

The snow was still too crusty to make into balls, but the smashing of ice sheets was quite satisfying.

And then, driveway sledding.  With tunnels!

Juliette played hard and crashed hard – I had a heck of a time rustling her from nap so that she’d be up (and out of her pajamas!) for Christmas dinner.

The promise of cookie-decorating got her going, though, so the girls worked on dessert while Mitch and Kathryn and Mom put the finishing touches on dinner.

Shane kept Bina from being underfoot in the bustling kitchen.  I thought this guy was allergic to dogs, but…?

We ate a decadent meal of country ham and took turns sharing our 2017 highlights, ending the day on a strong note of gratitude.  We certainly have no shortage of things or people or experiences (or puppies!) to be thankful for.

 

We didn’t do a whole lot on Tuesday – it was cold and we were lazy.  But there was a lunch date:

A trip to the mall:

A quick jog to the end of the driveway to capture this indigo sky:

Mucho love for Grandpa:

Mucho love for Hayden:

And some intense puzzle-doing!

Wednesday was also quiet, though I did do some fairly strenuous pie-making, chopping apples and rolling dough with my favorite little sous-chef.

It was freezing and windy that day, but we made it outside for a few minutes, to see the cows and pick up sticks and play a game of chase.

I know, I know – this is a whole lotta Jules.  But that hat!  Those rosy cheeks!

Finally, the girl could handle the cold no more and asked Daddy to take her in.

…and then changed her mind about going inside when we got to the porch.  She was feeling the pull of those wide open spaces!

Shane and I went out with Tiff and Jason that evening to the local watering hole for Wednesday wings.  These Minnesota skies are somethin’ else.

Lite beer with green olives is apparently the Minnesotan beverage of choice when consuming massive piles of chicken wings.  Cheers, Tiff!

We exchanged presents that evening, snacking on Christmas cookies and hot apple cider while the kids tore into their gifts.

Juliette, as per usual, made out like a bandit.

Gah!  Watching this guy hug his granddaughter will turn you to mush.  Denny’s heart is BIG and generous and soft.

Thursday morning was full of kitchen time and good smells and lots of laughter as the family gathered at the house.

We were just beginning to feel a bit antsy when Denny pulled up to the porch in his combine.  Your chariot awaits, Juliette!

The fields near the house still needed to be harvested, so Juliette and Shanay kept Grandpa company while he went to work.

Once the kids had put in their time on the combine, we walked next door to chat with the cows and toss them a few ears of corn, to perfectly round out the country experience.

We’re not in Seattle anymore, Juliette!

The kitchen was a frenzy of activity when we got back inside as Pat put the finishing touches on the meal.  Ham and turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry relish and creamed corn and green beans, oh my.

We ate and then collapsed in a pile on the couch, eventually summoning just enough energy to put together a gingerbread house and slice into the apple pie.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

Shane and I had picked up a 1000 piece puzzle mid-week and I stayed up late Thursday working on it, desperate to see it through before our Friday flight back to Seattle.  I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to slip together two perfectly-fit pieces and I was stupidly excited to show Shane the finished product in the morning.  Voila!

We hit the road late Friday morning, waving a teary goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa (and the cows) as we pulled out of the driveway.  I’m so thankful for those kind-hearted Schnells, for several days of rest, for chicken wings and tractors and incredible country sunsets.  I’m especially thankful that I get to share a row with these two.