Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

I found myself with a travel-free, meeting-light week a couple of weeks ago, so Juliette and I packed our bags on a Thursday, kissed Shane good-bye (he was hanging back for work and house stuff), and headed south for a few days with the beloved cousins.

I don’t usually undertake a three-hour car ride on my own with Juliette, so I packed extra activities and snacks and planned a couple of stops along the way.  Turns out this girl is an easy-peasy co-pilot – we collaborated on some travel Bingo, me scanning the road for a blue truck and a motorcycle while Juliette ticked off boxes from the back seat, then she watched a show on the iPad, colored for awhile, and asked if we could blow right past our first planned stop and keep on trucking!  I coaxed her out of the car at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, though, as we’ve driven past this place dozens of times and I was curious about the animal scene there.  We strolled the boardwalks for a few minutes, spotted a couple of herons, and checked “barn” off our Bingo card.

Girly still loves these ridiculous party-favor lens-less glasses…

We burned rubber the rest of the way to Portland, stopping for a quick coffee and a cookie at the edge of town.  We earned it. 

Juliette and the cousins picked up right where they left off at Christmas, dashing from one end of the yard to the other over and over and over again, tagging and racing and laughing like crazy all the while.

Juliette was so deliriously happy – after weeks of counting down the days, we had arrived.

The girls had school on Friday, which meant Juliette and I were left to paint the town red on our own.  She dressed the part.

We started with donuts at Blue Star, because, well, that passionfruit glaze.

Then we headed over to Tilikum Crossing for a post-donut walk/scooter.  This bridge is one of Portland’s finest.

I love boppin’ around with this kid…

We drove over to Powells afterward to pick out a birthday present for Elise rest our feet at the kids’ reading table.

And then, we went back to the house and TOOK A NAP!  Best day ever.

Post-dinner park action:

Mitch and Kathryn set up a mini gymnastics studio for Elise in the basement, and Juliette dashed downstairs to hang from the ceiling every chance she got.

Jules came down with a fever late Friday night (that nap should have tipped me off!), and while I thought about high-tailing it back to Seattle, Juliette was insistent on Saturday morning that she felt way better and wanted to head to the zoo.  I ended up renting a stroller, though, as soon as I saw her energy begin to wane.

Still, these girls had fun!

And we got killer views of the sweetest cheetahs ever.

Juliette and I settled in for another nap on Saturday afternoon and she woke up feeling right as rain.  She spent most of the afternoon running around the backyard with Morgan, Bina and Mitch.

We toasted to Elise’s upcoming 11th birthday that night.  She opened her presents and then darted to her room to put in her new earrings and read by the task lamp that Grandma and Grandpa had sent to her.  She has never looked more pre-teen.

Morgan, ever the fashionista, accessorized with the packing materials.


We squeezed in one last playground romp on Sunday morning with Mitch and Morgan…

And grabbed one last PDX coffee on Mississippi Ave.  The sight of this big girl perched at a cafe table with a hot chocolate and book breaks my heart a little, but also makes me incredibly giddy.

(For the record, she can’t really read yet, but Morgan let her borrow the latest Dork Diaries and Juliette wants to intensely to be just like her cousin that she’ll fake-read for several minutes at a time!)

This getaway was so good for both our souls.  Even in the midst of that restless, fever-filled night, there was joy in holding Juliette close, rubbing her back and being the fully-present mama that it’s been hard for me to be these past few hectic months.  We should skip town more often.  But probably bring Dad along, too – we missed him! 

Now, cue Dixie Chicks and let’s hit the road, little buddy.

Juliette and I kicked off our holiday break on the 21st with our annual Mama-Jules Downtown Christmas, where we spun through the city to see the sights.  I let Juliette set the agenda and lead the way – her first request was the Fairmont’s life-size gingerbread house, where she asked if she could please lick the candy cane window trim.  (I mean, she was setting the agenda, but…NO!!!)

We popped into my office to deliver goodies to few friends and then were off to the Westlake Carousel for the day’s main event.

The ride always ends sooner than Juliette wants it to, but she was happily distracted by this boa’d Storm Trooper standing nearby.

We went to the Starbucks across the street for a hot chocolate and an Americano, and then I got a toothache just watching Juliette dip her candy cane into her cocoa’s whipped cream (topped with a drizzle of chocolate syrup, no less).  “This is the best thing ever, Mama!”

We had parked near the market, so we said a quick hello to the pig and picked up one final Christmas gift.

WHEW.  This girl’s got stamina!

On Saturday we slowed things down.  We woke up late that morning and then gave Juliette her big gift, propping a new (used) bike next to the Christmas tree and putting a giant gold bow on it.  I baked cinnamon rolls for breakfast and we lingered at the table well after they were gone, flipping through Christmas cards and sipping peppermint tea.

We took Juliette down to Alki for a spin on her ride and I spent awhile at the water’s edge, acutely aware of how much I’ve missed the outdoors over these past couple of dark, busy months.

She’s all about the hand brakes now!

Back at home, we listened to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the seven hundredth time, played board games, and wrapped gifts.

We set out for Portland on Sunday morning and quickly sunk ourselves into Mitch and Kathryn’s couch.  Bina, ever the cuddler, was thrilled to have yet another lap to sit on.

We spent Christmas Eve morning puttering around the house, baking and playing and passing the dog around.

(This crew takes Parcheesi very seriously!)

The antsy’s set in after lunch and I asked Elise if there was anywhere she wanted to go, as Morgan was a little under the weather.  The question had hardly left my mouth before she responded “Roller Skating!”, and as luck (?) would have it, the neighborhood rink was open until 5:30 that day.

Juliette was such a sweet little trooper, popping back up after each tumble and insisting that she press on, determined to make a full lap without any spills or any hand-holding.

We cozied up that night for the Polar Express and then set out a plate of cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer.

Once all was silent in Elise’s room, where all three girls were sleeping, stockings were filled and presents were laid out (by Santa, of course).

The jumping and jabber of excited children woke me early on Christmas morning.  The adults poured themselves a round a coffee and the kids got right to it.

It took visits to three Targets and one Walmart, but Santa came through on the Barbie Dentist…

(Morgan wins the award for “most excited gift-opener”.)

‘Twas the season for cozy things, as Morgan, Elise and I all got new fuzzy robes for Christmas!  Juliette ran to her suitcase and pulled out her own robe, eager to get in on the comfy action.

Good tea and good chocolate for my mom and dad, respectively.  We’ve got them figured out by this point!

Oh, Morgan!

Juliette unwrapped the scooter I bought for her on a last-minute impulse and exclaimed, “I have ALWAYS wanted this!”.

We spent the rest of the morning enjoying our new toys…

And then rallied ourselves for a walk through Tryon Creek.

This picture feels so Northwest winter…

When the kids started to lag a bit, Shane kept them engaged by recounting the entire story line of Lord of the Rings.

Back at the house, we settled in for more games.  Shane, Dad, Mitch and I played an intense round of Settlers

(Shane’s smiling, but I won!)

It seemed that every time Juliette and Morgan disappeared for a few minutes, they would re-emerge with new outfits and a fresh coat of lip gloss.

Elise, on the other hand, is much more content to spend all her time in leggings and a t-shirt with a book in hand.  I’ve loved watching my nieces grow up into such delightfully different humans.

Late afternoon, dinner was prepped while the girls gingerbread-ed.

And I snapped the requisite cousins-in-hats picture:

My dad had ordered a country ham from the East Coast for dinner – this salty treat evokes happy childhood memories of Nannie and Grandaddy, who always came to visit with a country ham and a pound of fudge nestled into their suitcases.

We ate and ate and then retired to our happy corners of the house – the girls put Elf on the TV and snuggled up with Bina while Mitch, Kathryn and my dad dealt a few rounds of Gin Rummy.  I poured myself another glass of red and curled up in a chair with my new book of poetry, grateful for all the love in that house.

And now we’re home, enjoying a few more days of life in the slow lane.  Juliette’s a tad bit distraught that Christmas is over, but she’s finding much solace in her pink scooter and her stuffed elephant.  The joy lives on.

Merry December!  This holiday season has felt extra-cozy as we’ve cranked up our fireplace and really settled into our house.  It seemed fitting that Shane and I should host a Thanksgiving gathering this year, as our expanded dining area is one of the things we love most about our home, so we asked my parents to come over for a few days and asked the Rust clan join us for a big ol’ Thursday meal.  And then, we cooked.

I found great joy in setting the table on Thursday morning, pulling out my mom and dad’s wedding silver and my grandma’s antique wine glasses.  Juliette folded the napkins just-so and I snipped a few sprigs off our backyard fir.

 

We dined on cranberry sauce (a la Jules) and turkey (a la Mom) and mashed potatoes (a la Nance) and cornbread and green beans and salad.  Jason made two pies and I made a rather unfortunate crostada and we ate and drank ourselves silly.

During cleanup, just when I was about to give props to our very outdated kitchen for rising to the occasion, our garbage disposal got stuck in the “on” position, so Jason, Shane and my dad spent some time under the kitchen sink fiddling with buttons and wires, trying to get the thing to grind to a halt.  Turns out it was fixed with a $4 part from Home Depot, but “kitchen update” is quickly moving up on the 2019 priority list!

We spent the rest of the evening lounging by the fire, then heading downstairs for a very rousing game of Mario Party with the kids.

Thankful for both given family and chosen family…

We ventured out on Friday for a stroll at Lincoln Park and a couple of rounds at Beer Star.

My mom and I trekked through the rain for Americanos at the neighborhood coffee shop…

And then we spent the rest of the weekend largely holed up indoors, playing games and reading books and polishing off the leftover turkey.

 

My parents left on Sunday morning and then Shane, Jules and I set out on our annual tree hunt at Mountain Creek Farm.  We met up with the Chens, who were on a similar mission.

I had a particularly hard time settling on just the right tree this year – maybe because I was busy trying to keep track of these kiddos, who spent the afternoon running very big circles around us?

Found it!  I love a lush, fluffy Grand Fir.

 

We went home, cranked up the Charlie Brown, and got to work stringing lights and hanging ornaments.  While sipping egg nog.

There’s about an inch of clearance between the ceiling and the top of our tree.  Perfection!

 

And in further tradition-keeping, Nance, LaV and I spent last weekend on our annual “retreat” to Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac.  We talked, we ate ice cream, we shopped…

We, like, really shopped.  For ourselves and our guys and our kids.  Mostly for ourselves, though.  The post-mall fashion show we host in our hotel room is one of my favorite parts of the weekend.

We also watched four and a half Twilight movies over the course of two days.  That’s nine steamy hours of vampires and werewolves.  Phew!

If our eyes look a little glazed-over, it’s because we O.D.’d on Edward.  Cheers, ladies!

 

And finally, in new traditions, Shane and I took Juliette to see the Nutcracker at McCaw Hall last Sunday.  We scored a deal on some tickets and figured Juliette was old enough to sit through the two-hour program.

In a happy coincidence, Jack and La Verne had bought tickets for the very same show.  We joined them in their otherwise-empty box at intermission so that Jules and N could soak in the magic of the second half together.

The whole thing was so stinking beautiful – the music and the sets and the costumes and the dancers.  It was a smorgasbord of creativity, all wrapped up in the prettiest of paper.

As we were walking to the car, Juliette looked up and me and exclaimed, “That was so super-special, Mommy!”  For me too, kiddo!

 

And up next:  ALL.  THE.  LIGHTS.  We’re holiday-ing hard up in here.

Back-tracking a bit here, but work has trumped blog these past few weeks and I’m just now getting back to this space I’ve missed so much.  And so, Idaho!  In mid-October!  Did I mention my parents moved to Idaho?  They visited Couer d’Alene in May and were so smitten with it that they decided to bid La Pine farewell and embark on a new adventure.  And while I relished our time in Central Oregon, I gotta say, North Idaho shows definite promise.

We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the playground at Falls Park, as Juliette was gunning to go after several hours in the car.  She bee-lined to the jungle gym while I checked out the rugged views of the Spokane River.

So happy together…

We grabbed a beer while the sun set over the water and then headed back to my mom and dad’s place for homemade meatballs.  Three hours into our visit, I was already seeing the appeal…

On Thursday morning we headed into Couer d’Alene to check out spot #2 on our grand circuit du playgrounds.  City Park was beautiful though swarming with aphids, which infest the city’s ash trees for two weeks every year.  We took a quick spin on the monkey bars and then moved on.

Oh, and AUTUMN!  So good here.

We popped over to McEuen Park next, which was decidedly less buggy.  We ate our picnic lunch, Juliette playgrounded with a new friend, and then we took a short walk around Tubbs Hill, which fronts Lake Couer d’Alene.

Can’t wait to get our paddle board out onto this water next summer!

Shane and I sent Juliette home with my parents and then set out to do a little exploring on our own.  We landed on the trail at Mineral Ridge, a three-mile hike with a lovely lake lookout.

Day dates are my favorite.

My mom and dad took Shane and I out for dinner that night to celebrate our October birthdays.  (Juliette free-loaded.)

On Friday we headed into the nearby farmland (of which there was plenty!) to scout some pumpkins and hot cider.  We started at Hidden Acres Orchards, which offered apple trees and a pet pig and a (dinky) corn maze and a two-dollar hayride.

Juliette ate it all up.

We crossed the street to another little patch and settled in at a picnic table to eat our lunch.  First though, one more pumpkin.  I couldn’t stop!

(This one’s for you, Uncle Doug!)

Juliette and I had just enough energy left after our pumpkin bonanza to get out for a jog/bikeride.  We found a perfect stretch of flat, carless trail and she rode like the wind while I huffed behind her.

My parents offered to watch Juliette that evening while Shane and I slipped away for the first grown-up movie we’ve seen in the theater in years.  Such luxury!

Saturday was our last full day in Idaho, so I got an early start and headed back out to Tubbs Hill for a walk with my mom.

Idaho, I’m falling for you!

We picked up the guys (and kid) and then drove out to Spirit Lake for a quiet lunch on the patio.

Again with the paddle-boarding possibilities..

The town of Spirit Lake is tiny, but boasts a quintessentially cute Main Street with an ice cream shop and a pottery store where you just slip your payment through a mail slot, so as not to disturb the potter while he’s at work.

We swung by Falls Park before dinner for one last playground romp with Grandpa, master twirler.  My dad ended up with a large flock of children around him and he pushed them all on the merry-go-round, trying to tag them at each spin while they giggled and squealed.  He’s the funnest.

There were lots of snuggles with Bernie on Sunday morning as we packed our things.

And Grandma!  She’s pretty snuggly, too.

I’m going to miss the Bend brew scene and Central Oregon lake life but…Idaho seems realllll nice.  We’re going to tear that state up next summer.

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.