Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

Saturday on the Canal was relatively quiet.  Juliette was sharing a room with her cousins and would get up and play with them for awhile before traipsing over to the boathouse to say good morning to Shane and I.  The luxury of sleeping until 8:00!

The girls spent much of the morning combing the low-tide beach, turning over rocks in search of tiny hermit crabs.

With each new discovery, there was applause and exclamations of Whooooooaaaaaa!

While they treasure-hunted, I slipped away for a long morning paddle on the smooth, calm water.

A seal kept me company along the way, popping his head up to say hello every few minutes, and an eagle crossed the canal just as I was turning around.  The gratitude and serenity I felt in those 45 minutes was palpable.

And except for my flying and flippered friends, I had that expanse of water all to myself!  Not a soul in sight until I neared the house and saw Mitch and Kathryn paddling toward me in the kayaks.

My zen was nearly killed when I returned to a cranky, whining three year old, so I packed a quick picnic lunch and asked Shane to throw Juliette in the car – after two solid days of intense cousin-play, I think she needed a chance to mellow out.  We found a perfect little perch on the shore of Lake Cushman and ate our sandwiches in relative quietude.

Soak up that Vitamin D, kiddo!

Reset and refreshed, we returned to the house to change out of our swimsuits and drive up the road to the Hama Hama Seafood Co for drinks and snacks.  Shane hung back at the house because, well, rumblies…by this point he was really questioning his decision to self-harvest oysters.  And gosh, he missed out – the rosé was crisp and refreshing and the crab cakes might have been the best I’ve ever had.

Plus, corn hole!

And a mountain of oyster shells.

We returned home with ample time for an evening paddle, so Juliette and I bobbed around the canal for awhile, photo-bombing a bride and groom that were taking their wedding pictures on a nearby dock.

And then we gathered on the deck for a riveting game of Clue – I haven’t played this game for years, but it holds up!

This is the point at which Morgan thought she’d cracked the case (she hadn’t)…

There were s’mores for dessert and gin and tonics for post-dessert and then…good night.

On Sunday we drove down toward Belfair to do some exploring at the Thelar Wetlands (again sans Shane, poor guy…).

The wetlands were warm and lush and bursting with blackberries.

Some of which were quite tart!

Juliette had a tough time keeping up with the group, as she couldn’t help but stop for a snack at each and every berry patch.

We spent the afternoon lazing and paddling back at the house, enjoying our beloved little stretch of beach.

Juliette adopted this mermaid statue as her baby for the weekend and spent a good while brushing its hair and feeding it grapes.

Elise monkeyed around and worked on her cartwheels…

And then there was an epic pre-dinner dance party, where Morgan and Elise taught us all how to do the Dab.

We ended the day at the Mexican restaurant down the road, feasting on giant burritos and jumbo margaritas (happy early birthday, Kathryn!).

Shane, thankfully, was on the upswing by Monday morning and played cards with the kids while I packed up the car.  Sadly, our time at our waterfront abode had come to an end.

First, though, one more dip!  We all headed over to the beach at Lake Cushman for more swimming, more paddling, more mountain magic.

This girl seriously rocked the paddle board.

And this one with the kayak!  Lake kids, through and through.

It took some coaxing to get Juliette off the board and into the water, but finally she agreed to give the donut a go and swim out to the “island” to do some exploring.

I snuck in one last long paddle session before it was time to let the air out of that thing – I’ve never the enjoyed our SUP as much as I did over those few days.  The whooshing sound as it deflated was almost too much to bear!

Board packed, it was time to say our good-byes.  Thanks, Jarrells, for the solid fill of water and wine and sun.  Oyster-induced toilet time aside (lesson learned!), it was magnificent.

My brother and sister-in-law have back-to-back milestone birthdays this summer and kindly invited Shane, Juliette, and me to do some celebratin’ with them for a few days at a lovely little cottage on the Hood Canal.  Within two minutes of rolling up to the house last Thursday, Juliette was shedding her clothes and digging in her suitcase for her swimsuit, eager to join her cousins at the oyster-littered beach in our front yard.  The girls splashed around while Shane got to work looking for an afternoon snack.

The oysters were smooth and briney and…apparently full of bacteria.  I’ll get to that later.

The afternoon was full of paddling and kayaking and cold drinks down by the water.  THAT WATER!  It was almost Caribbean-like in its color, kind of dreamy and mysterious in the haze of wildfire smoke that had drifted down from BC.

She’s my favorite first mate.

Paddle boarding doesn’t get much better than this…

All the girls loved being on the water, but Elise was particularly insatiable, wanting to hop from the kayak to the paddle board and then right into the canal, where she bobbed around in her life jacket.

When the late afternoon winds picked up, Shane looped the kite line around a log and let it flap in the breeze, hands-free.

Between the swing and the porch and the beach and the open lawn, it was like these kids were living in their very own playground!

 

Shane quickly found his favorite piece of playground equipment…

Mitch and Kathryn picked up a filet of fresh salmon for dinner and we all enjoyed a meal with a view from our respective kids’ and grown-ups’ tables.

Then it was back down to the beach for our three little fish!

Morgan!  I’ve missed you so.

Bedtime books were read in the front yard and then three salty, tired kiddos crashed out in the upstairs bedroom.

All was quiet.

Shane was up early on Friday for a smoky sunrise paddle.

He returned with a freshly-picked oyster and shucked it on the porch while the girls watched with skepticism.  If only he’d listened when they told him it didn’t look very yummy…  (Granted, no oyster looks yummy to a three year old.)

After breakfast, we piled into our cars and drove over to Olympic National Forest for a hike along the Skokomish River.

The shady woods were a lovely refuge from the heat.

And just as the chorus of are-we-there-yet’s was beginning, we arrived at the bridge near the Staircase Rapids, which was the perfect place for a lunch break.

And a refreshing dip.

Dads and daughters!

Once we’d polished off our PB&J’s and skipped a few hundred rocks, we hit the trail again.

Made it!

Shane had read about this particular rock at Lake Cushman as the perfect place for some low-risk cliff-jumping, so made a stop on the way back to watch him walk on the (conservative) wild side.

He hovered there at the edge for a couple of minutes and there was a moment when I thought he might turn back.

But, Ka-Bam!

Post-jump, we rewarded our little troopers with cones from the Hoodsport ice cream shop.

And then there was nothin’ to do but chill, with books and games and lemonade (and beer).

It’s a good vacation when you spend as much time in your swimsuit as you do in your clothes!

In another burst of daring-ness, Shane took the paddle board out in the evening for a very wavy ride.

And then did some canal gymnastics, to the girls’ delight.

After dinner, the fire pit beckoned…

A few sugar-induced laps were run around the yard, and again the kids (and adults) were completely tuckered out.  Life on the water is so wonderfully exhausting.

Up next:  more water-play, more cousin-love, and Shane’s insides explode.  Stay tuned.

With the flurry of the England trip and the Portland trip, I missed a couple of other May happenings!

My mom and dad came to visit at the beginning of the month – it was a weekend full of walks at the park and tri-generational coffee dates:

The forecast was iffy the Saturday they were here, but once we woke that morning and saw blue skies overhead, we deemed it ferry weather.

Hello, Bainbridge!

First stop: Blackbird Bakery for Americanos and cookies.  Cafe-hopping is one of my favorite things to do with my mom and it’s been fun to fold Juliette into our ritual (even if it’s just with warm milk).

We wandered around Winslow for a couple of hours, hitting the toy store and Doc’s Marina Grill and, of course, Mora’s for ice cream.

Bainbridge is nice and all, but I think the ferry ride to and from there might be even nicer!

Sunday was another surprising lovely day, so we spent the morning at Seward Park, strolling and biking and throwing rocks.

My mom and dad hit the road a couple of hours before I caught my plane to England – I like to think we all spent that weekend filling Juliette’s love bank to the brim before splitting town!

Thankfully, I got back from my trip in time to spend Mother’s Day at home.  Though Shane was probably ready for a break, he was up early with Juliette Sunday morning to run to the bakery for a loaf of my favorite bread.  I came downstairs to find him plating avocado toast with bacon and eggs while Jules ground my coffee beans.  I’m the luckiest.

And then, in an even grander gesture, we went to the bike store to pick out a gift for me!  We kicked off a summer of family bike rides with a whirl on the Green River Trail.

Post-ride hydration at Schooner Exact Brewery…

Juliette then woo’ed me by pulling all of the floor mats out of the Forester and scrubbing them clean.  Just when I think this girl couldn’t possible wriggle her way any deeper into my heart…

I tell ya’, motherhood is some kind of special…

Juliette has been begging for a Portland trip for weeks now, calling down to me well after she’s been tucked into bed to forlornly cry, “Mommyyyyyyyy?  I really miss my cousins!”  We finally found ourselves with a free weekend and were happy to indulge her – it had been far too long since we’d crossed that Oregon/Washington border!

We arrived in Portland around lunchtime on Friday and headed over to Milk Glass Market for a healthy hipster lunch.

The weather was beautiful and we had a couple of hours before Morgan and Elise would be out of school, so we hopped on our bikes for a family ride on the Marine Drive Trail.

Sweet, sweet serenity.

And gosh, how ’bout those freckles?!

When we got to Mitch and Kathryn’s, Juliette excitedly hopped in the car with her aunt to go pick up the girls from school.  When they returned together, Juliette was beaming.  And Elise was…TALL.

Morgan was long-haired and beautiful and sporting a brand new smile.

We spent the afternoon watching the kids run circles around the yard, went out for a hearty dinner, and then it was back to the house for more lawn shenanigans.

I heard the pitter-patter/stomp-stomp of children’s feet early the next morning, but enjoyed the luxury of lingering in bed for a bit as Morgan and Elise have become so adept at looking out for their kid cousin.  Plus, SHOPKINS!

Morgan had her last soccer game of the season on Saturday morning and we all showed up to cheer her on – she’s got some serious hustle!

I was a little taken aback by how much Morgan has changed since we last saw her at Christmas – she seems so much more confident, so much more independent now.

And Elise!  Wanna move to Seattle and be our new babysitter???

There were certainly moments when the goalie was caught picking daisies 10 feet outside the goal, but all in all, these girls played a pretty focused game!

Juliette wanted in on the action, so Elise engaged her in a one-on-one match.

Good game, Miss Morgan!

We ate lunch back at the house and lounged around for a bit, but were soon back out the door with our three amped-up girls plus a friend of Morgan’s.  We drove down to George Rogers Park to catch some afternoon rays by the water.

I figured that surely the water would be too cold for them to put their feet in, but what do I know?

My little Northwest Hula Girl…

We spent awhile on the playground and then went back to the house for more Front Yard Olympics.  Temps topped out at nearly 80 degrees that day and I stretched out on the lawn with a pint of Mitch’s home-brew, soaking up the sounds and smells and tastes of summer.

Shane and I celebrated our 11th anniversary that night with dinner at Pok Pok while Mitch and Kathryn (and Elise) watched Juliette.  As we sat across from one another, we cried (those crazy-spicy bird’s-eye chilis!) and laughed (those crazy-good mango-mint cocktails!).  It was a superb meal with a superb man.

We ate waffles for breakfast on Sunday and then the girls took a spin around the neighborhood with Uncle Shane.

We spent the rest of the morning at the Kenton Street Fair in North Portland, walking a tight rope and shooting arrows and chasing giant bubbles.

Such focus!

Juliette had her first sno-cone and declared it so, so, soooooo delicious.

We hit the road around lunchtime and Juliette crashed hard near Olympia.  She woke up an hour later, wondering “When are we going back to Portland, Mommy?”  This girl is insatiable.

It’s hard living so far from Shane’s family, particularly since we had Juliette, so we were all pretty pumped Grandma and Grandpa rolled into town a couple of weeks ago.  Welcome, Schnells!

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Beloved Uncle Doug and Aunt Val are in the process of moving to Washington and were also in town for the week, so we all convened at Frelard Pizza to celebrate Biz’s birthday.

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Last Thursday we high-tailed it out of busy Seattle and set out for a couple of low-key days on Whidbey Island.  Nothing puts me in vacation-mode faster than a ferry ride.

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My little seagull…

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We docked mid-morning and drove over to Useless Bay in Langley for lunch.  The sun was trying awfully hard to break through those clouds!

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We got settled at the house and then Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa in hopes that the sun would make a full appearance for our walk at Ebey’s Landing.  TA-DA!

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Green and blue for dayyyyyyyys…

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We made good time on our 3-mile “hike” and then headed back to the house to soak up the day’s last rays on the deck.  We saw an eagle bobbing in the water below and then watched it awkwardly paddle on-shore, wondering if it was injured.  Turns out it had a full-sized duck gripped in its talons!

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It was like an episode of National Geographic, watching that ferocious eagle tear into its prey.  And mid-meal, another one swooped down to finish the job!

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To quote Denny, “God Bless America…”

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A third eagle spent much of the afternoon perched in a tree just over the deck.  After seeing what that first eagle did to that duck, I understand Juliette’s slightly concerned expression.

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We put our binoculars away and Jules and I took a happy hour dip in the hot tub, which has become our new favorite vay-cay pastime.

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We cracked open a bottle of bubbly and then feasted on takeout from Toby’s for dinner – the Penn Cove mussels we ordered were freshly plucked from the very water we overlooked!

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Bellies full, we hopped in the car and made the short drive back over to Ebey’s Landing to catch the sunset.

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That lovely blue foam lapping over those shiny smooth stones is just so…Whidbey.

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We closed out the day with marshmallows roasted in the outdoor fireplace at the house, watching the sky fade from pink to gray.

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What a DAY.

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Friday was gray and cool, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the outdoors and drove up to Deception Pass to walk in the woods and romp on the beach.

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Juliette rock-hunted with intense focus, enamored with each purple stone she found.

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Skip it, stud.

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Such joy, this kid.

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The wind eventually drove us back into our cars, but you can’t leave Deception Pass without a quick stroll across on the bridge.

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Val and Elizabeth joined us for lunch at the house and then we all walked down to the beach to enjoy the day’s last few rain-free minutes.  The seafood scene was serious down there – check out the size of that oyster!

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And this cluster of mussels!

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We drove into “downtown” Coupeville for ice cream and spent the rest of the rainy day cozied up inside, playing Mancala and Bingo.  And Mancala.  And Bingo.

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And then Shane busted out the 200-piece puzzle sitting on the shelf.  Bold move, Schnell!  But we put that baby together in record time (minus one heartbreaking missing piece…).

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Despite the evening drizzle, Denny got a rip-roaring fire going and we closed out the day with roasted mallows once again.  Props to Grandma for packing graham crackers!

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Saturday was also wet, so we flipped on the fireplace when we woke up and got down to business with colored pencils and hot tea.

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I jetted out for a jog during a short break in the rain and was reminded how much I love these wide open spaces.

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Juliette and I took a final dip in the hot tub, spent a few minutes gazing out at our beloved cove, and then…that always-dreaded check-out time.

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We eased our check-out woes with coffee and cinnamon rolls at Knead and Feed before heading to the ferry.

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We’ve always walked right past the 1000-piece puzzles spread out on the ferry tables, but Juliette was feeling extra-confident after the previous day’s bonanza.  Girl’s got skills now!

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Whidbey for the win, always.  That island never ever disappoints.

After a round of teary-eyed hugs on Sunday morning, Denny and Pat hit the long road back to Minnesota.  Juliette spent the rest of the day asking when Grandma and Grandpa are coming back.  Not soon enough, kiddo!  Not soon enough.

After January’s relative quietude, February felt full, with trips to the snow and the sun, much talk of big changes (the house-hunting bug bit us hard), subsequent talk of little changes (should we just clean out our closets, repaint our bedroom, and stay put for awhile?), and great big joys held in tension with deep, deep sorrows.  A few (dozen) photos to recap…

It’s been an unusually snowy winter in Seattle, and I find myself giddy with child-like “hope-school’s-cancelled” excitement each time flakes start to fall.  School actually was cancelled one Monday a few weeks ago, which meant that Shane and I both stayed home from work to hang with Jules because, well, it takes two.  Plus, which one of us was really willing to head into the office and miss out on this magic?!

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We kicked off the day with a walk through the whiter-than-ever greenbelt across the street…

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We heard a tree come crashing down in the forest as we were on our walk, likely due to the extreme snow loads, so we high-tailed it to the Columbia City Bakery to seek shelter and coffee with our southside friends.

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And then right back out we went, to Jefferson Park for sledding and fort-building.

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Shane had this snowman up in about six minutes – his Minnesota roots really shine on days like this.

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An hour in, we were all soaked by the downpour of huge, wet snowflakes, but this girl wasn’t the least deterred.

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Eventually we bribed her indoors with the promise of pizza and gelato at Tutta Bella…

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And then set her loose for the catching of a few last flakes before this all turned to slush.  It was fun while it lasted.

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My mom spent a couple of days in Seattle in the middle of February, and Juliette was attached to her hip throughout her stay.  “Sit by me, Grandma!  Hold my hand, Grandma!  Read to me, Grandma!”

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Kombucha cheers!

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We took our annual winter stroll through the Mercer Slough on a clear(ish) Saturday…

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I feel like I snap the same photos here year after year, but…the colors!

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Juliette looks like such a big kid in this picture, doesn’t she?

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And finally, in news that cast a melancholy shadow over last month’s goodness, my dad’s dad, Grandaddy, passed away two weeks ago.  He had been weak for quite some time and living under the care of my aunt and uncle in their home for the last several months, but still, saying good-bye was obviously painful.

As I mourn, I’m feeling all the feelings, often all at one time…gratitude for the man Grandaddy was and the lives he touched; sadness over the fact that this giant piece of the Jarrell family puzzle will be physically absent from all future family gatherings; comfort that he passed away in a home filled with love and that his hand was held more often than not in his final days; and intense regret that I didn’t make it out to Maryland to see him in the past several years.

Gosh, how I wish I’d spent more time with him.

Growing up, I usually saw Nannie and Grandaddy once a year – they’d come out to visit us in Colorado or Oregon or California, arriving with suitcases heavy with country ham and homemade fudge, or we’d make a family trip out to Maryland to stay at their cozy home on Windy Hill Road.  I loved that house – sneaking hard candies from the well-stocked crystal dish that Nannie kept on the coffee table, flying down the gravel driveway in a plastic wagon that rattled so hard I thought the wheels would fall off, the sound of crickets in the backyard on those hot, humid East Coast nights.  And the merriment.  Where two or more Jarrells are gathered, there will inevitably be laughter.

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The visits became fewer and farther between in my college and post-college years – my grandparents were older and less prone to travel, and I was eager to spread my traveling wings wider than the reaches of Maryland.  But still, even when I went several years without visiting, there was reassurance in knowing that Nannie and Grandaddy were there in Maryland, holding down the fort and anchoring our family with love and joy.  The boat was rocked when Nannie died in 2008, and then it wobbled again when Grandaddy sold the house on Windy Hill Road to move into a senior apartment, but even in his grief, he was ever the steadfast, thoughtful, fun-loving patriarch.  He was faithful in his letter-writing and I received a page or two of hand-written updates each birthday and Christmas.  I saved a handful of those letters and dug them out this afternoon, desperate to draw close to him as his absence hit me with a new wave of sadness.  I chuckled through my tears when I read this snippet from a few years ago about his senior living experience at “The Home”, as he so fondly referred to it…

Last week the social director arranged a “fashion show” for the old ladies.  She thought it a good idea to have an escort to help steady their walk down the runway.  Guess who was asked to be “the escort”?  I said, “Why not?”  I told the social director after the show that I had admired models for 70 years but had never touched one before!  Bear in mind, these models were mostly in their 80’s, so the thrill was dampened just a bit!

His funny anecdotes are all knit together with an overwhelming tone of kindness, generosity, and unwavering devotion to all things family.  As I sniffled through a letter from 2007 in which he marveled at how quickly 61 years of marriage to Nannie had gone by and wished Shane and I the same good fortune, Juliette looked up from her coloring book and asked, “Why are you sad, Mama?”  “I just really, really miss my grandpa,” I replied.  She furrowed her brow, a look of utmost concern on her face, and then followed up with, “Well, why can’t he just come over?”

Oh, if only, kiddo.  If only.

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After our busy pre-Christmas week, it felt good to pull up to Mitch and Kathyrn’s house on Christmas Eve and settle in for a few days of laying low with family.  I missed these kids!

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THIS.  This is what I needed.

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My dad helped with some last-minute light-stringing in the front yard…

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And then it was time to eat!  Salmon, chicken wings, roasted veggies, a couple of bottles of good wine – these Jarrells do tasty+healthy right.

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The girls got to open their new Christmas pajamas from my mom that evening…

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And then, there wasn’t anything left to do but hunker down and wait for Santa to come down that chimney.

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We heard the pitter-patter of excited feet running circles around the house early Christmas morning and sleepily made our way upstairs to see if Santa had indeed made a stop at Chez Jarrell.  HE DID!

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Watching Juliette unwrap this stuffed puppy was the highlight of my morning.

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Unwrapping my new boots was highlight #2!

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Elise, the budding scientist, was over the moon about her new electricity kit.

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My mom, meanwhile, was thrilled with her jars of duck fat and clarified butter (to each his own!).

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That blessed moment of post-gift peace, when everyone sits back for a minute to admire their new wares…

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We rode that post-gift wave for most of the morning, as the girls set up shop in the dining room to play with their new art supplies and magnets.

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Eventually, though, we were all ready to get out, so we hopped in the car and drove over to Westmoreland Park to bike and run and climb.  Poor Shane came down with a stomach bug the night before, so he stayed back at the house to sleep it off.

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Morgan was eager to try our her new running shoes.  It looks like Mitch has just realized he can no longer outpace his daughter!

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There was some more quiet afternoon play…

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And then I settled into the couch with the girls for our traditional viewing of The Polar Express.

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Turns out, this movie is a bit more intense than I realized!  Juliette nearly jumped out of her seat as the train skidded across the ice.

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We ate a hearty Christmas dinner and then it was back to the chessboard.

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And, a Christmas dance party!  Courtesy of Juliette and Morgan.  What a day.

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The day after Christmas was quiet – we slept in a bit and then walked over to the neighborhood Starbucks with the kids for muffins and hot chocolate.

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My mom and dad left later that morning, pausing on their way out the door for a few family pics.

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The rest of the day was a bit hazy…more chess, I think.  Mitch and I got out for a long walk while Juliette napped.  I drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of ginger cookies.  The girls were thick as thieves.

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Tuesday, sadly, was go-day.  Elise read Juliette’s new books to her for the umpteenth time while Shane and I loaded up the car.

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We grabbed coffee and a scone on Division Street…

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Played a round of hide and go seek in the yard…

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And then, fare thee well, Jarrells!  ‘Twas a very merry Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I spy Shane and Jules…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hey, buddy!

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

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I want one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And one more Sisters latte!

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

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

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

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Morgan and Jules enjoyed a little downtime before dinner…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Found it.

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

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

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

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So we caved.  Ice cream for the win!

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

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

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But she lays it on so dang thick!

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

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

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

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

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

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She could have fed those fish for hours.

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When we ran out of quarters, Shane got thrifty!

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

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

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Juliette looks a little concerned, doesn’t she?

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That’s better.

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

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Digging his new aviators…

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

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

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

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

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

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