Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

ALMOST.

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

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

Happy hour on the deck…

And a sunset stroll with my favorite kid and pup.

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

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

Afternoon shenanigans at the house…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lazy afternoons…

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

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

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

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

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

Made it!

And worth it.

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

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

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

My best beach buddy:

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

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

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

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

With an ice cream truck to boot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make a wish, kiddo!

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

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

Made it!  And that view!

AND that long-lost cousin!  Together again.

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

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

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

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

My brother is so zen.

Hey, I know that guy!

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

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

Miniature crabs and baby anemones for days…

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

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

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

And then…you guessed it.

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

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

Worth it for the views, though.

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

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

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

JUST her toes.

Ok, and her ankles.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Shorts!  So much more sensible.

(But even these got wet!)

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

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

Travel itch scratched.  For now.

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

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

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

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

And then, Parcheesi…so much Parcheesi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocket balloon practice consumed a good portion of the afternoon…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survey says…SOOOO GOOD, MAMA!

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

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

Christmas is coming, kiddo!

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

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

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

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

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

P.S.  IT WAS COLD.

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve got a winner!

Cider+candy cane vibes…

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

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

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

Perrrrrfect.

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

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

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

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

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

Even little Bina went for a ride!

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

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

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

 

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

Show off!

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

Lake life 4-eva.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting the biggest wagon EVER…

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

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

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

But Elise got even.

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

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

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

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

Until next time, I guess!

I’ve been itching for a return visit to Idaho ever since we ventured over there last October to visit my mom and dad. North Idaho is rich with summertime lakeside hangouts, so we spent a week there in August, paddling and camping and hanging with the cousins, whose visit happily coincided with ours.  Together again and it feels so good!

We laid low our first couple of days, doing the playground and park circuit with the kids.  Post Falls has no shortage of places to play, and Falls Park is one of my favorites.

Juliette is a monkey bar machine these days – just tonight I noticed the thick callouses that have formed on the balls of her hands.  Girl’s got grit.

After the playground, the kids dipped their feet in the Spokane River at Q’emiln Park.

And then spent the afternoon romping through the spray park that’s right across the street from my mom and dad’s new house.

 

Elise is 11 and almost too cool for school, so I reveled in these moments when I saw the goofy girl I’ve known for the past decade emerge from her pre-teen shell.  These three!

We headed into Couer d’Alene Monday morning for coffee and muffins, then hit the trail at Tubb’s Hill for a mini-hike.  First though, a photo op with Mudgy the Moose.

We rewarded our little hikers with treats and balloons from the Main Street candy shop.  Mitch grabbed a box of Bean-Boozled jelly beans, but more on that later – I’m still recovering.

We cooled off in the evening back at Q’emiln Park…

And then set the kids free at the park across the street from the house.  We joked that my mom and dad have the biggest front yard ever!

I got out for an evening solo stroll and felt that beloved country vibe as I cruised past cows and goats and horses and sheep.

We were back on the lake circuit Tuesday afternoon, this time testing the waters at Honeysuckle Beach on Lake Hayden.

The water was nice, but the ice cream truck was the real standout of the day.

A few of us headed over to Corbin Park after dinner for disc golf, fishing, and rock-skipping.  The course here is not for the novice golfer, as most holes require you to thread your disc through a gauntlet of pines.

That said, Juliette wasn’t gonna let a few measly trees get in her way!

Th stretch of river here is gorgeous – golden and serene and sprinkled with plenty of perfect, flat skipping rocks.

Mitch caught a four-inch trout that he promptly threw back.  When Shane joined us after his round of disc golf, Juliette excitedly shouted, “Daddy!  Uncle Mitch caught a fish and it was FOUR inches!”  Size is relative, I guess.

On Wednesday we headed to Priest Lake, and Idaho leveled up.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Still catching up on the highlights around here – this picture is a couple of months old now, but I wanted to make sure I gave a proper Little Black Journal shout out to…ARCHIE!!!

Shane’s Aunt Val and her dog Archer spent a few days with us at the end of March, and Jules soaked up the lovin’ from them both.

Ok, I’m not sure how reciprocal the affection was, but still, this is one patient pup!

We missed them both the moment they left.  I’ve known Val longer than I’ve known Shane (she introduced the two of us), and she’s family through and through – felt nice to have a little extra bustle in the house for a few days.

I feel like I had a disgracefully inactive winter, but Shane and Jack slogged through their Saturday training runs together and completed the Mercer Island Half Marathon for the 6th (?) time in March.  This cheering squad, though!

Also, we got out!  In Belltown, no less!  We’ve found a couple of sitters in our neighborhood, which has opened up our social calendar a bit.  We dined on tapas and then went out for drinks with the gang – I offer these photos as proof that we actually do stay out after dark on occasion. (P.S.  We were home by 10.)

The Jarrell clan came to stay for a night in mid-April, sending Juliette over the moon with cousin joy.

We spent Sunday at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma – Elise and Juliette carefully charted our route while Shane picked up our tickets.

The aquarium exhibits are my favorite part of this zoo and the octopus was particularly showy on this day, hanging out front and center while waving its wild tentacles.

Stingray-petting was Juliette’s hands-down favorite.

Juliette brought her little point and shoot camera and took about a thousand photos.  Like mama, like daughter…

The three amigas!  I’m thankful for these quick catch-ups with them.

Juliette joined me at the office on a Friday morning for Bring-Your-Kids-To-Work day, where she built marshmallow structures and drew on the walls and hula-hooped in the kitchen.

She walked away with a personalized laser-cut bookmark and some very big dreams of being an architect one day.  Well-played, P+W.  Well-played.

April was full of quality buddy-time, in the form of bike rides and play dates and sidewalk shenanigans with the neighbors.  Juliette had a couple of friends over one afternoon and I was super-impressed by how independently the three of them played a board game together.  These kids are getting so grown-up!

…But are still so wonderfully silly.

Easter felt like it came especially fast this year, and we arrived home from a week-long vacation on Easter Eve.  Still though, Shane and Juliette managed to read through all of her Storybook Bible during Lent, and I managed to hide a few jelly-bean-filled eggs around the house on Sunday morning.

After church, we gathered at the Rusts for our annual egg hunt and potluck.

This group started hanging out when we were all young and child-free…

Now, look!  I heard Emily exclaim during this photo, “You guys!  Look what we all did!  Good job.”

We were so, so happy to have our beloved Hickories back in town for the week.  We’ve missed them like crazy since their move to Colorado last April.

These dads are some of Seattle’s finest.

And Gryff, you are the big brother Juliette’s always wanted.  We love you!

We were graced with another full weekend of sunshine after Easter, so we gathered the crew at our house for hot dogs and Spike Ball.

Man, I love a sunny Spring weekend – you know it’s just a teaser and that rain will resume within a few days, but that dose of Vitamin D awakens a certain excitement within me that seems to go dormant in the winter.  Summer is right around the corner!

As much as Juliette loves talking Mario and Bowser with the Rust boys, it was apparent on this evening that she also very much enjoys the company of lady friends.

The kids busted out a live dance-along to Let It Go while we ate dessert…

And then kept the performance going.  And going.  Juliette can be quite timid when put front-and-center, but not on this night.

Definitely not on this night.  You do you, Jules!

Finally, the grown-ups couldn’t resist the urge to get in on the action and cranked up Hey Ya for a serious dance party.  Then there was Ace of Base, some Ice, Ice Baby, I think even a little Wilson Phillips?  I saw the Funky Chicken and some White Man’s Overbite, a lot of shimmy-shimmy-shake-shake.  We’re so old, you guys.

These are the smiles of Spring, people.  We’ve made it!

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.