Archive for the ‘the gang’ Category

We eased into 2020 nice and slow – I love those few days after Christmas when the holiday bustle has subsided and we can be 100% on break.  Juliette and I hit the library and our favorite coffee shop and perfected Deck the Halls on her keyboard.

(That book!  She’s really rubbing in it with this whole growing-up-fast thing.)

Champagne and Sprite at our favorite Pioneer Square oyster bar…

Followed by a stroll through Occidental Square, which has never looked lovelier.

Juliette and the neighbor kids schemed up a sleepover one night and before I could even ask about the details, they were loading up their wagon with Juliette’s blanket, pillow, and toothbrush.  See ya later, I guess…?

Once all the kids had properly lined up their sleeping bags in the playroom, they spent the afternoon rehearsing a sing-along to Frozen 2’s greatest hits and then hopped back to our house in the evening for a special performance.  The parents were all politely asked to sit quietly and refrain from taking any videos – this was exclusive stuff.  (Photos permitted.)

Juliette’s solo was so sweet.

But the full quartet’s rendition of Lost in the Woods was my fave.

Once everyone traipsed back across the street for bedtime, Shane and I looked at each other in our quiet, empty house and wondered, “What should we do?”  So we went out!  We got super-crazy and ended up playing Quirkle and drinking beer at the neighborhood game store.

We invited the crew over for our annual New Years Eve bash, where we played charades and ate and drank and watched the ball drop in New York City before sending the six year-olds off to bed.

We busted out the Veuve and my grandparents’ antique wine glasses for the midnight toast.  Special champagne in special glassware for the most special of friends.

HAPPY 2020!

We rolled out of bed reluctantly on Wednesday morning, but rallied with the promise of Jack’s homemade bubble waffles.  Juliette put on her princess dress and grabbed a noise-maker and did her damnedest to keep the party going.

And then, as a grand finale to our holiday traditions, the Polar Plunge!  I love this event.  Such community, such euphoria.

One clarification:  I love being a spectator at this event.

Juliette thought about joining the guys this year, but only went so far as to take her shoes off.  I don’t blame her!

I took to heart that old adage about the first day of the year setting the tone for the rest of the year, so I made time to get out for a long walk and to hit the playground with my girl and to cozy up by the fireplace with tea and a book.

We took a family walk at Lincoln Park that evening to catch what will be first of many magic 2020 sunsets.

And then, on that final weekend before heading back to work and school, there was nothing left to do but CHILL.  Juliette and I got a head start on our new years resolutions and crafted and cuddled and spent one last night reading by the light of the Christmas tree.

What a break.  What a gloriously slow, restorative way to end one year and begin a new one.

’Tis the season for rituals and traditions and all things nostalgic!  I’m holding space for family slow-downs per my last post, but I’m also laying the twinkly lights on thick, because Juliette and I eat that kitsch up.  There are a handful of events that December just wouldn’t quite feel complete without.

Like Ladies Weekend!  Nance, LaV, and I hit up the Cedarbrook Lodge for the fifth year running and did all the essential LW things – hot tubbing and shopping and chick-flicking…  We carefully considered and curated our movies this year and opened Friday night with Pretty Woman, wondering if the Vivian/Edward romance would live up after all these years, and…affirmative.  They’ve still got it.

These are the thumbs-ups of ladies who just scored a slew of sweaters for 80% off.

Meanwhile, Shane did this.  Because he’s the best.

Juliette is increasingly interested in Santa and asked a couple of weeks ago if we could pay him a visit.  Luckily, he happened to be hanging out at the neighborhood brewpub!  Jolly old Saint Nick and a pint of my favorite amber to boot!

(This is where she asked him for puffy paint and he looked at her like, “I thought that was popular back in the 80’s?”

That evening we invited the neighbors over for wine and cookie decorating, which turned into a contest over which kid could pack the most sugar onto a single gingerbread man.

The girls closed us out with a flute/keyboard duet of Jingle Bells.

And though they missed a few notes, it was perfect.

We decided to forego the Nutcracker this year and instead spent a Sunday evening with the Chens at Lumaze, a “Winter Fairytale at T-Mobile Park”.  Fairytale, indeed – was this for real?!

The kids had a blast bounding through the forest of lights.  So much twinkle!

And then we strapped on ice skates and took a few wobbly loops around the rink.

The park is set up as a maze dotted with landmarks that kids can check off a list – this pony was my favorite.

…and Juliette loved this 20-foot doll.

Later, Lumaze!

Our annual Christmas dinner with the Chens and Rusts is always one of the merriest nights in December.  A feast (THANKS, JACK!) and presents and laughter and wine and sugar and so much gratitude.

I bought Isaiah a Minecraft beanie which he opened and then exclaimed, “This is perfect!  I just became a Minecraft You-Tuber today!”  Nailed it.

Shane and Jack shared a fitness theme, Jack gifting Shane pushup bars and “vitamins for the middle-aged”…

…and Shane gifting Jack a promise to register with him for the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride next summer.

This crew rocks.

We made our usual pilgrimage to the Menashee House last weekend, popping over there after dinner to take a quick gander at West Seattle’s finest light show.  This is as kitschy as Christmas gets!

And to close out our circuit du Santas, we spent Sunday evening at Snowflake Lane.  I’ll admit I felt a bit nuts, standing in the rain for a cheesy Christmas parade, but I don’t know…how many more years do we really have with a kid that thinks this stuff is magical?

“He’s coming!!!”

We’ll see you in Portland, Santa!

And finally…some pre-Christmas quiet.  Juliette and I kicked off Christmas break with a living room slumber party by the light of the Christmas tree. All was calm, all was bright as we reveled in this season of togetherness and anticipation and utter delight.

Welp, I guess that’s a wrap, huh?  School has started, the skies are gray, and I wore a turtleneck sweater yesterday – summer is O-V-E-R and I’m memorializing it with one last photo mash-up…gosh, I’ll miss these lazy lake days!

Juliette and the neighbor kids asked me one morning last month if they could have a campout in our backyard – I said, “Sure, we can do that sometime!”  The words had hardly left my mouth before Rees was rolling up the sidewalk in the ol’ Arctic Cat, backseat loaded with pillows and sleeping bags and flashlights.  I guess we were doing this!

Shane set up the tent and the kids played in it for the better part of the day, coming out for hot dogs and s’mores before tucking themselves in for the night.

Sweet, sweet summer dreams, kiddos…

We spent a lot of time in the yard this summer, trimming and weeding and mowing, but also jumping through sprinklers and grilling with friends.

Gratuitous freckle shot!

Juliette and I spent a glorious wide-open Friday at Coleman Pool – I thought we’d ditch the arm floaties and test her swim skills, but she had a such a good time floating freely back and forth across the pool that I didn’t push it.

That same evening, we traded a damp swimsuit for a dry one and biked down to Alki Beach for a birthday party.  From Pool to Sound…summer livin’ in West Seattle is so, so good.

We ventured a little farther from home on a Saturday to swim at Anderson Pool in Bothel – this place is great, though swimming inside felt like a waste of sunshine!  You can find us back here in November.

There was a quick trip to Portland to pick up Juliette after her few days in Idaho with my parents – I didn’t take many pictures, but these couple with Morgan and my parents deserve a spot on the blog:

Summer ain’t summer without a visit to the ball field, so we headed to a Mariner’s game on a Sunday afternoon to cheer on the hometown heroes and run the bases.

And…the fair!  After our visit last year, this has officially become a Mama-Jules annual tradition.  Farm animals and ice cream and roller coasters, OH MY.

The ferris wheel was fun, though a bit tame for my speed-loving kiddo.

So we strapped ourselves into the mini roller coaster, which made Juliette wild with joy.

The kiddie-coaster was so much fun that we decided to level up and try out the Wild Cat.  Juliette cleared the height requirement by a half-inch, so ready or not…

Truth be told, she vacillated between laughter and near-tears with each terrifying dip, but we lived to tell about it!  This was our last real Friday off together before settling into our new school schedule, and we most certainly made it count.

And outside of all this boppin’ around, there was the simple sweetness of a PNW summer.  Family bike rides down to the water…

Neighborhood bike rides with the West Seattle biker gang (Juliette’s knees have never been so scraped up!)…

Basement dance parties when it’s just too hot outside to ride yet another loop around the block…

Shady walks through Schmitz Park…

Evenings next to our new fire pit…

And watching Juliette live her very best life, literally playing from sun-up to sun-down on some days and falling into bed at night with pink cheeks and tired legs.

Now pardon me while I fire up the indoor fire place and drown my post-summer blues with a spicy Chai and a slice of pumpkin bread…bring on Fall.

In another stroke of superb timing, the rain stopped falling on Friday morning just as we emerged from our tents.  Look at these lucky ducks!

Juliette has loved, loved, loved having our buddy Jordan around this summer – he’s got such a gentle, silly soul that really speaks to the spirit of our five year-old.

We truly had nowhere to be on Friday, so breakfast was extra-long and followed by a La Croix chugging contest between Jordan and Jack.

This is what you call “making your own fun” for the 40-and-over crowd, I think?

Jordan was strangely amped-up after downing 12 ounces of seltzer water in 15 seconds flat and challenged the guys to a swim across the lake.  “Across the lake” is a loooong way, so Juliette and I tagged along on the paddleboard to keep an eye on them.

They actually made it quite a ways out there before turning around.  Nance, Isaiah, Jules and I herded them back to shore.

I don’t know that there was a single moment over the next several hours when there wasn’t someone out in the water, paddling or floating or swimming or wading.  We had all found our happy places.

Oh, Jordan.  Always good for a laugh.

These three-dollar Target floaties are by far my best bang-for-the-buck summer purchase!

This is summer, folks.

We brought the party back to camp late in the afternoon, where we changed into dry clothes and popped open a cold bottle of rose.  First though, ice cream appetizers at the general store.

Remember that job interview Shane had to stay back in Seattle for on Wednesday?  It went well.

La Verne and I went for a sunset stroll after dinner along the trail to the Lake Quinault Lodge, and ho-ly golden hour, this place glows.

The Rust clan headed out to the Hoh Rainforest on Saturday morning while we stayed back with the Chens for a nearer-by hike.

This icy little creek was the perfect place for Shane to cool his heels.

 

Buddies!

…and buddies!

We scrambled over some roots, crossed a bridge, and then bee-lined back to camp to change into our swimsuits.

We did more paddling and floating and played a few rousing rounds of log-jousting, which the kids thought was hilarious.

By this point in the weekend we had depleted our beer and wine rations, so we headed to the lodge before dinner to sip margaritas and watch the kids play tag on the nicest lawn ever.

We convened at camp for one last sunset, one last round of s’mores, one last night at what was shaping up to be my new favorite spot to pitch our tent.

Hard as it was to leave our idyllic lakeside compound, we were all in pretty desperate need of a shower by Sunday morning, so we packed it up right after breakfast, snapped a few pics, and hit the road.

Juliette’s goodbye with the Rust family was drawn-out but so sweet.  Bunch of huggers, these five!

‘Till next year, you crazy cats.  Quinault 2020?

Though Shane was up at the crack of dawn back in October trying to secure us a summer campsite on Orcas Island, he had no luck – I thought he was the only guy that planned camping trips nine months in advance, but apparently there are other people that wait with bated breath for site reservations to open up.  Foiled!  We weren’t just gonna roll over and give up our lakeside dreams, though. Nancy and I did a bit of research and found ourselves four nights at a lovely waterfront site at Lake Quinault on the Olympic Peninsula.  Pack that paddleboard!

Juliette and I met the Rusts at camp on a Wednesday evening at the end of July – Shane had stayed back in Seattle for a job interview, with the promise that he would join us by the end of the week.  Juliette barreled down the road on her scooter with the boys while I set up camp.

Our tent turned out to be a bit big for the site, but Jason and Jordan came up with a totally solid workaround.

It had been a long day of packing and driving and missing Shane, but I washed away any residual angst with a sunset paddle.

We lounged around camp Thursday morning, enjoying the water view and a poetry reading by Jason around the campfire.  This is about as mellow as it gets!

We eventually rallied for a mid-day hike at Graves Creek, where we strolled among the Sitkas and crossed paths with a couple of llamas.

Juliette lost steam mid-way through the hike and I was fresh out of Skittle bribes to coax her along. MAJOR kudos to Jason for somehow getting her to skip-jog the two miles back to the car!

We returned to camp hot and tired and ready for a dip.  This stretch of beach next to our site turned out to be headquarters for the rest of the week.

These PNW lakes!  Nothing better.

I love this kid’s summer uniform.

The rest of the gang, including Shane, rolled up Thursday evening.  Shane got right to work moving our tent (he was having none of that propped-up corner business) and then settled in for chili and s’mores.

We zipped ourselves into our tents on Thursday night just as the rain started; before long the gentle pitter-patter had turned into a full-on all-night downpour.  I burrowed deeper into my sleeping bag, crossing my fingers that the storm would pass by morning – we had so much more paddling to do!  I thought we had paid our rain-dues at Rainier!  I know the weather-gods actually don’t keep track of such things, but Friday was…magic, actually!  Those pics coming up next.

I love a long a weekend.  I really love a really long weekend, which we were graced with when the Fourth of July fell on a Thursday and I was off on the following Friday.  We awoke on the Fourth itching for a little adventure and were pulling our stuff together for a ferry ride to Vashon Island while Juliette played outside; I had just packed our snacks when she burst through the front door and said, “Mommy!  There’s a parade and the neighbors are going!  Can we go?  Please?  Please?  Pleeeeeeeeease?”  Ah, Vashon.  I guess we’ll visit you some other day.

It turns out the West Seattle Fourth of July Parade is just a million kids riding their bikes and scooters around the block while their parents walk behind them, but still, a good time was had by all.

Juliette is in the midst of a deep Star Wars infatuation and was stoked to see R2D2 taking a stroll down the street.

And then we found our beloved neighbors (who brought extra accessories!) and Juliette’s excitement quadrupled.

We ended our trek at Hamilton Viewpoint Park, where I stretched out on the lawn while the kids played frisbee.

We gathered the kids for a group photo and then tossed Juliette and her scooter in the bike trailer for the short ride home.

The rest of the day was spent in the yard, alternately pruning bushes and sipping beer while the kiddos zipped up and down the block on their assorted vehicles.

And then…fireworks!  We started on a tame note, with sparklers and smoke bombs.

…and pooping dogs.

Once the sun set, a portable wood stove appeared, along with a bag of for-real fireworks.

These were legit!

Happy Fourth, y’all.

Juliette and I picked berries on Friday and then joined the Chens on Saturday for a hike at Lake Talapus, off I-90.  The misty morning made the woods feel particularly magical.

We arrived at our destination two miles in and perched on some lakeside logs for cake pops and water.

Good Lord, I love this land we live in.

Shane lulled the kids into a hiking trance on the way back to the cars with his usual recounting of The Lord of the Rings.  They ate it up and finished the 4.2 mile journey with minimal foot-dragging.

Made it!

Four cheers for a four-day weekend.

In addition to our annual pilgrimage to Fort Flagler, we’ve made a tradition of spending a weekend roughing it on Bainbridge Island with the gang.  Since the campground is just a few miles from the ferry terminal, Shane usually opts to get there by bike.  This year he brought a buddy:

Look who we found on the boat!

I was ever-so-slightly anxious about these two biking on the hilly roads, so I was extra-happy when they rolled into camp (with big ol’ smiles on their faces).

Tent: check!

Best bud: check!

Bunny ears (they had no idea): check!

Everyone had arrived by evening and we gathered around the campfire for s’mores.  No matter what we’re doing, Jordan always seems to up the ante – this time, it was with whiskey-soaked marshmallows.

Scrolling through these pics makes me a little misty eyed.  These folks.  These are my people.

We went down to the beach after dessert and watched the kids haul wood into their fort for a pretend campfire as the sun set.

We woke to gray skies and a chill in the air on Saturday morning, so after breakfast and more log-hauling, I was ready to head toward civilization for a little pick-me-up.

The guys decided to go to town by foot while the moms and kids went by car.  We pulled up at the tail end of their very public glutes and quads workout.

Ah…camping!

We took over Fletcher Bay Winery, ordering wine flights from the bar and pints of beer from the next-door brewery.

We returned to camp just as the clouds parted, so La Verne and I headed out for a paddle.

In hindsight, this looks not-so-safe…

Dinner on Saturday was family-style, with chicken and hot dogs and tacos and twelve different kinds of chips.

Emily and Daniel saw a slight chance of rain in the forecast for Sunday morning and used that as their excuse to high-tail it back to Seattle on the 8pm ferry.  Ah, well – all the togetherness was good while it lasted!

Isaiah did us the service of reading the kiddos their bedtime story.  Next year, we’re just going to throw all the kids in their own tent for the whole night and see what happens.

While Shane broke down camp on Sunday morning, I took the kids down to the beach so that Juliette could hide the special treasure-rocks she had decorated at home.

Some kid is going to be so excited to discover this carefully-hidden hand-painted stone (or so Juliette believes).

We closed out the trip with a little Spike Ball, a little fireside chatter, and a round of hugs.

Jules, your chariot awaits!  Catch you on the flip side.

It’s officially summertime in the PNW, which means it’s time for us to pull our trusty tent and sleeping bags from the recesses of our closet and get our camp on!  As has been our tradition for the past couple of years, we celebrated the season opener with the Rusts at Fort Flagler, near Port Townsend.

I love this campground, as you can bounce between forest in beach in the space of a couple of minutes.  We’ve spent a lot of time on this ol’ log.

Juliette was given a Junior Ranger workbook when we checked in and when asked to draw her favorite place in the park, she made this sweet little picture of herself in the hammock.

This was the first year we all brought our watercraft and we lucked out with especially calm waters and sunny evenings.

Meanwhile, back at camp…

The boys are so good at letting Juliette join their games – she can’t throw as far or run as fast as the two of them, but they let her have a go at it (and if I do say so myself, she holds her own pretty well!).

Happy place!

I lingered a bit too long over my s’mores and missed the dip of the sun below the horizon, but no matter – I still managed to get away for my pre-bed “serenity walk”.

On Saturday morning we set out for our usual hike along the bluffs.  I asked Nance if we should look for a new trail to explore, but we ultimately decided that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Juliette came prepared this year to explore the dark, spooky bunkers – headlamp, check; walkie-talkie, check.

We ate our trail mix at the half-way point while the kids played stick-ball on the lawn.  A game with a view!

I wasn’t sure how Jules would feel about being relegated to catcher when Shane stepped in to pitch, but she was into it, still super-jazzed just to be part of the game.

We hit the trail back toward camp…

..and then Nance and I pulled our camp chairs into the sun and sipped our afternoon coffees while Shane took the kids to the beach.  I walked down to see how they all were faring and found this posh set-up – I tell you, this guy is the master hauler-of-gear!

She knows how good she’s got it.

We beach-combed for awhile before heading back to light the evening fire.

I grabbed the paddle board after dinner and asked Juliette if she wanted to take a spin around the bay with me.  We saw jelly fish and a seal and a log that we pretended was a shark fin, just for the thrill of it.

Goodnight, sun.

While the days were warm, the nights were cold, making it even harder for me to crawl from the warmth of my sleeping bag.  Juliette, however, popped right up at 7 am and started doing the Macarena.

We ate our lazy breakfast on Sunday and then the kids and dads played an intense game of football on the campground loop.  This was one of those moments when I felt keenly aware of how thankful I am for the childhood that Juliette is living.  Nature and surrogate big brothers and a dad that plays hard – she’s so freaking lucky.

“What are we gonna do next, coach?”

We hopped in the car around 11:00 to catch an early-afternoon ferry at Bainbridge Island.  First though, hugs for Z.

Cheers, crew!  Way to ring in the most wonderful time of the year.

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!

January crawled and February flew and now I’m seeing cherry blossoms blooming and 70-degree days in the forecast.  I know we’re still a couple of months away from consistent sunshine, but it certainly feels like we’ve made it through winter.  WE MADE IT!  I think I’ve blogged each and every snowflake in great detail, but here’s a quick round-up of the other Q1 goings-on:

The last few weeks have been a bear, as I’ve been traveling for a project almost every week and cracking open the work laptop most nights.  I set boundaries around weekends as much as possible, but there was a Sunday when the call of duty was especially strong, so I brought home some model pieces from my project and let Juliette build and scheme while I dashed off emails.  This picture feels like a February emblem – work-life integration, folks…

The sun came out a handful of times in January and February, and when it did, we were OUT, hiking or walking or scootering.  We checked out a new trail at Cougar Mountain with the Chens on a Saturday afternoon.

The kids’ feet really started to drag around mile two (of four!), so Shane coaxed them along by recounting the epic tale of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings has somehow become our hiking go-to when Juliette needs a distraction).

These kids are as fond of each other as ever, wanting to be together all the time.  Like, togetherAll the time.

At Kubota Gardens the following weekend, Shane and Jack found new ways to lug around our conjoined twins.

The waterfront continues to be our West Seattle happy place.  Juliette and I covered some new ground with her scooter on a Sunday afternoon – I somehow had missed this half-mile stretch of pavement full of inlaid constellations.  We stopped to “identify” each and every one.  “It’s a person holding a stick!  It’s a backhoe picking up an ice cream cone!  It’s a spider eating a banana!”

Even after the sun goes down, Alki Beach beckons.  We bundled up with our neighbors for a January bonfire and made a meal of roasted hot dogs and s’mores.

Our neighbor’s crispy Christmas tree made for quite the pyrotechnic show.

Shane’s mom and dad spent last week in Seattle and we toured them around our West Seattle faves, from the Sunday Farmers Market to Lincoln Park.

Shane had a contact at Amazon that offered us a tour of the downtown Amazon Spheres, a pair of glassy greenhouses filled with thousands of plant species.

This space serves as an employee lounge and workspace for Amazonians – how fancy are they?!

It was all pretty stunning – in the midst of a bunch of ho-hum new development in Seattle, it felt good to see something exceptional.

P.S.  Juliette LOVES Grandpa.

Sight-seeing with Denny and Pat was fun, but doing the day-to-day with them was even better.  They joined us for Juliette’s swim lessons and excitedly cheered her on every time she made it across the pool – these are things I know they miss regularly being a part of.  Grandpa slipped her twenty dollars one day and then we swung by the toy store for a shopping spree; they loved watching her labor over her choices.  Sweet, spoiled girl.

These two were inseparable – every time Denny walked into the room, Juliette ran to wrap her arms around him.  He ate it up.

I mean, how could you not?

Denny gleefully chowed down on his beloved Penn Cove mussels at the neighborhood seafood place last Saturday afternoon, and then it was time to say goodbye.  Golly, we miss you, Schnells!  Shane and I are having a hard time meeting the daily hug quota you set with Juliette.

And now, on with the business of Spring!  We brunched on the Westward patio after church on Sunday and I am feeling all kinds of hopeful about entering a new season.  Winter had its highlights, but I also feel like I vacillated a lot between amped-up busy-ness and too-tired doldrums.  Here’s to a mid-March breath of fresh air…