Archive for the ‘the gang’ Category

Gracious, summer has been good to us, with pool days and lake days and a special Sunday at Safeco.  A few July snapshots:

Juliette and I spent a Friday last month checking out the Henry Moses Aquatic Center down in Renton – after all of our winter and spring visits to the Rainier Beach pool, swimming outside felt like such a lovely novelty.

I’ve always loved the warmer months, but experiencing summer through a child’s eyes really ups the ante.

We caught a Mariner’s game a few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon – Juliette asks to “visit the moose” every time we drive past Safeco field, so it was pretty special to finally grant her request.

That magic moment of watching the field open up before you after that painful slog of making your way to your high-up seats:

Juliette was amazingly engaged, asking Shane who each new batter was, cheering when the M’s got a hit or when they struck out a Yankee.  Granted, this level of engagement only lasted about one and a half innings, but still, she dug it!

After the game, we headed down to the field to run the bases with the kiddos.  While in line, Jack entertained Nico and Jules with his mind-melding tricks.

And, the crowd roars!!!

You’re an all-star, Jules.

And because these two just couldn’t get enough of each other, we gathered at Tutta Bella for dinner, rounding out the day with gelato and giggles.

Shane’s sister and her clan came to visit at the end of July and we painted the town red, hitting Pike’s Place Market and Bainbridge Island and our favorite neighborhood joints.

We spent a sunny afternoon at Lake Sammamish, taking turns on the paddle board.  Everyone managed to get up on it for at least a short row.  Almost everyone managed to not fall in.

Show-off!

These kids got along so splendidly throughout the visit – Juliette has seriously hit the cousin jackpot.

We headed up to Mukilteo the following morning to spend the day with Aunt Val and Uncle Doug at their beachfront abode.

The afternoon was a sunny blur of hopping back and forth between the swimming pool and the fishing dock.

We pulled up several dozen crabs in the span of a couple of hours – most of them were tossed back, but a few extra-large ones were put on ice to await a fateful dinnertime end.

Dinner was a veritable crab bonanza, as the gentlemen boiled and cracked our bucketful of that day’s catch.

We spent Sunday morning with the fam at Alki, where Seattle showed off its beachy blues.

And to round out the grand tour de Seattle, we rented a couple of four-person bikes for a ride down the boulevard.  I’ve forgotten how fun it can be to play the part of the tourist in our city!

Our legs were screaming a couple miles in, so we popped off at a dock to take a rest and take in the sights.

These girls!  The sweetest.


Our house was oh-so-full but oh-so-fun for those few days.  There’s a lotta love on that couch!

It was hard to say good-bye on Sunday afternoon…this photo says it all.

And now we find ourselves more than half-way through August, as this summer flies by with lightning speed.  I’m keeping my swimsuit handy, though – there’s still much to savor.

The final installment on our Canadian adventures:

Friday morning was much like the others, waking up to a canopy of green overhead, reluctantly leaving the cocoon of our sleeping bags and then dragging our chairs into a patch of sun to eat and read and laze.

I bemoaned the burn ban in those chilly mornings hours, but Jules and Isaiah warmed themselves by their pretend campfire, assembling s’mores out of moss marshmallows and tree bark graham crackers.

We returned to Alta Lake with the Rusts after breakfast, as we couldn’t imagine a better place to lunch and  lounge.

Juliette might not have any idea just how special these places we visit are, but I like to think we’re instilling in her a lifelong love of being outside, showing her that the world is big and beautiful and meant to be adored.

Shuttle Shane…

I tried to get Jules to the dock sans paddleboard, but once I dipped her waist-deep in the cold lake, she begged for mercy – we quickly waded back to the shore for frisbee and snacks.

This place was a dream, I tell ya’.

And I love how those freckles on her nose get a little bit darker with each subsequent camping trip!

Having fully reveled in the goodness of Alta Lake, I asked Shane if we could swing by nearby Logger Lake on the way back to camp, just to see how it stacked up.  I had read that Logger Lake is small but special, as it sits atop an extinct volcano.

And as was the case with any sight we saw that week, it was worth the trip!

I’m not a big lake swimmer, as I like my water chlorinated and at a balmy 90 degrees, but I couldn’t resist taking a plunge.  Plus, after three days without showering, I needed a rinse.

Swimsuit, sneakers, and a dirty butt – such a good look on her.

Juliette spent the hike back down to the car pretending that Shane was a great big bear that she could keep at bay only through the powers of her magic wand.  Whatever keeps her moving!

I put Juliette into her pajamas early that evening, as it seemed she was on the verge of collapsing into sleep at any moment.  She was completely exhausted.

And yet…

Early bedtime be damned.  This kid was set on an evening bike ride.

We closed out our last full day at camp with tacos and wine and one last round of s’mores.  While I was feeling awfully antsy for a hot shower and a set of clean sheets, I sure was going to miss this place.  I loved feeling so away from it all, loved the happy chorus of goodnights yelled by the kids to one another as they were zipped into their respective tents, loved making do with less as I got dressed out of a duffel bag rather than an over-stuffed closet and cooked meals out of a cooler rather than a crowded fridge.

Even bedtime books were simpler, as Jules chose from a stack of three rather than a shelf of dozens.

We polished off the last of our oatmeal and yogurt and coffee on Saturday morning and lingered in our favorite sunny circle.

The kids harvested huckleberries while the grownups packed…

Saturday was Jason’s birthday and he was clearly intent on proving his youth, despite the added notch on his age belt!

And then, tents down and cars loaded, it was time to snap our obligatory group pics and hit the road.

(Shane, you really need to work on your funny face!)

We stopped for lunch at Watershed Bar and Grill in Squamish, which looked a little divey from the street, but once we walked up over the bluff to the restaurant’s front door, we were greeted with this tableside view!

 

These mountains!  That river!  So hard to say good-bye.

That said, hot showers and cold, bubbly wine certainly eased my post-camping blues.  We had booked a night at a hotel in Richmond, just outside of Vancouver, to do some big-city eating and drinking with Jack and La Verne.  After Happy Hour beverages at the Fairmont, we all gathered at the Richmond Night Market for a new kind of adventure.

This place was big and bustling and a little bit hokey – such a stark contrast to campsite #20.

I mean, seriously, it was crazy-town!

But it had all the meat on a stick a girl could ever want.

Happy Birthday, J!

And wow, happy early birthday to me, ’cause this mango shave ice was soooooo good.

We woke up late-ish on Sunday morning and went downstairs to Starbucks for a latte and a vanilla steamer.

Civilization has its perks, huh Jules?

We all stuffed ourselves silly with Dim Sum later that morning, oohing and ahhing with each new dish that would magically appear at the table.

And then there was nothing left to do but hit the duty-free shop and head for home.  Ohhhhh, Canada.  We knew you were good, but wow, we had no idea.

Mornings at camp are some of my favorite times, sipping coffee while stirring oatmeal at the campstove,  stretching breakfast into an hour-long affair.  Juliette gets a big mug of warm cinnamon milk and Shane fries up a pan of breakfast sausages and we do none of the rushing around that our typical weekdays entail.

I was just settling into my chair with my second cup of coffee on Thursday morning when I heard a ruckus from the other end of the campsite and saw Jason marching toward the bridge with a log hoisted over his head, the kids excitedly trailing behind.  I couldn’t help but follow.

This bunch of folks is just so good at the camping shenanigans.

Once we’d log-jammed the river, I headed back to my seat in the sun.

And the kids had a go on the slack line…

BUPS!

We rallied late morning and piled into our cars to head out for a hike up to Cheakamus Lake.  Shane hauled the paddleboard, because, well, Shane.

We weren’t the speediest bunch, per se, but that was ok, as there was plenty of scenery to savor along the way, from deep dark woods…

To lush, glowing thickets.

Juliette was a trooper, though when J offered to put her up on his shoulders two miles in, she was quick to accept.

Some risks are just too good to pass up.

We eventually made it to the lake and hunkered down on a tiny patch of lakefront while Shane paddled ahead to see if there was a larger place to spread out for lunch.

We were waved ahead to a perfect sitting log and ate our sandwiches while the guys took turns on the paddleboard.

This place was so worth the trek!

I got out on the SUP for a few minutes but turned back when the choppy, freezing cold water started lapping over my board.  Contrary to Jason, I find that some risks aren’t worth taking!

The hike back to the cars took some coaxing in the form of a perpetual game of hike and seek, where the kids would run ahead to hide behind trees and the adults would feign utter astonishment each time they jumped out.  Also, candy.

The rest of the afternoon was quiet, with a quick spin through Whistler village for wine and ice, followed by plenty of campsite reading, hammocking, and biking.

The kids tossed a few more sticks in the river…

And then goodnight hugs were shared all around.

The great outdoors continue to beckon – on 07/11 we grabbed our passports, put on our adventure-hats, and headed north to the wondrous land of Canada with a hope and a prayer that the no-reservations campground on our list would have an open site and running water.

Negatory on the running water, but WOO-HOO to finding a site!  We snagged the very best spot at Cal-Cheak campground near Whistler, right on the river and incredibly private (note to self: #21 on the south loop is where it’s at!).

Shane’s become a master at setting up camp, popping up our tent and stringing up our hammock in a matter of minutes.

We spent the late afternoon settling into our new home and ate an easy dinner of brats while waiting for the Rust clan to arrive.

Though there was no running drinkable water on-site, rushing water was in abundance, as we were right at the nexus of two roaring rivers.  We spent a lot of time down here, skipping rocks and throwing sticks and rinsing our dusty feet.

The Rusts rolled up in the evening and we all hung out for a bit before turning in around 9:00.  Jules insisted on donning her headlamp on our pre-bedtime trip to the potty, just in case it turned dark during the 2-minute walk back to our tent.

We woke up around 7:30 most days but lingered in the tent until well after 8:00, reading and snuggling and playing until the urge to pee drove us from our sleeping bags.

Shane and Jason headed out for a morning run and allowed the boys to gallop across the suspension bridge with them before they were sent back to chill with the moms.

The Rusts went south around lunchtime to check out the kite-boarding scene while Shane, Jules, and I headed north to Whistler to grab groceries and to see if Alta Lake was as good as we’d heard.  Answer:  a resounding YES.

This place was amazing, with a wide-open lawn, stunning mountain views, and clear, shallow waters.  We’ve seen a lot of lakes over the past few years, but this one might be my all-time favorite.

I got out for a spin on the SUP and as the winds pushed me north, I found an opening in a patch of reeds and discovered a lovely little channel, filled with lily pads and pond lilies.

The against-the-wind row back to Shane and Juliette was a little dicey, and there was a period of a few minutes where I felt like I was paddling my heart out and going nowhere, but eventually I made it to the shore where all was serene.

Juliette was thrilled to discover little tadpoles circling her feet and was over the moon when a little girl offered to share her net – in just a few minutes, these two had accumulated a bucket full of fish!  Her grandpas would have been so proud.

Wind isn’t ideal for paddle-boarding, but it’s dang good for kite-flying!

Shane got out for his own excursion while Juliette and I read books and played tag.

And then it was her turn!

This was the perfect place for Juliette to test her balance, as the water at the shore was only knee-deep and somewhat protected from the breeze.  Girl’s got skills!


Adios, Alta!

The evening was reserved for a leisurely campstove dinner and assorted campsite shenanigans.  All of the kids are currently very into watching their dads play Zelda on Nintendo and spent much of the week pretending they were forest warriors.  Juliette whacked the heck out of this tree monster!

And finally, s’mores, made with mallows roasted over the campstove and eaten in the hammock due to an unfortunate burn ban.

I missed gathering around a fire in the evenings, but Juliette didn’t seem to be the least bit bummed.

Pre-bedtime yoga session…

And then bedtime stories (aka Zelda tips and tricks) by Shane.  Wednesday was a wrap.  And we were just getting started!

Camping Trip Numero Dos is in the books, and though we stayed pretty close to home this time, venturing only as far as Bainbridge Island, it was a super-special weekend.  We haven’t done the big-gang camping thing in years and so when five of our favorite families agreed to sleep under the stars with us for a couple of days, we were stoked.  Let the mayhem begin!

We boarded the Bainbridge Ferry on Friday afternoon, cars loaded down with bikes and kayaks and paddleboards and marshmallows.  Peace out, Seattle!

Helloooooooo, Rainier!

No trip to Bainbridge is complete without a stop at Mora’s for ice cream.

I wiped the last drip of strawberry ice cream from Juliette’s chin and then we hopped in the Forester to set out for camp.  The gentlemen took an alternate mode of transportation.

We rolled up to our three sites at Fay Bainbridge State Park and were thrilled to find that we had in fact reserved a big stretch of lovely lawn, perfect for running and rolling and lounging.

And caterpillar-hunting!

The kids did their own version of summer sledding by hauling each other around on picnic blankets.

And Shane did some bike wheel triage while chatting with Jack over home-brewed Caipirinhas.

Once we’d set up camp and gulped down our first round of cocktails, we walked down to the beach to play in the sand and soak in the sun.

We bought a kite a few weeks ago and have been looking for the perfect place for its maiden voyage.  Found it!

This little driftwood fort was pretty magical, especially with Rainier shining in the distance.  Jules and Stella set up a “restaurant” in there – hot coffee was served in clam shells, with a sprinkle of sand on top.

Captain of the ship!

The grown-ups took to the water on paddle boards and kayaks.

And this little lady ran naked through the sea grass.  Ah, to be young again!

We grilled burgers for dinner and followed up with the requisite s’mores.

Jules and N spent some time mind-melding before bed – they’d squeeze their eyes shut tight, link their hands, and then Jack would ask Juliette what number she was thinking of.  She’d shout increasingly complex digits, like “twenty one hundred seven!”.  Jack would then turn to Nico and ask, “Nico, what number was Juliette thinking of?”  When he repeated, “twenty one hundred seven!”, the two of them would jump up and down, hardly able to believe the mind-reading magic of it all.

Seriously, to be young again!

BTW, this kid is a maniac on the RipStik.

All was (relatively) quiet by about 10 pm and all slept well (ok, not really).  There were a few tired kiddos and parents around the breakfast table on Saturday morning, but once coffee was brewed and the sun fully shone, everyone seemed to find their mojo.  The gentlemen headed out for a bike ride…

While the women and children headed down to the beach.

YOU GUYS.

The tide was super-low that morning and we combed the kelp for crabs, clams, and other sea treasures.

As soon as Shane returned from his ride, I headed out with Nicole and La Verne for an afternoon paddle.  The water was choppy, so Nicole and I “kayaked” on our paddle boards, returning to shore with soaking wet butts but newly browned shoulders.

Blue Crush, mid-thirties mama-style!

Juliette had played so hard that morning that I expected to return to camp to find her passed out in the tent, but…not so much.

Emily and La Verne ran to the store for a couple of things and returned with popsicles and margarita fixin’s.  Effusive gratitude was felt all around.

Jules and Stella shared a Moana moment…

While Eden and Shane played the sweetest-ever game of peek-a-boo.

I’m storing this moment with this crew in the memory bank, as we drifted in and out of the circle, story-telling and group-parenting and laughing like family.

Bop it, Bups.

These two pulled out all the stops when stalling at bedtime – it was almost as if Nico whispered in Juliette’s ear, “Hug me!  They’ll take our picture and forget about tooth-brushing!”

Finally, though, everyone was tucked in and camp was quiet (ok, not really).  Juliette woke up at 2 am desperate to poop and while I very reluctantly agreed to take her to the bathroom, all was made right when we crossed the clearing on the way to the Honey Bucket and she looked up at the sky to gasp, “Mommy, the stars!  They’re so beautiful!”  We turned off our head lamps and crouched there in the middle of the grass for a moment, feelin’ that camping buzz something fierce.

One of the three of us woke up the next morning with bright eyes and a smile on her face.  Guess which one.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at camp, letting the kids harvest unripe berries while the adults pounded the coffee that Jack had graciously picked up at Starbucks.

We got in one last beach-fix, kayaking and shell-hunting and kite-flying…

And then it was time to catch our 1:10 ferry back to the real world.  Thankfully, the real world offers showers and indoor bathrooms.  Otherwise, I might never have wanted to leave our little island oasis…

There are lots of reasons to be giddy about the arrival of Summer in the PNW, but the onset of camping season tops my list.  And so the first free June weekend we had, we put “CAMPING” on our calendar, heading for the hills with a hope and a prayer that the questionable weather forecast would turn in our favor (Lord knows we weren’t so lucky last time we camped in June, but I was feeling optimistic).

Nancy had booked us a site at Fort Flagler State Park up near Port Townsend, and there’s always a bit of anxiety that comes with rolling into a campground you’ve never visited before – would the sites be crammed together?  would the tent spots be right next to the road?  would it be sparsely wooded?  OR, would it be sheltered and spacious and totally amazing?  From the minute I stepped out of the car, I knew this one was the latter!

Shane got right to work setting up the tent while Juliette and I explored the nearby trails, hunting for spiders and squirrels.

Juliette and I spent a few minutes laying down in the tent, but the moment we heard the Rust clan roll up, she shot up like a dart – in no time, all three kids were helmeted and on some form of wheels.

The beach was a two-minute drive from our site and we all headed down there before dinner to check out the scene.  And the scene was…BLUE!

Shane gave Gryff some lessons in rock skipping while Jules and Isaiah watched from their sunny perch.

Juliette has fully fallen into the role of the pesky kid sister, spending much of the weekend shouting, “Come sit by me, Gryff!  Gryff!  GRYFFIN!!!”  He’s so sweet to indulge her…

Can you believe the forecast that day was for steady drizzle?  Psssshhhhh.

We headed back to camp for brats and corn and cold beer around the campfire.

And, of course, the mallows.

I was eager to see the sunset, so Shane graciously offered to put Juliette to bed while I grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach (get your scroll finger ready!).

I mean, Holy Moly, this place was lovely.

I strolled to the end of a sandy spit and then stopped to sit on a piece of driftwood for awhile and fully breathe it all in.

I headed back to camp as the sun dipped below the horizon.  The water faded to darker shades of purple and blue, looking so much like a real-life Monet.

We all slept like rocks that night and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (ok, Shane was hardly bright-eyed, but Jules was feelin’ the camping joy!).

Juliette was convinced that giants lived under this metal hatch near the restrooms, so it was crucial that we tip-toed and wore our headlamps on our morning pee-run, just in case.

After we’d caffeinated and breakfasted and taken our sweet time getting out of our pajamas, we set out for a hike along the bluff.

This kid was channeling his inner Hulk (a la Halloween 2016).

Flagler was a military fort manned during World Wars 1 and 2 and the trail was dotted with bunkers and searchlights and batteries.

And…deer!

We eventually made it to the end of the trail and down to the beach for fort-building and shell-searching.

Shane set out on a bike ride while I hung back with Juliette (climb, baby, climb!).

Jules took an afternoon snooze and then we went back down to the beach to fill her bucket with purple shells and dried-out crabs.

It was like Halloween, watching her lay out all her loot back at camp!

We ate another hearty meal around the campfire and then Juliette waited not-so-patiently for Dad to roast her marshmallow.

We found ourselves with just enough pre-bedtime buzz to walk back down to that irresistible beach to catch the day’s last rays.

Driftwood shenanigans…

Good night, sun…

We stayed close to camp Sunday morning, slowly packing up while the kids made smoke signals and played soccer.

Juliette’s a bit young to be a legitimate playmate for a seven year old, but there were certainly moments when I saw these two having a grand ol’ time together…

Cheers to a killer start to camping season!

Shane decided he wanted to make the 50-mile trek to the Bainbridge Ferry on his bike (talk about a Hulk!), so Juliette and I made our own adventure of getting home, heading to Bremerton to check out Harborside Fountains and catch the ferry from there.

She hung back for the first half-hour, timidly dipping her toes in the water’s edge.

But soon she waded farther in…

And before long the pants were off.

We caught the 3:00 ferry to Seattle and I bought Juliette her first Choco Taco as a thank you for being such a good travel companion that day.  She took that first bite and asked with astonished delight, “Do I get to eat the whole thing?!”  Have at it, kiddo.

I was pooped and asked Juliette if we could just spend some time quietly sitting on a bench inside.  Sweet kid offered to read me a story while I rested!

And then our boat cruised up to the Seattle dock and we were home, sun-kissed and smelling of campfire smoke.  Next weekend, we head out for Camping Round 2.  The future is bright!

Memorial Day weekend was long and sunny and filled with good times with the gang – dare I say that summer has come a little early this year???

Juliette and I heralded the arrival of 80-plus temps with a Mama-Jules Friday at Gene Coulon Beach.

She rides a little lower every time she gets in that boat, but somehow, it still floats!

I’m so looking forward to a summer of Fridays with this kid…

After leaving the beach, we stopped by Target for paper towels and walked out with an inflatable pool, because, I mean, 82 degrees, people!  We just lived through Seattle’s coldest winter in 32 years!

We dusted off the paddle board on Saturday morning for a jaunt around Lake Washington…

And then set up camp on the lawn with our peeps.  It was a long, lazy morning of mimosas and baseball and water bazookas.

We celebrated N’s fourth birthday that evening with a dinosaur egg hunt and generously frosted cupcakes.

It was like Easter in May!  Brilliant party planning, La Verne…

Happiest of birthdays to this sweet boy!

Jules and N haven’t seen a whole lot of each other this past few weeks and seemed quite happy to be reunited again.

While the littler kids played with their eggs, G and Z did dare-devil stunts with scooters and riding toys down the Chens’ steep driveway.  Rough and tumble, these two…

Shane scored a big-kids bike on Craigslist on Saturday and gave Juliette her first pedal lesson on Sunday.  She’s got a ways to go before she’s cruising around this thing on her own, but biking lessons seem like a perfect father-daughter summer project.

I, on the other hand, am quite comfortable with my new wheels and loved our Sunday afternoon ride down to the lake and around Seward Park.  Check us out!  We’re a biking family!

 

We ran into the Chens down on the Boulevard and biked with them for awhile.

Juliette was such a good sport on our 14-mile trek that we let her maximize her pre-bed playtime by eating dinner in her new swimming pool.  Copper River salmon has never tasted so good!

Tempted as I was to lay super-low on Monday, Shane was gunning for another family ride, so we strapped our bikes to the Forester and drove over to Marymoor Park for a Redhook Ride.

I have to say, the Brewery payoff felt slightly out of proportion with the meager seven miles we rode to get there…  But hey!  It was a holiday!

We capped off our weekend o’ sun back at Seward Park, where I laid on the grass while the kids splashed in the lake.

And with that, May Madness is a wrap.

Psalm 118:24 was read aloud several times over at church on Sunday morning and rattled around in my head throughout the day:

This is the day that the Lord hath made.

We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Indeed, it was a weekend full of rejoicing.  Because…Easter!  And sunshine!  And this sweet kid’s 7th birthday!

We spent Saturday morning at the Rusts’, ringing in Isaiah’s 7th.  There were lawn games and presents and pizza and popsicles.  And smiles.  This! Boy’s! Smiles!

Happy birthday, Bups!

Post-party, Shane and Juliette went on a 1.5-hour bike ride while I wandered the aisles of Target in blissful solitude.  I expected Juliette to be antsy and tugging at her bike helmet by the time they got back as she’s never spent more than 30 minutes in the bike seat, but this girl was such a good sport.  It seems she’s cherishing Daddy-Jules time more than ever.

I hated to spend the day’s last few sun rays indoors, so Juliette and I took a stroll through the Greenbelt before dinner – this little patch of woods has become our go-to when we want a nature-fix.

The birds seemed particularly exuberant that evening – one jay (?) had Juliette a bit spooked with his extra-loud calls.

Eh…no worries!

There are times when I open up a photo I’ve taken and my stomach flip-flops at the sight of how grown-up and lovely this girl has become.  Hard to believe she’s only three.  And yet hard to believe she’s already three!

We ushered in Easter Sunday with pastries at Cafe Besalu, sensing God’s goodness in the form of buttery croissants and rich coffee.

After church, we headed over to Discovery Park to do some exploring with the Rusts.

The woods were bursting with bright, bright green, poignantly heralding signs of new life.

After a few wrong turns, we finally landed down at the beach, where we muddied our shoes and flipped over rocks in search of crabs.

Jules and I hung tight in this driftwood fort while Shane trekked back uphill to get the car.


We all snoozed through much of the afternoon and then woke up rearing to go again.  I hid a few eggs out back for Juliette to find and loved watching her react like she’d won the jackpot every time she cracked one open.

She quickly amassed all 15 jelly beans, looking into her bucket with bright-eyed wonder and exclaiming, “I think I have a thousand jelly beans, Mommy!”.  I put together a grander basket this year as the ultimate prize, stuffing it with art supplies and a new doll.

We headed over the Rusts’ again that evening for an egg hunt with the bigger kids.  I was glad Juliette had gotten her own private hunt at home, because she didn’t stand a chance against these rascals!

The boys were actually pretty great about sticking to their 10-egg limit and leaving the easy-to-find ones for their kid sister.

We feasted on roast chicken and then let the kids run off their jelly bean high.  Isaiah was kind enough to share his birthday walkie-talkies with Juliette, who spent 15 straight minutes jabbering into the thing without letting him get a word in edgewise.

Sometimes rejoicing comes so very naturally – my heart is full.  Thanks be to God.

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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We’ve made something of a ritual of heading down to California in late winter for a Vitamin D fix.  And you know what pairs perfectly with Vitamin D?  WINE!  Jack and La Verne recommended a long weekend in Napa in lieu of repeating the Santa Monica trip we took last year and Shane and I jumped at the chance to wine-taste with our aficionado-friends.  We landed in Oakland last Wednesday after an uneventful flight and made a quick stop at In-N-Out for burgers and fries before jetting toward Napa.

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We rolled up to Artesa Winery mid-afternoon after winding our way through sun-kissed vineyards.  I forgot how beautiful this valley can be…

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would fare at these grown-up venues, but they were troopers – Juliette used her carton of milk to toast to Shane’s Chardonnay and remained (relatively) well-behaved while we tasted our way through the menu.

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Just when I thought we’d had our last round, another four glasses would appear.  MAGIC.

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Finally, after sipping the range from bubbly Brut to rich Cabernet, we’d had our fill and were ready to head out.  Run free, Jules!

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Cabernet makes you jump, jump…

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Thick as thieves…

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Dreamy, isn’t it?

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Even Shane couldn’t resist the pull of that wide-open lawn!

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(photo by La Verne)

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(photo by La Verne)

Cheers to a very promising start to this trip!

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We checked into our vacation house in Sonoma and promptly changed into our swimsuits to hit the hot tub.

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This girl loves a good long soak, apparently!

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Jack had packed a jar of homemade pesto in his suitcase because, well, he’s Jack, and he whipped up a decadent pasta dish for dinner, perfectly paired with a bottle of Chardonnay we’d picked up at Artesa.

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The kids went down with very little struggle and the grownups stayed up later than we should have, drinking and talking and settling comfortably into vacation-mode.

The guys headed out early on Thursday for a run while La Verne and I stayed back to feed the munchkins.

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After breakfast, we sent the kids out to the backyard to burn off a little energy before heading out for our grand tour de wine.

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It was a longer-than expected drive out to El Molino due to an accident and a re-route, but nearly two hours after we set out, we arrived!

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We were all eager to stretch our legs.

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This little gem of a winery is run by a couple that does it all and the owner/winemaker/grape-stomper, Jon, spent a couple of hours graciously showing us around.

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Juliette carefully arranged pinecones while the rest of us intently listened to Jon about his process (i.e., schemed about how to run our own winery someday).

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While Jon poured us a tasting, the kids got friendly with the chickens.  Seriously, this place was a dream.

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As was the Chardonnay!

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With a bottle of Chardonnay under one arm and a bottle Pinot under the other, Jack left there a happy man.

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We grabbed sandwiches to-go from a deli in St. Helena and blazed onward.

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We landed at Pride Mountain mid-afternoon and opted to skip the hour-long cave tour due to the dubious looks cast Juliette’s way by the host.  We settled on a patio tasting and a romp through the vineyards.

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When we booked this trip, there was a part of me that wondered if it was fair to ask Juliette to come along on a wine-tasting excursion.  Looking back at these photos, I’d hardly say she suffered.

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Sufficiently wined, we headed out, making a quick stop at the Napa outlets and then settling in at the house for crafts, hot tubbing, a very active round of Simon Says, and takeout burritos.

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We awoke Friday to the sound of raindrops – a storm had moved in and the forecast called for a soaking-wet day.  We grabbed a bite at Bouchon Bakery and then took our seats at the tasting table at Sullivan Vineyards.

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Juliette was stoked that this place actually served something she could consume – she pounded about eight of these breadsticks!

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(photo by Jack)

We leisurely sipped our way through the menu while the kids got their daily dose of screen time.

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And then we all spent awhile looking longingly out the window while the skies gushed – this definitely wasn’t vineyard-strolling weather!

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(photo by La Verne)

We lunched on burgers at Gott’s and then treated Juliette to ice cream at the Oxbow Market.

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The upside to a pouring wet California afternoon?  No shame in holing up indoors for a good long nap!

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The house was pretty quiet all afternoon – most of us dozed and then La Verne and I did a little living room Barre3.  Jack and La Verne prepared another mighty-fine meal and we were joined by Jack’s mom and sister for dinner.

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I almost went to bed with Juliette at 8:00 but rallied – as this was our last night there, we had wine and snacks to polish off (Cabernet and Cool Ranch Doritos for the win!).

The skies had cleared on Saturday morning, so Juliette and I took the hot tub for one last spin.  When I asked her what her favorite part of the trip had been, she quickly replied, “The cave!” (at El Molino).  But a moment later, after glancing around the yard, she changed her mind and said the vacation house was her favorite.  I wasn’t too eager to leave, either…

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A rousing game of Ring Around the Rosie…

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And then we said farewell to the Chens as they headed to the airport.

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Shane and I were sticking around California for a couple more days to visit our friends in Turlock.  Before heading to the Central Valley, though, one last winery…  We popped into Ravenswood for a 10:30 am tasting (!).

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This girl…I’m so proud of her for hanging with us while we imbibed.  You’re a good sport, Jules.

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And on that note, we said good-bye to Napa’s rolling green hills.  Next stop, T-Town!

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