Archive for the ‘the gang’ Category

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…

Good Lord, we’ve been out of our groove this month, in some the best and worst ways.  WINTER.  When the first snowflakes started to fall on Seattle three weeks ago, we cranked up our fireplace, hauled our TV up from the basement, and settled in for a cozy Sunday of reading and football Superbowl commercials.  

By late afternoon the snow had started to stick and children emerged from houses up and down the street, bundled up and ready to play.  It wasn’t much more than a dusting, really, but it doesn’t take much for Seattle-ites to declare simultaneous states of joy and emergency.  Stock up on milk and bread!  Stay off the roads! And bring out the sleds!

We like our snowmen petite in Seattle.

Snow continued to fall overnight and shouts of glee were audible across the city as parents read school cancellation notices aloud to their children on Monday morning.  SNOW DAY!  Shane and I tag-teamed with Juliette throughout the day, struggling to piece together a legitimate work-from-home day while not missing any of the fun. 

School was closed again on Tuesday, which felt more inconvenient than exciting, as I was prepping for a Wednesday work trip to San Diego.  Between my work travel and Shane’s adjustment to his new job, we really feel like we’re in the thick of the parent/professional hustle, and Juliette’s ever-presentness added another layer of complexity to our days.  But when the next wave of snow started falling on Friday afternoon, I was giddy.  The three of us stood at our living room window and cheered as a few fluffy flakes transitioned into a full-on snowstorm.  With a stocked-full fridge and no work or school on the 2-day horizon, we were hoping for some inches.  Within a couple of hours, we were ready to bring the sled back out.

And by sundown Shane was recruiting the neighbor kids to shovel our driveway – this was legit!

We gathered at our neighbor’s house that night for a hot wings smorgasbord and laughed as the guys were driven to tears by the spiciest of sauces.  We stayed way past the kiddo’s bedtime, embracing that structure-less snow day vibe.

We opened our shades on Saturday morning to find a few more inches on the ground and quickly pulled on our gear, wanting to make the first footprints on the sidewalk.

These people were out for a morning ski in the middle of the road.  Turns out snow-time is a lot like sun-time in Seattle – everyone happily busts out their sporting goods and carpe’s the diem.

Shane would disappear into the garage every few minutes and re-emerge with a new mode of transportation.

And Juliette was thrilled when her playmates came out, one by one.  This ramp/slide became a neighborhood hotspot over the course of the weekend (wait for it!).

While the kids were distracted with building snow castles, the dads upped the ante on the ramp.

Finally, it was deemed sufficiently steep and a line formed very quickly.  So many little speed-demons!

Juliette was insatiable, wanting to go again and again and again.

Our resident luge-er…

I read on a weather blog that snow really brings out the best in Seattle-ites, and we felt that fiercely in our neck of the woods.  There was such a strong sense of community around here as we shared our snow shovels and sleds, kept an eye on each other’s kids, invited each other in for chili and chocolate chip cookies at the end of the day.

Sunday was snowy again and we started to feel those first tinglings of the snowed-in itch, so we hopped in the Forester and made the short trip to the Rusts.

Shane and J broke away from fort-building to do some skiing through Camp Long.  Talk about giddy!

And then, sledding.  I was caught off-guard by the speed of the hills and Juliette and I ended up with faces full of snow as I used my feet to put on the breaks.  From that point forward, she insisted on riding with Nancy, who proved to be a more sensible pilot.

When your toboggan breaks, you improvise…

Jason was decidedly less sensible than Nance, but still, Juliette had fun.

Post-sledding, we lunched and hot-tubbed and crafted away the afternoon.

We headed home when the next wave of snow started to fall, eager to get inside and hole up for the night.  However, when Juliette saw the line of kids behind the ramp across the street, she was back at it.

I tried to call her in, but she insisted she needed to stick around to escort all the littles that didn’t want to sled by themselves.

Seriously, kiddo – look at your father’s face.  For the love of God, call it a day!

Never.

And then, Monday.  School was cancelled again and transit was a mess, so Shane and I worked from home.  “Work” is relative term, really.

Several more in my “Jules+Snow” series…just keep scrolling.

This time last year we were in the thick of house-hunting, dreaming of a place where Juliette could run around in the yard with neighbor kids.  We nailed it.

 

I squeezed in a few hours of work while Juliette played at a friend’s house, then set out for a brisk walk to check out the West Seattle scene.  I stood at the edge of Schmitz Park and marveled at the total quiet of the blanketed woods.

I loved seeing these two people perched on a bench, taking in the whited-out view of the Sound beyond.

I popped inside for a 30-minute work call and came back out to find that the kids (and dads) had been busy.  I take back what I said about those petite Seattle snowmen!

And then, because I think everyone sensed the snowfall was at its tail end, the ante was upped on the shenanigans.

Really, our neighbor was driving slowly and the kids were secure.  Totally safe.

We invited the neighborhood gang over for wine and dessert that night and I felt a little pang of melancholy as someone remarked that this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing for all of us.  We might get another mondo snowfall a few years down the road, but our kids will never be this age in this kind of snowstorm again.  It had been such a wonder-filled, festive few days.

BUT, festivity be damned, by Tuesday we were over it.  Snow turned to rain and brown overtook white on roads and sidewalks.  Our snowmen were quickly reduced to a sad pile of slush and carrots.  And school was closed again.  Come on, Seattle – Mama’s gotta WORK!

School resumed on Thursday (praise the LORD), and this past week was business as usual, for better and for worse.  It’s fitting that this is the last photo I have on my Snow-Zilla image reel, taken on the last real snow day.  Way to play your heart out, kiddo.

Juliette and I had a solid week off from work and school after our Christmas trip to Portland, and it was glorious.  We turned the bustle-dial waaaaay down and stayed close to home, some days venturing only as far as the neighborhood coffee shop, where we sipped our steamer and latte with the utmost leisure.

A friend offered us last-minute tickets to the Seattle Children’s Theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit, and we said YES, thankful for our wide-open calendar.

We loved, loved, loved the show, which was poignant and creative and beautifully acted.  Juliette is at such a fun age right now, up for anything and thrilled with (most) new experiences.

Afterward, we met up with Shane for pizza at Mioposto, toasting to him for a big certification test he’d passed that morning.

We spent a rainy Saturday curled up in the cushy seats at AMC for a Mary Poppins matinee.  Again, loved it!  Our little patron of the arts…

Post-movie, we stretched our legs with a spin on Juliette’s Christmas scooter.

And then we settled in every evening with Juliette’s new stash of games – this girl is something of a Jenga master!

Shane was eager by December 26th to clear the Christmas stuff out of the house and get a fresh start to the year, so I memorialized our beloved tree with a few Mama-Jules pics (and then convinced him to leave it up till January!).

New Year’s Eve was crisp and clear, so Juliette and I got out for ride/run at Alki and then warmed ourselves at a coffee shop we’ve been meaning to check out.

…and later that afternoon, Shane and I warmed ourselves at a neighborhood pub we’ve been wanting to check out.  Give me all the twinkle-lit spaces!

The gang convened at our house on the evening of NYE for a family sleepover.  Jack brought a bottle of Veuve and we raised our glasses early while the kids were still up, wanting to let them in on the festivities (I meant to pour them each a glass of sparkling apple juice but was so excited about the Veuve that I forgot to get their drinks; they gorged themselves on cookies and M&Ms instead).

They watched the ball drop (East Coast time) on Jason’s phone and very enthusiastically blew their horns.

Finally, around 9:30, the littles were tucked into their sleeping bags.  Although…they don’t look so sleepy, do they?

N and J had quite the time settling down, though Juliette sweetly offered to hold Nico’s hand “to help him get to sleep”.  Next time I checked the monitor, they were both on the floor.  By 11:00 they were both in her bed.  Finally, at 11:30, all was still.

Meanwhile, the adults seemed to grow louder as the night went on, our game of Bowl of Nouns becoming more and more raucous with each round.

At one point, Jack was literally curled up on the floor, clutching his stomach and laughing over my attempt at charade-ing “potluck”.

We toasted one more time as the clock struck midnight, thrilled by the dawn of a new year, but also thrilled that we’d all managed to stay up that late!

We got a slow start on New Years Day, sleepily convening at the table for cinnamon rolls and bacon…

and then all jetted to Alki Beach to watch the gents take their annual Polar Bear Plunge.

As per usual, Shane was the first one out of the water, while Jason stayed behind to frolic.

Juliette thinks they’re all nuts.

We spent the afternoon under a pile of blankets, drinking tea and watching Star Wars (which in hindsight, might be a tad scary for Juliette).

Hard as it was to remove ourselves from the couch, I was determined to celebrate the dawn of a new year with a sunset stroll, so we made our way to Lincoln Park to scooter and skip rocks.

 

Welcome, 2019.  I’ve got high hopes for you.

Lordy, Lordy, it’s been a doozy of a month – I always enter into December with the intention to slow down and savor the season and spend my evenings quietly dwelling on the magic of the advent season, but the best-laid plans…  I’ve been living in crazy-town at work, with a huge deadline yesterday and a 28-hour stint in San Diego earlier in the week for a project interview.  Shane’s taking a certification exam at the end of the month and has his head in his books most nights.  And then, there are all the Christmas things.  ALL THE CHRISTMAS THINGS.  I thought about giving myself a pass and nixing a few holiday traditions this year, but I just couldn’t do it – not because I feel like I have to see all the lights and bake all the cookies and listen to all the songs, but because dang it, I want to.  I really, really want to.  I love our December rituals.  I love watching Juliette’s face light up at the sight of inflatable rooftop reindeer and dancing fairies.  I love elaborate holiday storefront displays and searching the city for the tallest, twinkliest tree.  I’m a sucker for the Christmas cheese.  And I’m not sorry about it.  So, bring on the lights!

We spent an evening at Gene Coulon Park a couple of weeks ago, strolling the sparkly paths of “Clam Lights” with the Chens.  Juliette and Nico ran ahead of us, squealing in delight at every turn.

Seasons Greetings, friends.

 

We jetted over to Snowflake Lane after work on a Monday evening, hopeful that we’d bypass the weekend crowds.  We had a cozy meal at Earl’s (I love Happy Hour in a squishy booth) and then secured a front-row curbside spot for the show.  This whole production is so ridiculously over-the-top, with the music and the dancing and the fake snow and the people dressed as toy soldiers, walking around on stilts and handing out lollipops.  But like I said, I’m a sucker.  Jules is, too.

This winged woman came by a couple of times to grab Juliette’s hands and give her a twirl.  Kiddo was on Cloud NINE.

I wonder at what age kids stop waving back at the people of the floats?  I hope it’s not for awhile…

Halfway through the parade bubble snow started falling from the sky, upping the wonder ante even more.  I’m telling you, they go big on the Eastside!

 

On a quieter note, I spent last Saturday in the kitchen, baking my heart out while Shane was out skiing and Juliette was playing at the neighbor’s house.  I queued up Little Women on the iPad and patted out my logs of biscotti, pausing for a moment to put my hand on my chest and sigh deeply when Mr. Lawrence gifted Beth with the piano that his little girl used to play.  AND NOW IT CAN MAKE MUSIC AGAIN!  Waaahhhh!  Juliette helped for a hot minute, but was back out the door to play before I’d even pulled out the ingredients for my almond toffee.

Nonetheless, the March sisters proved to be awfully good company.  And when I was done, I got to lick the chocolate off the spatula without sharing.

Rudolph was a great little helper with deliveries, though – we made the rounds with our homemade goodie bags and bid all our neighbors a very merry Christmas.

 

We mixed it up for our annual Seattle family dinner this year and decided to gather our motley crew at MorFire in Capitol Hill for some holiday hot pot.  We gathered around a long table over pots of simmering broth, watching the kids toss in bunches of greens and noodles and shrimp.  Communal dining at its finest!

We gathered back at our house after dinner to open gifts and drink mulled wine and generally engage in more merriment.

This crew does “merry” so very well.

Gifts included a cashmere scarf and plush blankets and a wine shop gift card, but the present that garnered the most excitement was a box of Mario Brothers cereal.  Go figure!

Also, new flashlights!  Perfect for turning off all the lights and jumping on the bed!  (Overwhelming, inexpensive childhood joy is such a beautiful thing.)

 

Our neighbors told us that the Menashe House down on Beach Drive is a holiday must-see for West Seattle-ites, so we popped over there after dinner one night and it did not disappoint.  Lights and a nativity scene and about 15 different Santa figures, perched on the roof and in trees and on the front porch.

And about three million lights.  So good!

 

Juliette has shown an increased interest in Santa this year, catching Shane and I by surprise a couple of weeks ago when she piped up from the back seat, “So, Mommy, Daddy, is Santa really real?”  Shane and I exchanged a quick nervous glance, not entirely sure what our story was.  We’ve never made a big deal about Santa, never really played up the charade or pushed when Juliette’s taken a pass on going to visit him.  Shane, ever the diplomat, responded with, “What do you think?”  Juliette thought for a minute and said, “I guess so…”  And so, I guess we’re rolling with it!  I’m treating as another layer of magic to the season, second of course to the birth of baby Jesus, but still an opportunity for wonder and delight.  There’s a nice mellow Santa chair set up at one of our neighborhood home stores and we took Juliette there this morning to visit the big guy.  She hopped right up on his lap, requested Dentist Barbie (career Barbies are all the rage these days), and then proudly claimed her candy cane.

 

And now, this latest round of work mayhem has passed, Juliette’s school has closed for the year, and we have officially begun Christmas vacation, with eleven luxurious, stress-free days stretching out before us like the plushiest of red velvet carpets.  I might get that December peace and quiet after all…Praise God.

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

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

 

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

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

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

Thankful for both given family and chosen family…

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

I am up to my ears in photos of the past month, with a trips to Idaho and PARIS on the books, but I’ll start with a couple of closer-to-home happenings.

Halloween came and went with much fanfare – there was a Fall Fest and a school party and a trick-or-treating bonanza.  Juliette rocked her Wonder Woman costume in true hero form.

After September’s post-birthday Princess kick, it was nice to see her in something a little less…poofy.

Shane pulls out his old Kevin Durant jersey every year and dresses up as a…basketball player?  In jeans?  I’m not really sure what’s going on here.

But dang, they are so stinking cute.

And…we’re off!

We hooked up with some neighbors and zig-zagged our way around the ‘hood.  Jules was thrilled to be out with such experienced trick-or-treaters – these kids knew exactly which houses doled out the full-size candy bars.

This guy buys 52 pumpkins every Halloween Eve and spends the next day carving each and every one of them.  I told Shane that we have GOT to step up our porch game next year.

We hurried home when it started to rain, Juliette’s bucket brimming with treats.  I have since pilfered all the Snickers bars and Shane has eaten every last Reese’s.  Happy Halloween!

This past week has felt decidedly more Wintry than Autumnal, so we’re squeezing in a couple of final golden strolls before the trees shed their leaves completely.  Juliette and I popped over to Kubota Gardens before her swim lesson one Friday afternoon for a brisk romp.  This place never disappoints.

I know, this headband is a little ridiculous, but it’s her new favorite.  Last night she slept with it on!

We’ve got our route through this place down pat now.  Up the hill, down the hill, over the bridge, under the tree tunnel, to the fish bond, and over the other bridge.

My little mushroom forager…

FRIDAYS!!!

 

And finally, a quick international jaunt with the Chens, lest the dads and the kids felt left out after Lav’s and my week in Paris.  We rolled into Canada on a very rainy Saturday, and after a dim sum fix in Richmond bought tickets at the Vancouver Aquarium for an afternoon of indoor sightseeing.

This is Juliette’s attempt at a fish face:

Jack leveraged his hotel points to snag us all a luxurious suite at the Fairmount, and after settling into our swanky space, we hit the pool.  In the rain!

We all dined on assorted meat skewers at Zakushi for dinner that night.  Juliette was in meatball heaven, and my rich, runny quail egg was to die for.

Back at the hotel, the kids fell asleep in seven seconds flat:

And the fellas picked us up a round of champagne to-go from the hotel bar.

We were determined to savor every last minute of our digs until our noon check-out time on Sunday, so the guys and kids spent the morning at the pool while LaV and I made use of our complimentary spa access.

I’d come back to this place for the mini-robes alone!

We slurped down a ramen lunch and then strolled through Stanley Park before heading south.

Sunday’s sunshine more than made up for Saturday’s downpour.

It was a long ride back to Seattle, even with the Nexus passes that allowed us to zip through the border crossing, but we made it.  We’re HOME for the foreseeable future.  And it feels so good.

Despite the extra hours of daylight, it somehow feels like time actually accelerates in Seattle during the summer.  My stomach does a sad little flip with each page-turn of the calendar.  I mean, it’s already August!  AUGUST!  Where did July go?  (Turns out, in looking back through my photo stream, I can tell you exactly where it went…)

The Fourth of July was spent at Rattlesnake Lake, shivering a bit in the morning breeze and then eventually letting the sun lure us into the water.

 

The winds out in the middle of the lake were pretty intense, causing Jack to take an unexpected dip in the water.

And this posse started out with toe-dips but was soaked by the time we left.

Seriously, our Lake Love runs deep.

 

Back at home, we brought out the sparklers and smoke bombs with the neighbors.

Ah, this age where excitement is found in the simplest of pleasures!

The other neighbor kids came and knocked on our door after dinner and asked if we wanted to watch their fireworks show – we walked over to find an arsenal of Ground Blooms and Fountains and Bottle Rockets on the sidewalk while one of the dads stood by with a blow torch.  The next hour was a barrage of booms and fizzles and children squealing, “Light this one, Daddy!  Light this one!”.

Golly, I love our street.

A couple of days later, Juliette and I headed to Remlinger Farms for our annual berry-picking pilgrimage.  Jules got right to work, popping huge red raspberries into her bucket (and her mouth).

Six pounds later, we were done.

(And quite proud of ourselves.)

The three of us hit up Lake Washington Boulevard a couple of times last month for bicycle Sundays – Juliette continues to be a little champ on two wheels.

And Friend-Fridays!  They’ve been extra-good lately.  We spent one sunny morning with N and LaV at Gene Coulon Park, trying (and failing) to catch minnows in buckets.

Last Friday we went to Henry Moses Aquatic Center for some legit summer swimming, and these two little fishes had the time of their lives.

We’ve been doing the splash park circuit on the weekends, meeting up with friends to romp at Jefferson Park and Georgetown Playfield.

And ’tis the season for baseball!  The three of us took in a Mariners game with my co-workers at my office’s summer picnic.

Juliette was really into it for about half an inning, but lost interest when she found out the Giants weren’t playing (I get it, kiddo).

But, the Giants were playing at Safeco a week later, so we played hooky with the Chens on a Wednesday afternoon to cheer on our boys.

Sadly, the Giants lost, but at least there were no gloating Mariners fans in our midst as we were surrounded by orange and black.

La Verne asked us last weekend if we were interested in tagging along with them to the Seattle Chamber Music performance at Volunteer Park, so we packed our cooler with wine and watermelon and joined them for a perfect evening of classical music.

…and contemporary art!

And now, it’s August.  The last full month of summer.  May it be chock-full of warmth, water, and more simple wonders.