Archive for the ‘the gang’ Category

The tree is down, the Christmas music has been put on pause, the sugar cookies have been eaten…the holidays are over.  But gosh, they were good while they lasted, and we fared pretty well last month in the art of tradition-keeping.

Juliette and I have made a thing of a “Downtown Christmas Day”, using one of our days off to hit the Westlake Carousel and the surrounding holiday sights.  How many more years do we have before the magic of merry-go-round wears off?  At least a couple, I hope…

And to warm up afterwards, hot chocolate and an Americano from the Starbucks across the street!

We decided to pass on the Fairmont’s “Teddy Bear Suite” this year but did venture into the hotel lobby to take a spin through the life-size gingerbread house.

And then once Juliette discovered the free candy canes there for the taking, there was another spin through the house, and another…

 

We visited Swanson’s Nursery one Sunday after church to check out the reindeer and the Christmas train and Santa.  Juliette’s not really the type to hop up onto Santa’s lap, but the rest of it was a hit.

 

And cookies!  So many cookies – sugar cookies and raspberry thumbprints and ginger snaps and cranberry coconut bark…  Jules and I are in charge of bringing sweets each year when we head down to Portland, and we take our job very seriously.

 

This was the first year we’ve headed to Bellevue to see Snowflake Lane, which was crowded and crazy but exceedingly festive.

And…fake now!  I mean, really – snow bubbles and baton-twirling elves and All I Want for Christmas is You blaring over loudspeakers?  It was too much.  And I kinda loved it.

 

We spent New Year’s Eve Eve at Gene Coulon Park, checking out the Clam Lights.  I like doing this one post-crowds, post-Christmas – after the excitement and busy-ness of the holidays, it’s nice to be in a place where all feels calm, all feels bright.

 

And then the beloved New Years Eve bonfire at Alki Beach!  We did this a couple of years ago and jumped at the chance for a repeat when the Hickory’s said they were going to pick up a couple of bundles of wood and stake out a fire pit.  The night turned out be windy and COLD, but the kids generated their own body heat by running wild on the shore.

Seattle is a far cry from Mexico, but apparently it’s no less fun.

 

We headed over to Jack and La Verne’s afterward for spaghetti and a sleepover.  The kids were tucked into bed, a third bottle of wine was opened (then a fourth), and then, before the clock had even struck midnight…

Shane was surprisingly spry on New Years morning and agreed to meet up with Jason, Brian, and Nicole for the Polar Bear Plunge at Alki.  Only at 9:58, with just two minutes before plunge-time, his peeps were nowhere to be found.  He stripped down and gave Juliette a very tentative thumbs-up, clearly not at all stoked by the thought of doing this alone.

In one of the most dramatic reunions I’ve ever witnessed, at 9:59 these buddies found each other on the crowded beach and darted into the water together.

…and darted right back out.

I love this event.  You can almost taste the euphoria as the polar bears come back to shore, squealing and hugging and shivering.  And while I’m not about to go running into any 45-degree water, I mooch a little off of everyone else’s high, welcoming the New Year with joy and excitement and a sense of adventure.

Hola, 2018.  It’s good to see you.

Although the 85-degree Mexican temps made me forget it for a moment, it is in fact December (24th?!) and we are in the thick of the holiday season, making our way through my list of most-cherished traditions.

We set out the last weekend of November to find the perfect Christmas tree at Mountain Creek Tree Farm.  I go on and on every year about how much I love this place, with the mountainous backdrop and the hot cider and the friendly woman that gives candy canes to the kids, but seriously, it never disappoints.  We took our time picking our tree, but circling back as per usual to a 6 ½ foot Grand Fir.

Lumberjack Shane is such a stud…

Juliette gulped warm cider while Shane got the tree baled and strapped it to our roof.

We asked Alexa to play the Charlie Brown Christmas album when we got home and trimmed the tree to our favorite twinkling piano tunes.  Juliette was such a good helper this year, carefully hanging her cherished ornaments and then reaching way up top to set the angel on her perch.

My weekend getaway with Nancy and La Verne to Cedarbrook Lodge has become a December must-do and is something I eagerly anticipate every winter.  Partly because quality time with these ladies so deeply nourishes my soul, but also because we always make out like bandits at our trip to the Auburn outlet mall.  There are a lot of sweaters on this bed.  A few pairs of pants.  A new coat.  We will not go cold this winter.

We hit the hotel gym in the evening and then hot-tubbed in the rain before heading back to the room to freshen up for dinner at the hotel bar.

And then, chick flicks (Thirteen Going on Thirty and Can’t Buy Me Love), ice cream, and the joy of falling asleep with the knowledge that no child will be calling your name at 6:30 the next morning.  We ate a leisurely buffet breakfast on Sunday and squeezed in Sweet Home Alabama before heading home to our littles.

The Christmas Ship docked at the shores of Lake Washington on a Sunday evening a couple of weeks ago and we walked down with the Chens to listen to the carolers’ voices drift across the water.  A bonfire crackled nearby and Juliette and I huddled together on our picnic blanket.  All was calm, all was bright.

Despite busy December calendars, we always make a point of getting together with the Chens and the Rusts for our holiday “family dinner”, where we break bread and exchange gifts and revel in the warmth of being with our nearest and dearest.  Shane made his tried-and-true Emmental and Gruyere fondue, Jack mixed cocktails, the kids gingerbreaded, and I…ate.

Next stop: Portland, for the main event!

Shane and Jack headed out early on Sunday morning for their scheduled zipline tour through the jungle while LaV and I opted for a quieter sort of adventure, heading over to the beach with the kiddos for a day of playing in the ocean and sand.  First, though, breakfast, where Juliette gazed upon her coconut muffin with total adoration.

We staked out a couple of comfy chaise lounges at the beach and sat back while N and Juliette happily scooped and shoveled, collecting little bits of shell and rock which Juliette pretended to feed to the “baby” she had created from a mound of wet sand.  Jules would join me under my umbrella every few minutes, seeking a shady refuge as the sun blazed hotter and hotter, but she couldn’t ever bear to stay put for more than a couple of minutes.  While the sun and the surf and the fruity drinks left me feeling laid-back and lazy, this kid was totally energized by it all.

Swimsuit, sunglasses, and a hat is hands-down my very favorite look on her…

And…she’s in.

Juliette would declare victory every time a wave crashed over her belly and she managed to stay on her feet.

Bring it on, sea!

The kids “baked” a special cake for La Verne and then sang Happy Birthday to her, insisting afterwards that we each take a bite.

In the late afternoons, the day’s fun-fest would catch up with Juliette and she’d succumb to the waves of sleepiness that lapped at her eyelids.  Sleepy-time is one of the very few chances I get to snuggle with my girl-on-the-go anymore.  I’ll take it.

We sun-setted at the beach once again on Sunday, this time seeing more grays and blues than oranges and pinks in the closed-in sky, but still, it was peaceful and lovely and we all got in the ocean for a salt water dip.  Any day that begins and ends at the beach is a good one.

Since the guys had given the zipline tour rave reviews and since we each had an “excursion” included with our resort package, La Verne and I channeled our inner daredevils and made our own trip out to the jungle on Monday morning.  It was an hour-long ride through small Mexican towns and up along remote mountain roads to the Canopy River outpost, where we were each strapped into a harness, handed a pulley, and told to fly like the wind.  And wowsers, we flew, zipping along the course at heights of 200 feet and speeds of 55 kilometers an hour.  Our guides were silly and fun-loving, but reassuring and encouraging as they sent us from one platform to the next.  La Verne and I toasted to our bravery with a couple of cold beers at the beautiful patio when it was all over, dizzy with pride and the sweet relief that comes with being on solid ground.

We rejoined our crew back at the beach, where we lunched on fish tacos and squeezed in a few minutes of ocean play before herding the kids back to the room for some quiet time.  Juliette’s freckles were a bit darker than when I’d kissed her goodbye few hours earlier!

The rest of the day was another haze of swimming and sunsets and mango tangos.  I had wondered if by our fourth day at the resort I’d be a little antsy, wanting to get out with Shane and Juliette and do the exploring and sight-seeing that’s such a big part of our typical vacations, but…NOPE.  The days of bouncing from pool to beach to pool to beach were just so blissfully easy, and it was abundantly clear that Juliette was perfectly content to swim that same stretch of pool and run that same stretch of beach over and over and over.

THIS IS THE LIFE, huh, kiddo?  (Don’t get too used to it, Jules!  Vacations will include sleeping on the ground and fetching our own water come summer.)

Juliette played an endless game of fetch with the ocean, tossing a stick into the waves and retrieving it from the time and again.

 

We put the kids to bed early on Monday night and settled on a room service dinner – the food was the one thing that had started to feel a bit “tired” at this point, but we got to eat in our pajamas and Cards Against Humanity made for some pretty enthusiastic bouts of laughter.

Tuesday was departure day, but our flight had been pushed back to the evening, which meant:  bonus beach time!  After chilaquiles and cappuccinos, we set up camp at the beach, happily resigned to flying home with a little sand in our hair.

 

Shane spotted a couple of iguanas near the pool and called the kids over to take a look.  They thought it was funny to see these two “hugging”.

We were told that our all-inclusive experience would end at 2:00, so Shane and Jack put in their request for one last round of gin and tonics at 1:55.

And then Juliette and I took one last dip in the pool.

…and then it was time to peel off our swimsuits and put on real clothes for the first time in five days.  NOOOOOOO!!!

You can see that none of us were quite ready to say adios.

It was a long trek home with multiple flight delays and we rolled up to our front door after midnight sleepy and stiff, but fully-dosed with Vitamin D.  And tequila.  Mission accomplished.

2017 has been pretty epic for us, vacation-wise.  We didn’t really set out to go quite so big this year, but gosh, when your brother asks if you want to join him and the family for a few days at a lovely house on the Hood Canal, or when flights to Paris drop to $500, or when your friends scout a deal at a beautiful all-inclusive Mexican resort, you seize the day.

So then, HOLA, MEXICO!

Our flight landed in Puerto Vallarta last Thursday evening and we wound our way through the hoards of eager cabbies to the friendly shuttle driver that awaited us curbside.  It was a quick drive to the resort, where we were ushered into the sparkling lobby and handed a round of margaritas before we’d even checked in.  This all-inclusive thing was looking promising!

We ate dinner at the rooftop bar and then headed back to the room to get settled and tuck in the kids.  Juliette begged to take a dip in the pool that adjoined our back patio and I told her she could put her feet in the water for a minute while I unpacked a few things.  She stripped off her clothes and grabbed her swimsuit as I was rooting around for her pajamas – I protested for all of thirty seconds and then shrugged my shoulders in happy surrender.  We were on vacation!  It was 9 pm, but it was 80 degrees outside!  Go nuts, kiddo.  

And then…this.  (Funny how a four-year-old can occupy an entire King bed!)

We rolled out of bed to discover a beautiful breakfast buffet set up just steps from our back patio, so we headed down to pile up our plates and dine pool-side.

This celery-cactus-pineapple concoction became a morning staple (and Juliette’s daily dose of veggies).

Shane headed out for a morning bike tour after breakfast while Juliette and I hung back and laid low.

I got out for a jog along the beach before lunch, thrilled to discover that our resort sat on a miles-long stretch of wide open shore.

And then, having all gotten our exercise, there was nothing left to do but…lounge.

And drink.

And swim.

We wrapped ourselves in our towels around 4 pm and walked over to the beach to catch the sunset and feel the squish of sand between our toes.

Shane and Juliette assumed their typical beach stance, hands held while the waves broke at their feet.

 

Juliette was delighted to discover how much warmer the ocean water is down in Mexico.

There was a lovely pool perched just over the beach, so we took a quick dip to compare pool temp with ocean temp.

And then the skies got golden and the clouds got all purply-blue so we jetted back down the shore.  Juliette met up with a couple of girls that she had befriended at the pool earlier that day and chased the tide with them, running and splashing and giggling, adding a whole other layer of glow to the magic occurring on the horizon.

MEXICO!  You are so, so bueno.

We went back to the room to change out of our swimsuits and check on poor Nico, who had come down a terrible cold the day before.  Shane, Juliette and I ate dinner at the beach club and took our time meandering back to our room, reveling in the warm breeze and the glittery lights and the absence of any reason to hurry.  This. was. vacation.

La Verne and I kicked off Saturday with a beach jog, in preparation for a full day of all-inclusive gluttony.

Breakfast was chilaquiles and pancakes and mimosas and some of the sweetest, juiciest pineapple I’ve ever tasted.

Thankfully, N was on the mend and ready to romp, so all hopped in the pool after breakfast.

We spent much of the morning in the oversized hot tub, tucked into an idyllic little enclave off the main pool.

“Mango Tangos”:  the beverage of champions!

Juliette was a total fish, paddling up and down the pool in her little purple floaties.

 

We lunched pool-side, luring the kids out of the water with plates of burgers and fries.

And then, more swimming!  This girl was insatiable.

We all dozed in the afternoon and then strolled over to the beach for another sunset show.

I tell you, this Mexican tide was magnetic.

Gah!  She was just SO HAPPY.  It was just SO GOOD.

Juliette’s new buddy appeared on the scene just as we were heading for our lounge chairs, so Juliette about-faced and was back at it again, chasing waves and being chased.

I keep trying to put words to just how magical this particular sunset was, but I’m coming up short.  So I’m just gonna let these pictures speak for themselves…

Once the last hues of orange had faded to gray, we all walked back toward the lobby to watch the 7 pm tree lighting.  It felt a little strange, listening to a guy in a Santa hat belt out Jingle Bells while we sat around in tank tops and sipped champagne, but we rolled with it, certainly feeling merry through it all.

Each of the kids got to light a candle (flip a switch) for the lilies floating in the lobby fountain.  Juliette took great pride in her task, smiling shyly and placing her light just so when the MC called her name.

We cleaned up a bit and then walked back over the beach club for fajitas and cocktails and ice cream.

La Verne and I were on our way out with the kids when we turned around to find that the guys were missing.  This is where we found them (this bar serves cocktails to go!).

By the end of the day, we’d lost count of how many pools we’d swam in or how many margaritas we’d drank.  We only knew that we had lived large and laughed hard.

Up next: more swimming, more sand, and a little adventure!

I have one last (big) batch of tank-topped photos to put up, and then we’ll be onto sweaters and golden leaves and pumpkins.  Fall is HERE, whether I’m ready to bid farewell to summer or not.  (I’m not.)

Juliette came back from La Pine a regular speed demon on her bike – it was fun to hit the last of the season’s bicycle Sundays with her on the Boulevard.  Our first time out, I left my bike at home and figured I’d walk alongside her, in case she needed any help getting started or staying on course.  Three miles in, I was sweating and huffing as she gleefully left me in her dust!

We unwisely let her take her bike out and pedal a little ways ahead of us at a new park in Sammamish a few weeks ago – she rounded a corner and started barreling down a hill we didn’t see coming, and though I chased after that girl like a bat out of hell, I just couldn’t reach her.  She hadn’t figured out braking but bravely followed my directions when I told her to turn off the path onto the grass, where she bumped/skidded to a stop and tumbled onto the ground.  Thankfully, she only skinned a shoulder and an elbow, but GAH!  MY HEART!  I spent the rest of the day with my arms wrapped around her, letting go only long enough to let her finish the ice cream cone I bought her at Molly Moon’s that evening.  So, so, SO sorry, kiddo…

I resisted the urge to slap a pair of training wheels on her bike and cover her in bubble wrap when she asked to get back out on her hot rod the very next day.

We spent the first few days of September doing the spray park circuit, wanting to get our splashes in before they all ran dry after Labor Day.

And we spent a Saturday harvesting beets, zucchini, berries, and apples at the farm of one of Shane’s co-workers.  He was incredibly generous, telling us we could take as much as we could possibly eat, handing his very last few raspberries to a grateful Juliette.

Zucchini baby!

We spent Labor Day on a boat with the Chens, zipping around Lake Washington.  We’d done this a few years ago with the gang and figured we were due for another round.  We pulled away from the dock, nice and easy…  (That poor little shoulder!)

And then Jack hit the gas and the crowd went wild!

Juliette apparently loves the feel of the wind in her hair.  And I confess, I got a little giggly and giddy myself as the boat skidded across the water.

I know, I was snap-happy with the camera, but I mean, COME ON.  This is one happy kid.

Thanks, Shane!  Don’t mind if I do…

We drank our mimosas, snacked on our bread and cheese spread, and then turned off the motor for a bit so the guys could take a dip and practice their synchronized karate kicks.

Then, the pedal was put back to the metal.

I had a now-or-never urge to jump in as our rental time drew to a close, so I took a quick dip myself.  My last lake swim of the year…

Turns out the thrill of it all was just too much for this little guy!

We spent a slightly-cooler Saturday checking out Farrel McWhirter Park in Redmond – I was eager to visit the farm animals and Shane wanted to try his hand at orienteering with Juliette.

These two were pretty sweet, carefully tracking the map and searching for markers in the woods as if they were hidden treasures.

Plus, blackberries for dayyyyyys…

The final marker!  Mission complete.

Jules had a good long chat with a chicken before we left – she’s does a pretty good bok-a-bok.

That evening, we roasted s’mores in the Rusts’ backyard.  I’m a little bummed that we didn’t make it out for one last camping trip in September, but this offered some solace.

We kicked off Juliette’s “birthday week” with an afternoon game at Safeco field, again wanting to squeeze in one of those only-in-the-summer events.

The Mariners weren’t faring too well against the Yankees, but we still sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame with great gusto.

The field was open to kids after the game, so we all headed down for a jaunt, in search of the Mariners Moose.

Before the attendants could even yell “Go!”, Jules was off.

This kid had a serious case of the kettle corn crazies by the time we rolled back into our neighborhood:

And…over and out!  Summer 2017, you. were. epic.

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…