Archive for the ‘places’ Category

I’ve found it!  The antidote to the post-Christmas blues!  It’s a fresh dumping of fluffy white snow.  We were thrilled to roll into our driveway after our Portland trip to find our neighborhood blanketed in a couple of inches of powder – kids were out with their inner tubes and sleds, the occasional cross-country skier was passing by on the sidewalk, and the air was thick with that particular brand of PNW snow-day giddiness.  We unloaded the car in record time and then Juliette was back out the door to tube with the neighbors.

Christmas lights and freshly fallen snow are two of my favorite things.

We spent one afternoon at the Rusts’ neighborhood, sledding down the somewhat treacherous hill near their house and then cozying up inside for card games and snacks.

I trekked with the kids to Starbucks one morning while Shane ran some errands.  This was some hard-earned hot chocolate!

I picked up some discounted Christmas decor from the art store during our outing and ended up with my hands fuller than expected, but I managed the mile-walk home.

Isaac, though, was exhausted by my efforts…

And…more sledding!  So much sledding.  Shane was off work that full week after Christmas and so we had beaucoup playtime.  We didn’t throw Isaac down any big hills, but he liked sitting in Juliette’s lap for a gentle skid along the sidewalk.

This girl, though, has a need for speed.

We spent one morning with Juliette’s best school buddies, cruising down the street in front of their house.

And then a cocoa elf appeared with a tray full of drinks for the kids (and me!).

I walked home with Isaac while Shane hung back per Juliette’s request to please do just a few more runs.  Teddy bear was tuckered, again.

Our neighbors passed off this baby sled when they were cleaning out their garage over the summer and we discovered that with a thick enough snow suit, Isaac could be wedged in there to stay fairly upright.

More snow toys emerged from the garage as the week went on…

More sledding fun was had…

There were snow angels…

And family walks…

And then a whole lot of lounging by the fireplace.

I don’t know that we’ve ever rested so well as a family – it became difficult to figure out what day of the week it was.  And it was amazing.

We ended 2021 in the same way we ended 2020, with a quiet evening at home.  We played some games, watched the ball drop, and toasted our glasses of sparkling cider.

One last sleepover…

And then we awoke on Saturday to a fresh new year!  Shane’s all about starting the year with a shock to the senses, so he was all in for the annual Alki Polar Plunge.  Juliette heard that a couple of her friends would be doing it with their mom and decided that she wanted to join in the fun, too.  I thought there was about a 55 percent chance that she would bail once she got to the beach and felt how cold it was, but she was quickly swept up in the adrenaline of the crowd and peeled off her coat with the rest of them once the countdown began.  No turning back now, baby girl!

Dunk, Jules, dunk!

And done!  I was so stinking proud of her.

“I can’t believe I just did that!”

Polar Bears:  The Next Generation…

Jason and Jordan also plunged and we found them down the beach afterward.

The gang convened at our house for hot chocolate and coffee cake.

And then there was an intense snowball battle in the backyard, during which Jason grabbed a shovel and just started pitching scoops of snow toward the opposing team.

We said our good-byes and cozied back up at our respective houses.

The snow turned to rain on Sunday morning and so Juliette took advantage of the super-sticky conditions to build a quick snow-lady with a neighbor friend.

They named her Angel and she lived a sweet-but-very-short life.

By Monday morning most of the snow had melted, Shane was back at work, and school was (almost) back in session.  Juliette and I took down the Christmas tree and we shelved our holiday music and movie playlists.  BAM.  The holidays were decidedly over and it was back to business as usual.  Which for me, for at least a few more weeks, means rocking chair naps with my boy, Project Runway afternoons with my girl, and regular family dinners (those I’m not giving up, ever).  January, I’m here for you.

We had such a sweet, festive December that Christmas itself kind of felt like icing on the cake. Twinkly lights and meals with friends and living room sleepovers and a trip to Portland to see the family?!  How lucky were we?  The anticipation was just so, so good this year.

We drove down to my brother’s house on Thursday, stopping once so that I could nurse Isaac in a Safeway parking lot while Shane and Juliette darted into a Starbucks for coffee and lemon loaf – gone are the days of “powering through” without a pitstop, at least for now. We were greeted by the cousins and my parents, who all remarked over how much Isaac had grown since they had seen him in the fall.  Juliette was eager to get her hands on Bina, Grandma was eager to get her hands on the baby.

Christmas Eve was lazy – games and cookie decorating and plenty of lounging.  Morgan and Juliette convinced my dad to play Mario Kart and then delivered him a solid whooping.  C’mon girls – have a little Christmas mercy!

The kids each got to open a Christmas Eve present…

There was the traditional viewing of the Polar Express…

And then cookies and an apple (we were out of carrots!) were left out for Santa and his reindeer by these two little elves.

By the time I came upstairs on Christmas morning, gifts had been sorted into neat little piles for each person – Morgan and Juliette were vibrating with anticipation and eagerly counting down to our 8:30 rendez-vous time (Elise likes to sleep in!).  Finally, the clock struck half-past, the family was gathered, and the wrapping paper started to fly.

(Isaac wanted to trade the cloth avocado I put in his stocking for the Skittles Juliette had in hers.  Fat chance.)

Juliette asked Santa for shoes this Christmas, and he came through with a pair of riding boots.

Juliette is so sweet and enjoys watching people open presents as much as she enjoys opening gifts herself.  She gives a friendly little clap after each unwrapping, like, “Wow! You’re so lucky you got that!”

Could it really be…?

A Hogwarts sweatshirt for our little Harry Potter fan!

Whew!  The calm after the gift-opening hurricane.

Being spoiled is tiring, huh, kid?

We got out for a short walk before lunch but the cold sent us back inside before long.  Morgan was desperate for a white Christmas and was thrilled to see a few flakes start to fall, though they quickly petered out.

Isaac threw the fit to end all fits that afternoon but eventually conked out in my arms.  I guess the excitement of it all was just too much.

Juliette played with Shane’s new Oculus…

Was wowed by Elise’s Illustration skills…

Played a very rambunctious game of hallway dodgeball with her uncle…

And this kid kept sleeping.

Isaac “opened” a couple more gifts once he got his second wind.

There we go, buddy!  Look alive!

Shane and Mitch took the girls to the school in the afternoon to test out Morgan’s new basketball and Elise’s new volleyball (sport-playing is Shane’s love language).

Then Juliette unwound in the hot tub.

And I unwound on the couch with my favorite guy and glass of Cabernet.

We had our traditional country ham for dinner and I felt exceedingly thankful for the people around the table but intensely missed the family not there.  Minnesota clan, you were held near and dear in our hearts!

We ended the night with more games, more togetherness.  Juliette and Morgan made up a game called “Tickle Doctor” and convinced my brother to play – it bordered on torture, but I watched from a safe distance and laughed till I cried.

We woke up Sunday morning to a day-after white Christmas – Juliette and Morgan frolicked in the front yard for a bit and I bundled up Isaac for his first romp in the snow.

My parents had hit the road early that morning, but the cousins got a couple of hours of chill time while Shane loaded our circus of stuff into the car.

And then we were homeward-bound.  I hopped into the backseat near Tacoma to soothe an antsy baby, which came with the added bonus of cozying up next to Juliette.

Almost there, Buddy!

And…made it.

The kids opened the last of their presents at home and while Isaac had no clue that half that stuff was for him, sister was awfully stoked on his behalf.

Gah!  The things this girl will show and teach you, Isaac.

Juliette made use of her fashion plates from Auntie Tiff…

Isaac modeled his new pajamas from Grandma Schnell…

The last 2021 ornament was hung on the tree…

And then it was onto New Years.  And SNOW.  The fun continues…

While life with an infant isn’t easy, per se, maternity leave feels slow and quiet and like a much-needed respite from the work-life hustle. We stay close to home and I spend long, lazy mornings in the rocking chair with Isaac, often the only thing on my calendar being pickup at Juliette’s school at 2:25. Sometimes that walk to and from school is the only time the baby and I leave the house, and that’s OK. I love the afternoons that Juliette and I spend on the couch, watching Project Runway and sipping hot cider while Isaac naps or nurses or makes imaginary snow angels on the floor nearby. THESE ARE THE DAYS.

But sometimes we get a little stir-crazy and so I head out with the kids for an after-school adventure (and I use the term “adventure” very generously). An hour at a park followed by a visit to a coffee shop is really all I need to tide me over for a few more days of hunkering down.

Camp Long was extra-lovely in early November, the ground a carpet of orange and yellow. Juliette scrambled on the climbing wall and Isaac dozed in his stroller and I snapped a hundred photos.

Isaac is not in his most photogenic phase, but no matter, Buddy.  Jules and I think you’re adorable.

And…Lincoln Park for the win. This place shines year-round, but the upper loop in on a late fall afternoon is my favorite.

(He’s awake!)

We’ve been doing the West Seattle coffee shop circuit post-park and have decided Cupcake Royale has the best balance of being cozy while still having space to spread out and maneuver a stroller with a napping baby in it. Isaac usually wakes up before Jules and I are ready to go, so he’ll join us for a word search or a little reading.

Somebody give this sweet boy a cupcake! (Ok, don’t, but it’s tempting!)

We try to get out together as a family on the weekends, but Saturday mornings are often spent like this (after Shane slips out for some early pickle ball)…

And Sunday afternoons are often spent like this (televised pickle ball makes me want to snooze too, Isaac)…

Sunday evenings are for dinner with friends…

And I’m already missing soccer Saturdays!  The season ended last month and Juliette learned a ton from the experience, not just about getting the ball in the net, but about teamwork and perseverance and shaking off the occasional bump or bruise.

Things have felt a bit busier with the onset of the holiday season (again, I use the term “busy” quite generously!), but we’re still finding time for plenty of this:

And this.  By the end of the day I can be a bit “touched-out” after so many hours of baby-holding, but when your three-month old falls asleep on your chest and your eight-year old has had a tough evening and really needs a bedtime snuggle, you lean in.

These slow, uneventful, long-but-too-short days. These are most definitely the days.

We’re in full-blown Fall and barreling toward winter as the days get remarkably shorter and the aisles of Target fill with Christmas decor.  It’s been a sweet season, these past few weeks of finding our new groove as a family of four and slowly emerging from our newborn cocoon to spend more time with family and friends.

Our parade of visitors began at the end of September when my parents trekked to Seattle to meet their one and only grandson.  My mom said she couldn’t remember the last time she had held a baby, but it seems her soothing skills came flooding back to her as she rocked and sang Isaac to sleep within hours of their arrival.

Motown, hymns, country…Grandma sings it al!

My dad also got some quality cuddle time…

…though I especially loved bearing witness to his playtime with Juliette.

We didn’t get out a whole lot that week, but it was nice to fold my parents into our quiet routine and to have some company as I picked up Juliette from school or spent an afternoon on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest.

My brother and his family joined us for a weekend in October – there was driveway basketball and a walk at Lincoln Park and several rounds of pass-the-baby.

Bina the dog is used to being the baby in the room and displayed a little envy early-on, but once she’d sniffed out Isaac and determined he wasn’t going to hop right into anyone’s lap, she decided he was alright.

I turned forty that Saturday and it was nice to have family around to toast to a new decade.

Plus, Mitch makes some mean spaghetti and meatballs.  He and Shane spent much of the afternoon planning and shopping and cooking and I MUCH appreciated it.

Cheers!

And to bookend grandparent season, the Schnells landed in Seattle a couple of weeks ago along with our niece, Shanay.

While Grandma and Grandpa doted on Isaac, Shanay was an amazing buddy for Juliette.  There aren’t too many 22 year-olds that will jump at the chance to do Play-dough, but she was so incredibly generous with her time and attention (plus, she can french braid, which essentially gives her Queen status with Juliette).

Lazy mornings…

Lazy afternoons…

Again, we didn’t get out much.  But we were plenty content to cozy up inside with the baby.  Denny wore his grandpa-heart on his sleeve and spent long stretches of time just gazing at Isaac’s little face and saying, “Grandpa loves you…you’re such a gift, buddy…”.

It was a tearful goodbye (not just for Isaac!), but those few days together were precious.

In other news, we inducted Isaac into the Giants fan club and cheered on our team during their too-short playoff season.

Gosh, it hurt to lose to the Dodgers.  Also hurt to hear that Buster Posey is retiring!  Juliette shed a few tears when the news broke…

Other October happenings included our first annual Harry Potter night.  Juliette and I spent the afternoon making Hogwarts-themed treats and then invited the Rusts over for snacks and a movie.

Sorting hats were chosen at random and the color of the jelly beans inside told you which house you belonged in.

Slytherin for J!  I knew he had a dark side…

But Slytherin for Nance, too?  I expected better.

I tend to overuse the word “cozy” in my Fall and Winter blog posts, but…it really was the coziest of October evenings.

Cozy vibes aside, sometimes we’ve just gotta get out, and Juliette’s Saturday soccer games have proven to be an excellent reason to leave the house.  This is her first year on the team and she is killing it!  I am so, so proud of her – she’s a force out there, scoring goals at every game, passing to her friends like a true team player, and shaking off the occasional bump or bruise.

Isaac doesn’t quite follow the action, but at least he keeps my lap warm!

On really muddy days, the girls line up during half-time and stick their feet out so that the coaches can scrape their cleats clean.  These dads get gold stars.

Morning walks are another good reason to leave the house, partly because I need the exercise, but also because Isaac needs the nap.

Bonus points if I can work my route to include a coffee stop.

Double-bonus if I’m joined by a friend!

Saving the Halloween pics for another day, and then it’s onto the business of November-ing!

One final summer photo dump, because memories of those warm August pool days are what pull me through the wet, gray days ahead…

That said, less pleasant than those warm August pool days were those HOT June days when PNW heat records were shattered and we pulled out every stop imaginable in an effort to stay cool.  We slept on air mattresses in the basement and waited in line for a portable AC unit (no luck) and drank iced tea by the gallon.  Also, there were sprinklers…

And popsicles…

And kiddie pools…

And the incredible kindness of neighbors, who invited us to use their own pools, small and large.

Count lunchtime swim breaks as another perk of working from home!

We spent an ultra-hot Saturday at Rattlesnake Lake, bouncing back and forth between our shady blanket and the icy lake.  It seemed that about half of Seattle had the same idea and so the lawn grew increasingly crowded as the day wore on, but there was plenty of open water for us to stretch out on the paddle board.

Juliette recently completed an assignment at school where she had to note favorite family traditions and “paddle boarding with Mama” was near the top of her list.  One of my favorites, too, kiddo.

Juliette climbed off the board before we reached shore and bobbed along behind me in her life jacket.

Nintendo break!  But even the shade was HOT, so we didn’t stay out of the water for long.

Though the drive and the parking and the schlepping of stuff always feels like a bit much when we head to Rattlesnake, we always leave feeling like the effort was well worth it.

Colman Pool was another summer happy place – they started selling only limited tickets for one-hour time slots due to the pandemic and so the pool was wonderfully un-crowded.  We spent several afternoons there working on Juliette’s swim skills and bobbing around with buddies.

Plus, the walk/bike ride to the pool from where we park our car is not too shabby.

In other noteworthy news, West Seattle is finally on the boba map with the recent opening of ShareTea.  Juliette and I have already filled multiple punch cards.

Shane started playing pickle ball on Monday nights with a couple of friends and has become a bit obsessed with the game.  He’s a pickle ball evangelist now, asking everyone we run into if they play or if they’d like to play.

Juliette is still honing in on her technique, but she shows definite promise.

We squeezed one more tip to Jack and La Verne’s vacation house on Marrowstone Island at the end of July.  We were all thankful for the buddy time and for the lovely beachfront walks.

These three play so well together…

And with that, the sun has set on another glorious PNW summer – these sweet freckles are already beginning to fade!  But this girl looks damn cute in rain boots and a beanie…

It seems I always find myself in mid-September with a pile of summer photos to go through, and this year is no different…therefore, ringing in Fall with Fourth of July fireworks!  We spent a few days in Idaho in early July, summering our hearts out.

We rolled up to my mom and dad’s house on the afternoon of the Fourth, as they advised us that their neighborhood goes big for the holiday and the festivities were not to be missed.

Indeed, these folks don’t hold back!

While sky-high fireworks exploded around us in every direction, we opted to stick to fountains and sparklers, which are still pure magic for a seven year-old.

Our own grand finale:

While the show on the other side of the park was just getting started!

We were all up past our bedtimes on the Fourth and got a slower start the next morning – Juliette and Grandpa played games while I had a second cup of coffee.

And then Shane, Jules and I piled back into the car and headed to Sand Point for a day of lake play.  These freckles!  I love them so much.

Pend Oreille is a lake-lover’s dream, with sandy shores, crystal waters and plenty of space to float to your heart’s content.

This girl is such a water-bug and could have spent all day in the lake.  Actually, she did spend all day in the lake.  Shane and I each needed frequent shade-breaks, but Juliette always opted for another layer of sunscreen and another cool dip.

Ah, that belly…I love having Isaac in my arms, but he was much easier to tote around a couple of months ago.

We took a brief lake-break to grab burgers and non-alcoholic beers from MickDuff’s.

And then, after dinner, back at it…

Juliette asked me to jump off the dock with her, but there was no way I was hoisting myself up onto that thing at seven months pregnant, so she summoned the courage to make the leap by herself.

And then found a few friends to jump with her.  Several times.

Several, several times.

The very best kinds of days are rounded out with ice cream and a lakefront stroll.  Mission accomplished.

We stayed in Sand Point that night and then were up early to take a 7:00 am dip in the hotel pool (she’s insatiable!) before heading to Silverwood for a day at Coeur d’Alene’s famous water park (seriously insatiable).  Juliette had a hard time containing her excitement as we waited for the gates to open.

We dropped our towels on a couple of beach chairs and were floating down the Lazy River within seconds of the park’s opening.  This is THE LIFE, huh, Jules?

I wasn’t able to go on any of the big waterslides, but was just as content to hang out at the bottom so that I could see Juliette’s giddy face as she and Shane landed with a splash.

The Riptide Racer tested the limits of Juliette’s bravery, but she rocked it.

The Lazy River was very much my jam – I must have done 20 laps around it over the course of the day.

We ventured over to the next-door amusement park in the afternoon to take a train ride in search of the Bigfoot that’s rumored to live in the park.

(Found him!)

But the trains and roller coasters were no match for the water park.  Back to business…

Shane ended the day on the park’s fastest slide, where riders clock in at over 50 miles per hour – Juliette thought this was a terrible idea, but he lived to give it two thumbs up.

We left the park in the evening totally exhausted but grinning from ear-to-ear.  Juliette declared it one of the most-fun days ever.

The next couple of days in Post Falls were on the quieter side, but still so good for our souls.

This little stretch of the Spokane River at Corbin Park is a must-visit every time we’re in town.  Perfect for lounging and rock-skipping.

Plus, you can squeeze in a few holes of disc golf when you’re done at the river.

Black Bay park is another go-to for waterside chilling.  The bay is perfect for floating on an inner tube, or a paddle board, or, in Juliette’s case, just a life jacket.

We spent our final hours in Post Falls squeezing in a few more Bernie snuggles and piecing together one last puzzle.

And next time we visit Idaho, we’ll have Isaac in tow!  Let’s hope that kid inherits his sister’s love of water – we’ve got some things to show him.

The past two months of summer have been a blur of remodel chaos, but the date stamp on these photos tells me that we enjoyed a few mellow days down at the Oregon Coast right after school let out.  Juliette had been counting down the days till this trip for weeks and begged could we please stop in Portland and pick up Morgan for the rest of the rest of the drive to Neskowin?

Thank goodness for backseat buddies.

Our car was the first to arrive at my brother’s beach house and we wasted no time making our way down to the ocean.

I’m so happy these girls haven’t outgrown the thrill of playing at the water’s edge.

SO HAPPY.

Juliette’s stamina for beach runs is unmatched, so Shane took a shift when Morgan pooped out.

Sunday was Father’s Day and Mitch gifted himself some solo fishing time down at the beach in the morning.  Shane and I walked down to the corner store to grab some coffee and then popped by to see if he’d caught anything (he hadn’t, but he sure looked content in his element!).

Morning snuggles, cards, and gifts…

Shane asked for this 1900-piece Lego set for Father’s Day, not so much for the space shuttle, but for the promise of more quality time with his little buddy.  Because he truly is one of the most devoted dads on the face of the planet.

We spent the afternoon back down at the beach.

I know this is a silly amount of pictures of Juliette, but I can’t help it – this kid’s joy over being with family is too good to not share.

Uncle Mitch might very well be the funniest man alive.

Sealing this afternoon of simple, silly family time away in the memory bank…

Mitch had packed a crowbar and some work gloves in the beach bag and their use became clear when the tide receded enough to expose a treasure trove of mussels locked to the base of Proposal Rock.

We dined on pasta with steamed mussels for dinner on Sunday and got a slow start on Monday.  I sipped coffee while the girls giggled over who-knows-what.

Shane and Kathryn both worked on Monday, so Mitch and I took Juliette and Morgan for a late-morning hike while Elise slept in.

The woods were packed with mosquitos that morning, so we quickly changed course and opted for the wide-open beach.

A mama, a daughter, and a newfound pet ladybug…

Though I suspect Juliette would take a chihuahua over a ladybug any day.

Shane has recently taken up pickle ball and Kathryn is a certified pickle ball champion, so we spent Monday evening down at the courts getting a few pointers.

Get it, Jules!

…but I think you may be holding your paddle wrong?

When the kids tired of the courts, I took them down the street to the arcade, which was a total blast from the past.

The Jarrells all headed back to Portland early Tuesday and Shane holed up in the guest room for another day of work, so that left Juliette and I free to find our own adventures.  Or not…

I could have read books and drank tea all day, but the call of the Coast is strong, so we left the house before lunch for a hike at Cape Lookout.

Pals.

Cape Lookout is a fitting name, huh?

And…back to the car!  I don’t have Shane’s talent for a detailed retelling of Lord of the Rings, so instead Juliette spent the hike back telling me everything (every. thing.) about the characters on Miraculous, her latest favorite Netflix series.

We lazed in the afternoon and then headed back toward Pacific City once Shane was done with work, making good on our ritual of climbing the giant sand dune every time we’re in the neighborhood.

It never gets easier…

And Juliette never fails to be first to the top.

But also, the views never disappoint…

Juliette ran most the way down the hill, then climbed back up to do it again, just for fun.  Lord, I wish I could bottle that pizazz and take a shot of it each morning.

Wednesday was go-day, but Juliette and I had a couple of hours in the morning to play in the sun while Shane worked.  Hot chocolate and bare feet for the win.

And…leisure tank filled!

Ah, May – back when we slept in our real beds rather than on air mattresses on our basement floor (that June heat wave was INTENSE!).  Back when we cooked on a stove in our kitchen rather than a hot plate in our basement mud room (in-progress kitchen remodel has further upended our lives).  Back when our backyard was filled with colorful spring blooms and we wore sweaters during Saturday brunch.

May was good (though summer still holds plenty of promise).  Mother’s Day 2021 was extra-special this year, as Shane and Juliette thoughtfully schemed a day that struck the perfect balance between activity and leisure.  After a quiet breakfast and the presentation of a sweet card from Juliette in which she called me “her treasure”, Shane and Jules told me to get dressed because we were headed OUT for a Mother’s Day surprise. 

Shane tossed a few fancy groceries in a cooler and then we made the short drive to the West Seattle ferry terminal.  We were island-bound for a day of bumming around Vashon.

With friends, no-less!  It was so fun to see the Chens and the Rusts in the parking lot as we rolled up to the Island Center Forest for a hike (I use that word generously).  We sauntered through the woods and spotted salamanders and baby chicks in the pond and took our sweet time winding our way back to our cars.

We ate a picnic lunch at sunny KVI beach, played games, and lounged to our hearts’ content.

Not to gush, but while some moms want a spa day to themselves on Mother’s Day, I’ll take all the bonus time with these two that I can get.

We rounded out a perfect day with rhubarb pie and gin rummy and damn, I felt loved.

With the onset of warmer temps we felt the itch to be outdoors as much as possible each weekend.  We drove east one Saturday to drop off Shane in North Bend so he could do a long bike ride with some friends and then Juliette and I headed to Gold Creek Pond for a springtime hike.  But…snow?  It was 70 degrees out there!  The trail was too slippery to navigate in our tennis shoes, but we found a picnic table by the lake where we could still enjoy the view.

Vitamin D joy…

We met up with Shane at the tail end of his 30-mile bike ride and then Juliette hopped on her own wheels to do 12 miles of the Iron Horse Trail with her dad.  Their journey started with a two-mile ride through this abandoned train tunnel, which was pitch black and freezing cold – headlamps and jackets required.  I’ll catch you on the flip-side, guys…

Shane took this picture of Juliette at the other end of the tunnel – she later told me that she was freezing and scared through the whole thing, but that she told her dad it was fun because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  Sweet little trooper.

I did a nice little solo hike at McClellan Butte and then offered my weary bikers a ride home.

We don’t head east too often anymore, what with the hassle of getting around the closed West Seattle Bridge, but when we do, we make it count.

We rounded out May with a couple of days on Marrowstone Island with the Chens.  There are few better ways to kick off a weekend than with a sunny ferry ride.

Much as she likes a ferry ride, Juliette can think of few things better than settling in for a long weekend with a buddy.

The Chens’ vacation home is tucked along a quiet edge of the island (actually, all edges of Marrowstone are quiet) and we loved mellow evening strolls followed by plenty of kicking back in their water-view Adirondacks.

Jack booked us a tour of a goat farm on Saturday morning and it was a definite weekend highlight.  Look at these baby goats!

(But watch your dress, Jules!)

After wearing out our welcome in baby goat pen, we wandered out to the idyllic field to see the grown-ups.

I love this guy – look at his smile!

Our tour guide was a 12 year-old girl who lived on the farm and knew every intricate detail of raising and milking and caring for her animals.  She answered all of our questions with striking maturity and then we got to taste the cheeses produced right there at the farm.

Ok, just a couple more baby goat pics, because…baby goats!

The kids and the dads biked to the beach that afternoon while La Verne and I met them there with the cars.

And then the rest of the day was filled with Nintendo-time, some intense Lego-building sessions, and delectable pizzas a la Jack.

Plus, s’mores!  With a little pre-game action in which the skewers were wielded like wands by these two Harry Potter fans.

Careful with that thing, Juliette…

Goodnight, guys…

Sunday’s most important agenda item was to celebrate the birthday boy, who turned the big EIGHT while we were there!  Juliette couldn’t wait to watch him open the Nintendo game she’d been waiting to gift him for months.

Post-waffles, we drove over to Fort Flagler for a late morning hike.

How do you coax a couple of kids through the woods when they really just want to go home to play Mario Odyssey?  Like this:

We spent our last island evening at Finnriver Cidery, sipping cider and doing the limbo and running through the open fields.

And finally, cake and Clue.  Such a good day.

Juliette and I were up before the rest of the house on Monday morning and drove into town for coffee and donuts before heading to the beach for an early Mama-Jules stroll.

Back at the house, there was one last hangout on the bunk beds…

One last go at lawn games…

And one last huddle with friends we’ve sorely lacked time with over the past year.

Time to board that ferry.

And say a cool farewell to the marvelous month of May.

With three days left till Summer Break, a quick look-back to Spring Break, where we lived large for a weekend at Semiahmoo Resort up near the Canadian border.  It was a quick trip – just a couple of nights – but it felt like the perfect way to tip-toe out of pandemic mode and celebrate our vaccinated status.  It helped that it was 70 degrees in Blaine that weekend and this place had a pool.  A POOL!  I forget how much Juliette loves the water until I see her in it.

And I can’t get her out.

The resort also had a rack full of bikes out front free for the borrowing, so we did a pre-dinner cruise along the spit.

We grabbed dinner to-go and ate on the lawn near the water.  Then, rock-skipping.

Lots of rock-skipping.

Some campfire s’mores…

And good night, sun.

Saturday morning was misty and mellow, with blues where there were oranges 12 hours earlier.

Juliette asked to hit the swimming pool at 8am, but we coaxed her into settling for a game of billiards in the common room.

We walked for awhile along the beach, Juliette looking very incognito-celebrity in her sunglasses and hoodie.

Ah, there’s my girl!

We explored the northern tip of the spit, with its old docks and decaying boat.

And then finally hit the pool.

Juliette made a friend and spent an hour jumping into the pool with her again and again and again.

And then pre-dinner recreation back out on the lawn, gaming to our hearts’ content.

Pizza with a view…

Juliette’s cheeks got sun-burned that day and she went to bed whimpering over how hot her face felt.  I kicked myself for not packing sunscreen, but…there’s are worse things than a little too much Vitamin D.

I woke up early on Sunday and took a quiet solo walk while Shane and Juliette snoozed.

I felt like I had the spit and the bay all to myself.

I spotted a seal and watched him cut back and forth through the glassy water for awhile before heading back to check on the sleepy-heads.

Juliette and I grabbed a latte and a vanilla steamer and sat on a log while the sun finished rising, savoring the last of the morning’s quiet.

We squeezed in one last game-packed hour before check-out.

And then it was time to pack it up.  What a perfect balance of playing hard and resting hard.

Last on our weekend to-do list was hiking hard – we pulled off Chuckanut Drive and set out for a trek up to Fragrance Lake.

Ah…that first glimpse of water on these destination-lake hikes!

And that perfect log to settle into for a snack…

We’ve missed traveling this past year, but gosh, what a weekend getaway can do for a family’s soul.

Welp, there’s no time like the end of May to blog about March!  Getting caught up this week and culling through photos of cherry blossoms that have long since dropped and been swept away…

Actually, early blooms aside, I have very few pictures from March, which tells me we didn’t do or see a whole lot.  Weekends were devoted to home projects, like endless weeding sessions and the laying of new sod in the front yard…

“Look, Mama!  A dirt heart!”  This girl finds the magic in everything.

And weekdays were the same ol’ work-from-home, school-from-home rigamarole.  Juliette and I made a habit of seizing on our flexible schedules as opportunities to sneak away for 10am coffee dates.

…and then back to it!  We have tried out Juliette’s desk in just about every room in the house and finally decided just to give her reign of our dining room table from 8:00-3:00 – she likes the room to spread out and can pop over to her bedroom desk if we have simultaneous Zooms.

And finally…this.  March was so much of this:

April brought sunnier days and northwest-style beach dates (with jackets and rocky shores):

And Easter!  Juliette loves an excuse to dress up and was donning her bunny ears and her Spring dress before I’d even gotten out of bed.

It was a quiet Sunday, like all Sundays, with virtual church and an indoor/outdoor egg hunt.

After Juliette cracked open her plastic eggs, I rolled out her second basket, stuffed with all things pink.

This book of riddles was her favorite – she loves to stump her dad and me.

We pulled out the candles and the champagne flutes for a fancy dinner and, as has been typical over the past 14 months, missed our friends and family dearly while being buoyed by the warmth of our little three-person bubble.

Also, this Springtime view makes hunkering down not so bad.

Our quarantine bubble has slowly started to expand though, as evidenced by Juliette’s return to in-person school!  I was going to miss having this kid stop by my desk for random hugs throughout the day, but it was time.  We were ready.

She was ready.

Also, who am I kidding?  She’s only gone for three hours a day, four days a week.  We’re still swimming in Mama-Jules time.  And our walks home from school have become such a lovely part of our day.

Also, Juliette doesn’t go to school till 11:30, which means we still squeeze in the occasional weekday coffee/hot chocolate.  We recently discovered that Met Market puts the whipped cream on top of the cup lid.  Brilliant.

Warmer weather brings out Shane’s sporty vibes and he is quick to ask Juliette to toss the football around or shoot some hoops across the street as soon as he wraps up work for the day.

Meanwhile, Juliette’s been feeling so sporty herself that she rarely takes off Shane’s baseball cap.  Cutest thing…

We had our first visitors of the year last month when my parents came out for a long weekend.  We brunched at our favorite Alki spot…

Played a lot of cards…

And cozied up for Sudoku sessions.

We also got out for a stroll through Schmitz Park, which was growing greener by the minute.

So good to have visitors!

And speaking of visitors, Grandma and Grandpa Schnell rolled into Seattle just a couple of weeks later!  More card-playing…

Some baking…

And lots of sunshine.

Juliette’s grandpa could not love her more – these two really ate up the together time.

Until it was time to say goodbye…that hug Denny gave Juliette on her way out to school was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

One more…

And finally, the last of our April guests was this mama bird that roosted in our porch planter.

…with four little eggs in a cozy little nest!

Checking on the eggs became a daily ritual, until one day Shane peered in there and excitedly announced that they had hatched!  Four odd-looking little nestlings, with bulbous eyes and wide-open mouths.

Checking on the birdies became a new daily ritual and in less than a week, all four had left the nest to hobble around our porch.  None of them looked near-ready for flight, but by the next morning, they were gone…  I was a little sad to see them go and felt some literal empty-nester vibes each time I opened the front door and spied that vacant planter.

Such is life, though…  Birds fly away, blossoms fall to the ground, and I have to continually remind myself to just be thankful for the fleeting beauty of the present.

Thankfully, Juliette is a stunning example of living in the bliss of the moment (also, check out that grass!  Shane’s new pride and joy…).

Spring is so full of reasons to smile.