Archive for the ‘places’ Category

Summer is breathing its last smokey gasps here in Seattle, but I’ve still got a couple of sunny hurrahs on the photo reel.  We spent a long weekend in Idaho back in July – I was eager for a change of scenery and wanted to leave Juliette there for a few extra days at “Grandma and Grandpa Camp” (we needed a break from being all at home, all together, all the time).  We spent our most of our weekend in Idaho lakeside, walking or wading or floating.

Juliette hasn’t been on a set of monkey bars for six months, so she was pretty pumped to see that the playground across the street from my mom and dad’s house was open for business.

With an ice cream truck to boot!

Juliette and my mom were always the first up in the morning – I rolled out of bed each day to find that they had already made their mug muffins and brewed their tea.  These two also apparently shared some good heart-to-hearts – my mom says Juliette is wise beyond her years…

But when the chit-chat ended, it was right down to business…

Juliette has been asking for awhile to go fishing, so we took advantage of Grandpa’s gear and the quiet little pond at Falls Park and spent Sunday morning with a line in the water.

No bites, but she was a good sport about it.

I was bound and determined to watch Juliette reel in a fish, so that evening we tried our luck on the Spokane River at Corbin Park.

Still no bites, but she got some excellent casting practice and the water cooled our heels after a 90-degree afternoon.

I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu, watching Juliette poke at the worms and take casting lessons from my dad – the childhood memories came flooding back.  It was like I got to vicariously be six again.

Juliette came up zeroes on fishing, but she and my mom blitzed that puzzle.  Success!

My mom and I took an evening walk around the neighborhood on Sunday and I got all googly-eyed over the wheel lines and chaff and barns.  Country stuff looks so good at sunset.

Shane and I worked from my mom and dad’s house on Monday while Juliette bopped around with Grandma and Grandpa, then all of us got out in the evening for a paddle at Black Bay Park.

Make a wish, kiddo!

Shane and I headed home on Tuesday while Juliette stayed back with my mom and dad.  It was nice to be able to focus on work for a few days without a bored six year-old as my office mate, but gosh, we missed her!  And I know it was a little tough for her to be away from us after so many months of being all together, ALL THE TIME, but she knocked out several more puzzles with my mom, caught two fish with my dad, and apparently devoured a pancake twice the size of her head at my parents’ favorite local breakfast spot.  She was in good hands.  In fact, maybe I need to make my reservation at Grandma and Grandpa camp?

This was not a banner year for camping, but we did make it out once in July for a glorious weekend at Cooper Lake.  The Rusts snagged a perfect lakefront site for us and we settled right in.  I love the sound of Juliette snapping tent clips onto poles.

Jules spent her first-ever night in a tent here at Owhi a few years ago and it rained and rained and rained, so we were thrilled to return in swimsuit weather.

Like, really thrilled.

And it felt so good to be back on the paddle board after a largely land-bound summer.

Juliette is in the midst of a bout of severe doggy-fever and spent much of the weekend coaxing Biscuit onto her lap.

Someone get this kid a puppy already!

Sunset paddle with my first mate.  NOTHING BETTER.

My heart aches a little looking back at these photos from just a few weeks ago…I’m sorely missing the evening campfire, the satisfying snuggle-in at the end of day, the reading by headlamp while sandwiched between my two favorite people.

We enjoyed our requisite 3-course leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning and then Juliette and I set out on the paddle board to follow J and the boys to the other end of the lake.

We rowed ourselves into a bed of fallen floating trees and hopped out to test our balance beam skills.

This is the point where I would have turned back, but crazy Uncle J kept on going, teetering across logs that mostly floated.  But just mostly.

“Let’s go tell Daddy what we found!”

Back at camp we spread out on our lakefront property to paddle and play.

We drove over to the river in the afternoon to take a half-dip in the freezing cold water.  Or maybe a quarter-dip?  It was frigid.

Though you’d never know it from looking at the way this kid kicked back.

Jordan asked if he could borrow our big floatie to ride the rapids, which I thought was a terrible idea, but curiosity got the best of me and we told him to go for it.

Hang on, buddy!

Nailed it.

Jason couldn’t resist doing some dare-deviling of his own.

And then we went “home” to eat and lounge.

And snuggle.

(Yes, that’s 20 flaming marshmallows on the end of Jordan’s skewer.)

We squeezed in one more long paddle on Sunday morning – I suspected this would be our only camping trip of the year and we were going to make it count.

Juliette and I made a quick paddling detour to rescue Jordan’s kite, which had dipped into the water, and then poof.  The tent was down and the paddle board was deflated and the car was packed and we were city-bound.  This summer was too damn short on time in the woods.  TOO SHORT.  But we’ll always have Owhi 2020.

More summer photos!  Despite our hunkered-down, socially-distanced mode of operation, there is a small handful of summer routines we’ve managed to uphold (with adaptations) this year.  Backyard pot-lucking and lawn-gaming is a summer favorite, and we had the crew over on the Third of July to celebrate Nance’s birthday with tritip and cupcakes and ladder ball.  These two have missed each other dearly these last few months – it felt so good to see them be silly together again.

Because it was Fourth Eve and all the larger fireworks shows had been cancelled, we busted out our own small arsenal of party poppers and sparklers and smoke bombs.

Dinky fireworks are perfect proof of how easily impressed children can be.

Given the exuberance over the previous night’s sparklers, I made a follow-up trip to the fireworks stand on the Fourth for another haul of explosives and invited the Rusts to come back on over.  First though, a game of Spike Ball and the requisite photos of Juliette.  She was looking so grown up in her cuffed denim jacket that I put her hair in braids in an attempt to make her look six again.  It hardly worked.

Let the festivities begin!

The fountains were a hit, as was Old Glory, which shot brightly colored sparks 50 feet up in the air.

And then someone started blaring Bon Jovi on their phone for reasons I can’t quite remember and a flash dance mob broke out in the middle of the street.  This is how white middle-aged folks bring the party.

Happy Fourth!

 

We agreed to forego a trip to the San Juans or Whidbey this summer, but we did manage to squeeze in the smallest of island getaways with a Sunday trip to Vashon.  The ferry terminal is 10 minutes from our house and the crossing is another 20, so the stakes were pretty low, but it succeeded in scratching my itch to get out of town.  We spread out our blanket on a sandy stretch of beach, read books and ate grapes and watched the tide come in.

Photo cred a la Jules.

Plus, the ice cream shop was open for business.  Score.

 

Though Juliette’s single home-grown strawberry was VERY tasty, we still felt it was worth making the trek out to Remlinger for an afternoon of picking.  The sun was shining, the raspberries were plump, and I was exceedingly thankful that this tradition with my girl lived to see another year (we’ve been doing this since she was one!).

Get in there, Jules!

Dang, summer tradition tastes so good.

This summer, for obvious reasons, has been spent much closer to home than usual.  We typically fly through July and August weekends on-the-go, camping and hiking, maybe island-hopping in the San Juans or eating mussels on Whidbey.  This year, not so much.  And it’s thrown us off.  Juliette came out of her room a couple of weeks ago, dressed to the nines with a backpack full of stuffies and books.  “Where are you going?”, I asked.  “Not sure yet…”, she replied.

However, we’re finding the bright sides to being “stuck” in West Seattle…home ain’t so bad.  Our backyard makes a great campsite, with clean bathrooms just a few steps away.

While the water parks and splash pads are closed, a sprinkler and a pack of water balloons suffices just fine.

I didn’t know if berry-picking would be on the docket, so we planted a strawberry plant in a sunny patch of our front yard in hopes it would bear a little fruit.  Juliette lovingly watered it every day and finally, in mid-July, she plucked one single, perfect, juicy berry.  Savor it, kiddo.

Biking continues to be a favorite family pastime and we have discovered the perfect loop – thrilling downhill runs to Alki, mellow water-side cruising to our favorite pier, and then a heart-pumping uphill slog that ends in a coffee shop where we can hydrate with iced lattes and Italian sodas.

I can usually coax Juliette into a lunchtime walk to the Junction to drop something at the post office or grab a coffee, but only if she can push the stroller.  She’s such a little mama.

This little corner of Genesee is my favorite.

The shady trails of Schmitz Park are perfect on hot days.

And the water.  We’re so thankful that we’re close to the water, where we can paddle board and skip rocks and hunt for crabs at low tide.

Early July held the Sound’s lowest tide of the year, which transformed some of our favorite beaches into miles of muck.  The rocks were rough on the feet, but the crab-hunting was very good.

And speaking of crabs, Shane recently took up crabbing and spends his Sundays shuttling his crab pot around the Sound near Lowman Beach.  He and Juliette headed out early one morning and I met up with them an hour later – as I spotted them snuggled together on what has become our favorite log, I had one of those breath-catching moments of deep, deep gratitude for love and beauty and home.

The paddle board has proven to be the perfect crab shuttle – Shane has yet to come in empty-handed!

And so crab has become the star appetizer to our Sunday evening backyard meals.  This is summer.

Juliette was a little crest-fallen when I told her that our favorite pools are all closed until Covid is under control, but she was thrilled when our kind neighbors invited her to take a dip in their backyard.  So THIS is summer.

In other momentous close-to-home news, Juliette graduated kindergarten with flying colors in June, via Zoom, which was strange and a little anti-climactic, but we rolled with it.

We joined a number of other neighborhood kids on the sidewalk in front of the school that afternoon to watch the principal and teachers drive by in a celebratory parade.

We’ll take it!

And then we made our own mini field day in our backyard with some neighbors. The kids had a blast doing frisbee toss and water balloon relays.

Juliette and I capped off graduation day with our very favorite beverage.  Thanks for being so adaptable, kiddo.

Later that month, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we joined thousands of other West Seattleites for a march down California Avenue to chant for justice and respect.  It’s hard for a six year-old to grasp the realities of racism, but she does understand her responsibility to be kind and to raise her voice she sees people being treated unfairly.  USE THAT VOICE, JULIETTE.

Father’s Day was quiet and uneventful, but the breakfast chilaquiles were scrumptious and the love lavished on Shane by his baby girl were something special.

And now, here we are:  mid-way through August with still not a whole lot on our calendar.  I suspect we’ll find a way to make the most of it.

This summer has been rife with cancelled plans – day camps for Juliette called off, a trip to Minnesota postponed due to our concerns about a pandemic plane ride, campsite reservations forfeited due to rain…  I’m all for cozying up indoors in November, but June?  July?!  It’s painful.  I’m antsy.  SO ANTSY.  We’ve been looking for ways to safely leave our bubble and were immensely grateful when my brother and his family offered to host us for a long weekend at their vacation house down at the Oregon Coast last month.  Score!  We were able to pit stop at their house in Portland for a bathroom break and then powered through the final couple of hours to Neskowin.  It’s no small victory these days when you can endure a five-hour car ride without having to use a public restroom.

Made it!  And that view!

AND that long-lost cousin!  Together again.

We ditched our bags and then quickly walked/biked down to the beach.

I was afraid that “beach” would conjure up recent visions of Maui for Juliette and she’d be a little disappointed by this version of the Pacific, but I stand corrected.  Turns our she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sand and surf.

We balanced our beach runs with couch snuggle sessions with Bina.

I joined Mitch for one of his early-morning fishing trips and watched from the water’s edge as he cast into the waves.

My brother is so zen.

Hey, I know that guy!

We did some exploring near Depoe Bay and took in the views from above Devil’s Punch Bowl…

Then made our way down to the beach for some adventuring.

Miniature crabs and baby anemones for days…

Seriously, these girls were like little marine biologists-in-training.

Then, more snuggles!  Elise is 100% pre-teen now and seems to have little in common with Juliette, but these two are still so sweetly fond of each other.

I loved misty morning walks down to the neighborhood market for coffee followed by a beach stroll.

And then…you guessed it.

We struck out one afternoon to conquer the sand dune at Pacific City.  Kathryn had warned me it was quite a climb, but I had no idea.

NO IDEA.  This would have been tough climbing on solid ground.  But on silky-soft sand that sinks your feet with each step?  Grueling.

Worth it for the views, though.

Gosh, it felt so good to be out, exploring someplace new, taking pictures and seeing all the shades of blue, green, and brown.

The downhill climb was much more fun than the uphill one.

We were all warm from our hike and Shane jokingly offered to toss Juliette into the ocean to cool off.  She squealed and then agreed to just put her toes in.

JUST her toes.

Ok, and her ankles.

And…what the hell, kiddo.  Just go for it.

 

I know, this is entirely too many pictures of Juliette and Morgan playing in the water, but it gave me all the warm fuzzies to see them frolicking and fancy-free.

The grown-ups set up their own game of see-saw.

I love this picture of Mitch and Elise so much, but Shane, buddy…what’s goin’ on?

This is the look of a water-lover that wore leggings to the beach…

We stayed close to the house our last full day there, venturing down to the beach in the morning and evening, but taking a break mid-day for lunch and a patio painting session.

Shorts!  So much more sensible.

(But even these got wet!)

This little window seat was my favorite spot in the house and is where Juliette and I did our evening reading.

My little buddy and I packed in one final beach stroll on our last morning there, snapped a few photos, and then called it a wrap.

Travel itch scratched.  For now.

It’s been tough finding time to dive into vacation photos as my evenings are often spent catching up on the work I didn’t quite finish during the day (#homeschooling!), but I just poured myself a glass of red, put on some Jack Johnson, and am feeling the island vibes as I look back on our few days in Maui.  Such simpler times, way back in February…

Oh, to start each day with a breakfast of fresh, tangy fruits…

And then hop right into the pool!  After our grand tour du Hana on Thursday, we committed to laying waaaay low on Friday, claiming a couple of poolside chaises first thing in the morning and then just chillin’.

Juliette’s resort look #1:

And #2:

And #3, my personal favorite:

We played and swam and waded and reveled in the feeling of having nowhere to go.

Live your best life, kiddo.

Juliette is at such a great pool age – brave enough that she wants to do the slides and cannon-balls, but cautious enough that she still loves to just hold onto my shoulders and take a spin around the pool with Mama.  I haven’t played so much, so hard with this girl in months.  We both ate it up.

We left the hotel on an afternoon mission for Hawaiian shave ice and found fluffy, fruity treats at Ululani’s.

…and then it was back to the beach for more sand and surf.

Saturday was much like Friday – sunny, mellow, and carefree.

Shane rented some snorkel gear and waded out with Juliette early in the morning.  She wasn’t super-keen on keeping her face in the water, but Shane got out for some good fish-finding and turtle-watching.

A couple of kids handed off their boogie board and floatie as they were leaving the resort and we spent much of the day just bobbing around on our new toys…

Then, we hit the slides.

Again, and again, and again.

We drove into Lahaina in the afternoon for pina coladas with an ocean view.

And then, a magical sunset on a quiet little stretch of beach at Makena Cove.

I could watch this girl play in the sand forever.

Whales!

Sayonara, sun.

Sunday was also much like Friday, easy-going and blissful.  I thought that by Sunday I’d be itching for another adventure, but after a morning walk along the beach, I was feeling just fine about settling into my pool chaise for the foreseeable future.

Nice height, Jules!

We did venture out in the afternoon for a “hike” (a 10-minute walk along a paved trail) at Iao State Park.

We climbed the 133 steps to the lookout (Juliette counted every one!) and then enjoyed the pay-off.  I love these rugged Hawaiian landscapes.

A quick stop for ice cream, because…just because.

And then right back into the pool.  Juliette was insatiable, swimming stronger and further day by day.  And the slides!  The slides…  Not pictured here is the Lava Tube, a twisty-turny slide that spits you out so fast you can’t help but get water up your nose.  Juliette loved it.

We headed to the beach for one last Maui sunset and Shane caught some mini-waves on the boogie board.

Maui, we heart you.  So much.

Monday.  Monday…  Monday was go-day, we just. weren’t. ready.  We ate one last plate of fresh fruit, went for one last dip in the pool, grabbed a few last rays of sunshine.

Juliette tossed a coin into the fountain out front as we were leaving, wishing that we could come back the very next day.

What a trip!  What a restorative, luxurious (well-timed!) respite in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  This past month has been hard, to say the least, but I’m so thankful for those few days of zen before the storm.  Someday, when this madness is over, those aqua waters will call us back.

It feels impossible that a month ago we were in Hawaii, footloose and fancy-free.  COVID-19 was hardly on our radar.  And now, as of today, we are officially, fully, per-the-Governor’s-orders homebound.  How quickly the tides have turned.  But more on that later…I’m still wrapping my head around our new normal.

So…Hawaii!  In February!  How we anticipated this trip, saving up Hilton points and shopping for swimsuits and snorkeling across the basement rug in anticipation of a much-needed mid-winter break.

We stepped over the threshold of the Grand Wailea on a Wednesday afternoon, were adorned with a matching set of leis, and skipped giddily down to the pool while we waited for our room to be ready.

Ah, the pool!  That aqua, sparkling, glorious pool.  Pools, actually.  We found that one waterslide took us to another which took us to another.

(That dangling front tooth popped out two minutes after I snapped this picture.  Thank goodness.)

From the pool it was a short hop down to the beach for wave-jumping and tide-chasing.

We checked into our room late in the afternoon, traded our wet swimsuits for dry ones, and then chowed down on poké and pizza at the pool bar while whales splashed in the distance.  I kid you not.

We ended the day with sunset wave play…

And a dip in the hot tub.  And it felt. so. good.

We woke up Thursday eager to take on the island.  Good moooooorning, Maui!

Though our primary Hawaiian intention was to sit back and sun-soak, we figured we owed it to ourselves to spend at least one day touring the island’s sights, so Hana it was!  The long, slow, winding, epic Road to Hana.  Capital R.  Bring it on.

We hit play on our audio tour, telling ourselves that we couldn’t stop at everything, but dang it!  How do you drive past this without stopping?

While parts of our guided tour were a bit cheesy, kudos to the host for excellent direction-giving.  Up ahead on the left, you’ll see three parking spaces by the side of the road.  Pull into one of them, look back across the street, and climb through the dark hole you see in the rock face.  Uhhhh…ok?

OK!  So cool.

 

This kid is down for anything.  I love it.

Once we emerged from the lava tube, we high-tailed it to Nahiku for roadside stand banana bread and windy wave-watching.

Viewpoint alert!

Ice cream alert!

We grabbed a quick lunch and then allowed ourselves one final stop at Waiʻānapanapa State Park before buckling in and pressing on to our final destination.  This place was worth the detour!  Black sand and aqua ocean.  Such a good color combo.

 

At this point we put the pedal to the metal (which on the Road to Hana means soaring at about 30 miles per hour) and pressed on toward the Pools at O’heo.  We were determined.  And when we got there, they were closed.  The high winds made for unsafe swimming, but no matter – we figured we’d see what the nearby Pipiwai Trail had to offer.  And it had LOTS.  Rushing waterfalls and a gigantic banyan tree and a magical bamboo forest…is this real life?

Juliette was a trooper.  As was Shane, who spent the entire hike recounting a very detailed version of The Lord of the Rings (again!) to keep her excited and engaged.

Bamboo isn’t native to Maui, but if ever there were a testament to the invasiveness of this plant, this is it!  When the wind gusted, the hollow trunks would click against one another to create the most zen percussion sound I’ve ever heard.

Waimoku Falls!  Made it!

We camped out on a rock for a few minutes to have a snack and rest our feet, then turned right back around…daylight would be fading soon!

The final leg of the loop back to our hotel at Wailea was through Kaupo, which was one of the bumpiest roads I’ve ever been on, but once we were over the hump, we were rewarded with silky-smooth asphalt winding through wind-blown landscapes.

Shane pulled over at the side of the road to check out the view from this bluff and was nearly blown away.  Like, literally blown away.  That wind was insane.

We dashed back to the car, closed out our audio tour, and then Juliette drifted off to sleep in the back seat while the sun turned the sky pale pink.

Good night, Maui.  GOOD NIGHT.

I love love LOVE a snowy weekend in the woods, so I seized on the MLK holiday as a chance to recreate last year’s magic at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop.  We headed out on Friday after school, made it over the pass before the incoming snowstorm could close the roads, and spent the first night in Wenatchee, eating bad takeout and swimming at the sad hotel pool.  But Saturday!  Saturday was a new day, complete with a waffle bar breakfast and a fresh dumping of snow.  We frolicked for a bit at the park across the street, grabbed coffee from the Wenatchee indoor market, and then set out toward Winthrop.

Oh, Winthrop, you charmer, you.  Kitschy as all get-out, but I eat it up.  We lunched at the Schoolhouse Brewery, tossed a few snowballs, and then trekked up the mountain to the Lodge.

We were greeted by Floyd, the resident stuffed bison, and got busy with checking out the snow conditions.  Conditions were: deep!  And good.

We sledded, hit the hot tub, played pool and foos ball and ping pong, and then cozied in for the night.

Sunday was ski day!  First though, the requisite scraping of the windshield with a credit card (teach ‘em young!) and carrot cake from Rocking Horse Bakery.

 

 

Juliette and I drove down to the bakery, but Shane skied the 8-mile trail from the Lodge to town – this is the magic of Winthrop.

We brought our ski trailer for Juliette, figuring she’d poop out on her own skis after only a few minutes, but that girl went, and went, and went.  She’s such a sweet little trooper.

Finally, though, she called it!

We soaked our tired legs in the hot tub and then Juliette and I did some ski drills in the field outside our room, practicing our “shuffle, shuffle, slide” while Shane cheered us on.  We closed out the day with a romp on the playground and pizza at 22 East.

Monday came far too fast – Shane got out for one final trail run while Juliette and I got out for one final game of tag near the playground.  The snow was soft and powdery, but Juliette found one chunk of intact snow on the slide and declared it her snow-baby, which she carefully cradled in her arms for the next half hour.  

I braced myself for the drama that would ensue when we would have to leave beloved snow-baby behind, but we ran into a couple of neighbors as we were heading to the car, at which point Juliette tossed baby on the ground so she could throw her arms around her buddy.  All’s well that ends well!

We made a pit stop in Leavenworth to stretch our legs and bust out the sled one final time, and then we were back in Seattle, where all was covered in a blanket of…rain.  Give me all the white back!

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

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

Champagne and Sprite at our favorite Pioneer Square oyster bar…

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

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

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

Juliette’s solo was so sweet.

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

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

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

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

HAPPY 2020!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juliette went bonkers waiting for Christmas to roll around, because Christmas meant Portland, and Portland meant COUSINS!  We arrived at Mitch’s on Monday afternoon and were there all of three minutes before Juliette was digging her swimsuit out of her suitcase and dashing out back to hot tub with Elise.

Then Santa hats were donned and Parcheesi was brought out and these two officially attached themselves at the hip.

I tried to lure the girls out of the house on Christmas Eve for a hot chocolate run or a playground spin, but they really just wanted to hunker down and cozy up.  I didn’t fight it.

Elise is 11 going on 16 these days, but there were a handful of times last week when I saw the kid in her come through, when she couldn’t help but join the “littles”.  Gingerbread for the win!

And then, Parcheesi…so much Parcheesi.

Morgan, my kindred tradition-keeper, insisted on Polar Express before bed.

Plus milk and cookies for Santa, with carrots for his reindeer!  The excitement in the house that evening was palpable, with Morgan running through the living room with the iPad every 15 minutes to give us an update on Santa’s whereabouts.  The Tracker says he’s in Poland!  Now Norway!  Iceland!  Once Santa reached New York, it was time to put these kids TO BED.

I awoke to the house-rattling pitter-patter of children around 7 am on Christmas morning – by 7:30 Morgan was taking roll call.  Let’s get to it!  Santa came through, big-time.

Santa brought me boots and cross-country skis – so glad my wish list made it to the North Pole.

And Juliette’s very own Parcheesi board!  Looks like I’m gonna need to learn to love this game.

My mom wasn’t quite up to making the trek to Portland this year, so we did a post-gift recap with them over Facetime.

Grandma and Grandpa were missed (on both sides), but technology is a wonderful thing…

…and speaking of technology, Morgan and Elise’s Nintendo switch won “gift of the year”.

If only Santa hats and Christmas PJ’s were in style all year round!  Such a good look on you, Jules.

We pried the Nintendo controllers out of the kids’ hands late morning and rallied the troops for a short hike at Tryon Creek.

Rocket balloon practice consumed a good portion of the afternoon…

…and then we gathered in the living room for a round of charades, where we learned that Morgan and Juliette are quite the actors and that Mitch’s rendition of “toy car” looks a lot like a terrified child running from a bear.

We ended the day sweetly and quietly, with a flute recital by Elise and a serious bracelet-making session on Juliette’s new rainbow loom.

We wrapped up Portland Christmas-Fest 2019 with hot chocolate cheers on Thursday morning and then said goodbye to the beloved Jarrell clan.  To cousins!

The one Christmas to-do still on our list was Juliette’s and my downtown holiday tour and when I asked her on Friday morning if she wanted to take a spin on the Westlake carousel, she replied, “Of course I do, Mommy!”  Deal sealed.  Shane dropped us off at the Fairmont, we took our quick spin through the gingerbread house, and then headed over to the merry-go-round.

The lines were so short and the tickets so cheap that I let Juliette ride on it twice.

 

Oh, kiddo…you have no idea how much I love doing this kind of stuff with you.

There was hot chocolate and a little shopping and one last look at the Macy’s star and then we officially called it a wrap.

There’s a lot about this Christmas season that just felt extra-GOOD.  Juliette’s anticipation was bigger than ever, and beyond the going-bonkers over the presents and the lights and the parties, she’s starting to grasp the deeper concepts of gratitude and generosity.  Our home felt so warm this season, our neighborhood so friendly and festive.  I missed having my parents with us in Portland, but my mom’s strength and positivity through her diagnosis and chemo has buoyed us all.  Our little advent tree, laden with hand-written notes about what we’re thankful for, is out of bare branches.