Archive for the ‘seattle’ 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.

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…

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.

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.

January and February are notoriously tough months in Seattle.  The holiday twinkle has waned, Spring still feels painfully far away, and it takes monumental will to muster the get-up-and-go to venture out into the gray, gray days.  Snow days have been our saving grace – we’ve packed several Q1 weekends with trips out east, for quick Sunday jaunts on our skis or full-on getaways at cozy mountain retreats.  A few weeks ago, Jason invited us to join him and his boys at Meany Lodge, a rustic ski lodge that boasts the tallest rope tow in the state and low-pressure vibes perfect for kids (and adults) to find their ski legs.  We left our house at 7am on a Sunday morning and by 8:15 were piling into the sleds or grabbing a handle on the rope to be pulled behind a snow-mobile for the three-mile trail from the parking lot to the lodge.  While the guys had fun with the water-skiing simulation, Juliette and I were more than happy to watch from the sled.

Juliette and her little buddy took to the mini-rope tow right away and were ready to upgrade to the grown-up hill after only a few runs.

I love watching this girl ski – she has mastered the perfect balance of bravery and caution.  Does me proud without making my heart jump up in my throat!

Meanwhile, I let caution prevail opted to stay on the flats with my cross-country skis…

Lunch was served just up the hill, a short sled ride away…

And then Juliette squeezed in a handful of afternoon runs.

Calling it a day and piling in for the return trip to the car…

We had such a good time that we decided to go back a couple of weeks later, this time with more friends in tow.

Thumbs-up!

And…tuckered.

I traded in my cross-country skis for downhills and managed to end the day with all bones intact.

Heading back…

And…tuckered.  Part two.

A week after our trip to Meany Lodge, the snow actually came to us!  After several days of watching the forecast with much anticipation, flakes started falling on a Friday night and had blanketed our neighborhood by Saturday morning.  Snow day!

There was biking and sledding and snow angels, oh my.

Truly, there’s nothing like the novelty of a Seattle snow day.  Neighbors you haven’t seen for months emerge from their homes with sleds or cross-country skis and turn the middle of the street into a giant playground.

Post-sledding, I headed indoors for hot tea and dry socks, but these kids were insatiable.

And then an evening stroll…

Sunday brought even more flakes, so we headed back outside after our morning pancakes.

Thankful for West Seattle topography!

Seriously, the streets were a complete sledding free-for-all.  I’m so glad no one tries to drive anywhere when it snows in Seattle.

Sophie the snow lady came together quickly…

As did the perfect snowball-launching fort:

I took a walk through Schmitz Park in the afternoon to soak in the snow-covered silence, as I knew it would be short lived.  Indeed, rain started falling that night and by Monday poor Sophie was headless.  What a weekend, though.

It was a slow advent, but a fast January.  Work mayhem and national mayhem and maybe a lack of vitamin D have tuckered me out this month.  But I’m resetting work boundaries and taking my supplements and am back with a boatload of Christmas pics to share!

The lead-up to Christmas was quiet but fun – Juliette opened a few of her many gifts from Grandma and Grandpa Schnell over Zoom on the 23rd.  It was a very meager substitute for the gift-opening we had hoped to do together at Thanksgiving, but it was something.

The unicorn robe was a hit.

And then it was Christmas Eve!  Samuel, our countdown Santa, marked ONE day till Christmas, which was our cue to hit the road to Portland.

I know Juliette loves Shane and me, but it was clear from the moment we walked through Mitch’s front door that she’d been awfully desperate for some new playmates.

The girls hung a Do Not Enter sign on the bathroom door in the afternoon and spent a very secretive hour in there, only to emerge at dinnertime with glittery eyelids and freshly-brushed tresses.  Juliette and I were talking last week about how different siblings and family members can be from one another, at which point she reminded me that her and Morgan are a lot alike, because Morgan also likes to be fancy.

Dresses were swapped for cozy pajamas for the annual viewing of The Polar Express.  One of my favorite traditions.

Meanwhile, things got a little rowdy in the kitchen with a deck of cards and a bottle of Grand Marnier.

Milk and cookies for Santa, carrots for his reindeer, and then it was off to bed for these little elves!

Santa’s sleigh must have been extra-heavy this year, what with a new bike for Juliette and a kayak for Morgan and Elise.

I love the late hours of Christmas Eve, when all the shopping and wrapping and prepping is done and I’m able to sit back for a moment and quietly anticipate the joy and holiness of Christmas Day.

Morgan and Juliette were up bright and early, and HOLY CHRISTMAS!  Such a fun surprise.

Once Elise was roused from her pre-teen slumber, the wrapping paper started to fly.

Juliette very modestly asked Santa for a stuffy and a coloring book and he came through on both fronts.

Juliette was asking for weeks what was in the big big box under the Christmas tree…

A Baby Yoda for my Mando fan!  This “little guy” turned out to be MUCH larger than the online description led me to believe.

He’s been well-loved, even if he does often end up squeezed off the bed and onto the floor in the middle of the night.

Cheers, Shane.

Whew!  Damage done.

Gifts opened and breakfast eaten, the afternoon was a haze of snacking and game-playing.  Morgan gathered everyone in the living room for a game of Bean-Boozled, which she DJ’d on Juliette’s new microphone. (By the way, THANKS for the microphone, Auntie Tiff!  Juliette just discovered it has a robot-voice setting.  And the volume seems to be non-adjustable).

Juliette went first as we all sat by to see if her white jelly bean was flavored like coconut or spoiled milk.  This face says it all.

And this is the look of a man that just ate a jelly bean flavored like canned dog food.

I’m always surprised by how incredibly amusing it is to watch someone eat candy that’s flavored like rotten eggs.

Onto a safer bet…

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Parcheesi marathon!

It’s become tradition that my dad orders a country ham for Christmas dinner every year – one bite takes me back to my childhood days when Nannie and Grandaddy Jarrell would come visit us with one of these salty, delicious hunks of pork in their suitcase.  Almost as good as Nannie’s homemade fudge.

We kept the lazy vibes going the day after Christmas…

But did rally for some tennis practice.

We all parted ways on the 27th and spent the next couple of days back in Seattle getting Juliette comfortable on her sweet new wheels.

There was one last slumber party by the Christmas tree…

(Seriously, guys – this thing is HUGE!)

A quick post-boba stop at Occidental Square…

Some requisite family pics by the tree…

And then we were calling it quits on 2020!  We partied hard on New Years Eve with sparkling cider and two games of Clue.  I missed having our crew with us that night for our annual fiesta, but going to bed at 10pm felt pretty good.

Finally, finally we found ourselves turning the calendar page and ushering in a bright and shiny new year.  We’ve made a tradition of visiting Lincoln Park on New Years Day and zipped over there to bike and skip rocks during a short break in the rain.

This place always brings out the thankful vibes in me…partly because it’s so lovely, but also because it draws forth so many happy memories of our family’s simple joys.  Rocks and water.  All we need.

Happiest of New Years, friends (29 days late!).

Welp, we’ve added the downtown Christmas carousel, my ladies weekend getaway, and the Nutcracker to the list of things we didn’t do in 2020.  Bah. Humbug.  I’m a sucker for the holiday fanfare and have missed the glitzy lights, the merriment of evenings spent with our closest friends.  BUT (COVID is all about finding the “but”) this December has still been full of wonder, in a quieter, simpler sort of way.  Our wide-open calendar has given us space to pause and drive straighter to the core of advent in meditating upon Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Juliette made an advent wreath at the beginning of the month and we created a nightly ritual of lighting the advent candles at dinner each night, starting with Hope and making our way closer to Love with each passing week.

I saw something on Instagram at Thanksgiving about using M&M’s and a cue card to play a game of gratitude and we did something similar during the week of Hope, each of us picking an M&M from a bowl after dinner and using this card to share some of our deepest (or lightest!) hopes.

Juliette and I jotted down a note before bed each night and hung it on our Advent Tree – she went big with her first hope:  I hope we have a good Christmas and COVID gets better and we have a good new year.

There’s been plenty of Christmas fluff, too – this is the year I found the time to play Elf on the Shelf, hiding this guy around the house each night to be sought out by Juliette each morning.

And so much Christmas crafting!  Dried orange garlands and sugar cookies and our best-ever gingerbread house.

We worked hard on our mantle game.

And Juliette wrote a very polite letter to Santa with some modest requests.

I’ve been getting up early to sneak in a walk before work and feel a happy buzz when I walk by a house that has left its lights on through the wee hours of the morning.

As winter approached and the sun rose later my walks got darker, but there were a couple of days when the full moon lit my path.

…and then dawn broke.  So good.

I see you, Rainier, and I love you!

We’ve fought the urge to hole up entirely and have done plenty of traipsing through Schmitz Park.

And, bonus:  a wide open lawn at the end of the trail!

There she goes.

We did a short hike at Twin Falls on a chilly Sunday.

And then there are some traditions I fought to keep alive, like the trip out to our beloved tree farm at Mountain Creek.  I snagged one of the last early-December weekend reservations, we made the drive, and then masked up to hunt for the best Grand Fir we could find.

Found it!

No hot cider this year, but the mountains were as lovely as ever and they still doled out candy canes as we left.

And then…tree trimming!  Crank up the Charlie Brown Christmas, Shane.

Opening up our ornament collection and spreading a lifetime’s worth of memories out on the living room floor is one of my most cherished traditions.

Juliette and I have sister bunny ornaments who have taken on personalities of their own through our goofy role-plays – Phoebe and Monica have very strong southern accents and love to go dancing downtown late at night.

SO COZY.

We brought some extra twinkle to Juliette’s room and though I think these lights are entirely too bright to leave on while sleeping, she insists.

The ginormous downtown light show at CenturyLink Field was cancelled this year, but we made do with a nighttime stroll through our neighborhood with the Rusts.  Our neighbor’s collection of inflatables grows with each passing year.

And this sweet house!  Shane runs by this place nearly every day and watched this woman spend two weeks stretching lights across her lawn and house.

And finally, COVID can’t stop the annual Mama-Jules slumber party by the tree to celebrate the onset of Christmas break.

We actually spent most of last weekend laying on the living room floor, reading and playing cards and snoozing there Friday and Saturday night.

We climbed out of our blanket nest on Sunday morning to eat our doughnuts from 9th and Hennepin and Juliette declared the Pannetone raised glazed a favorite, because the whipped cream on the side “had a texture that’s very soothing”.  A budding food critic, this kid…

I suppose the holidays at home ain’t so bad – it suits my introverted side and the extra time to reflect has mostly done me good.  But come Christmas 2021, you better believe we’ll be shouting Hope, Peace, Joy and Love from the rooftops like a flock of pink-coated Santas atop a herd of rainbow unicorns.

November can be tough.  Cold and gray and often more winter-like than autumn-like as branches go bare and daylight wanes.  This past November bore the extra burden of election anxiety as we watched the Presidential race unfold – that first week was a haze of watching maps go red and blue while 270 hung in the balance.  Though I largely tried to put the election coverage away when Juliette was in the room, we did use last month to teach her the value of our vote – she sat with me while I filled out my ballot and we walked to our local ballot box at lunchtime while talking about what makes a person a good leader.

After a handful of restless nights and far too many hours of watching John King wave at his magic map, we awoke on Saturday morning to the news of Biden’s victory.  Juliette ran to the computer to drag Pennsylvania’s electoral votes into the NY Times interactive blue bubble, just to be sure, and then called it for herself.

Biden / Harris 2020!

I know this election didn’t go the way that several people close to me wanted it to and so I’ll try not to gush, but I will say that the renewed sense of hope in our household and our city was palpable.  We cracked open a bottle of Veuve and a fancy Kombucha on Saturday night and cozied up in front of the TV to watch Joe and Kamala take the stage.  I told Juliette it was a big night, so she dressed the part.

It was a moment I won’t forget, watching my daughter watch a woman take the stage as Vice President Elect.  It’s about stinking time.

November graced us with a handful of sunny days, which we seized upon as chances to do more wandering through Lincoln Park.

Seriously, November sun in Seattle brings out the giddiness in all of us.

I realized on this walk that there’s actually a good chunk of Lincoln Park I haven’t yet explored.  This place is such a gem.

These two…making their own fun wherever they go.

Alki Beach is also beautiful on a sunny late November afternoon if you can bear the wind and the the cold.

Juliette and I spent a half hour drawing in the sand and playing tag before admitting to each other that our fingers and toes were freezing and we couldn’t take it much longer.

(Schnell family portrait!)

We’re loving electric scooter rides along the waterfront on Sunday afternoons.

But again, freezing.

Thanks to the kind folks at Starbucks for warming us up.

We’ve been extra-careful about our interactions these past few weeks as COVID case counts have climbed and so have had to get creative when it comes to socializing in the dark and the cold.  This worked!

Also, park dates with friends have been good.  We spend a Saturday wandering the trails of Camp Long with the Rusts.

This place is full of places to climb – Juliette got very good at scaling this wall very fast.

Jason lamented a couple of weeks ago that they didn’t have any recent family photos, so I pulled out my camera and grabbed a snapshot of the four of them.

Plus this:

Jason returned the favor.

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this little grove till now!  It’s an 8-minute drive from our house and stunning on a sunny fall day.

And…the wide-open lawn.  Juliette’s favorite.

A few random snaps from my phone…

West Seattle goodness:

Whipped cream goodness:

Harry Potter board game goodness (we’re obsessed):

Virtual play date goodness (watching girls play Barbies over FaceTime is highly entertaining):

Schmitz Park goodness:

And lazy mornings in bed with books!  So, so good:

Now, on to the business of Thanksgiving, which was not at all like we’d planned it to be, but was still full of reasons to be thankful.  We had to cancel our long-anticipated trip to Minnesota, so I bought cranberries and potatoes and ham and we settled in at home yet again.

Juliette was on cranberry sauce duty and totally nailed it, orange zest and all.

Also, this girl’s apple pie egg wash is A+.

I set the table with fancy lunchtime snacks and we Zoomed with our dearly missed Schnell and Jarrell fams.

The finishing touches were put on dessert (this cranberry tart was so pretty!) and then there was nothing left to do but pull the ham out of the oven.

Stuffing and mashed potatoes to feed a small army, ham, Brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberry sauce, a little bubbly…LET’S EAT!

We ate and ate and talked about what we’re thankful for and I declared these mashed potatoes the best I’ve ever made.

As Juliette gets older we find we linger at the table longer and longer, sharing stories and jokes.  She’s got so much to say these days (ok, she’s always had a lot to say, but the things she’s saying now are next-level!).  Sometimes it’s seven year-old quandaries, like who is Princess Leia’s mom?!, but sometimes it’s her showing genuine interest in what’s going on with Shane at work or how Great Grandma Alice is doing in Florida.  I love watching her fold into our family in new and grown-up ways.

There’s been plenty to lament in 2020, but in moments like this gratitude comes easy.

We took a short after-dinner walk to make some room in our bellies for dessert and then gathered in the basement for a family viewing of Home Alone.  Juliette laughed through the whole thing and I winced in pain as Marv stepped on a nail and then got hit in the face with a paint can.  Maybe I’m getting too old for that brand of Three Stooges humor.  But no matter, I’ll watch Kevin’s antics a hundred times over just to have my giggling girl close.  Happy Thanksgiving, ya filthy animals.