Archive for the ‘seattle’ Category

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.

October was…quiet.  Surprise, surprise.  We were mostly close to home, mostly in our home, mostly living this pandemic life of one Groundhog Day after another.  Thankfully, Juliette and the neighborhood kids have become very adept at finding new ways to spice things up.

And while the total lack of separation between work and home continues to be a challenge, I love my office mate a  whole awful lot.

Jules would give anything to be back in the classroom, but still, seeing her teacher and friends on-screen each morning is enough to make her face light up like a Christmas tree.  The teacher lets all the kids shout out their good morning’s to each other for a couple of minutes of un-muted mayhem before class starts and Juliette lets anyone and everyone know that she’s so happy to see them.

I could start a whole series of “reading with Jules” photos – always lounging in a different position, always accessorized, always so stinking sweet.

We try to break out of the confines of our home at least once every weekend to ride our bikes or tramp through a park.  Seahurst was a lovely place to skip rocks in early October…

And Lincoln Park is our new family favorite.  Partly because it’s only a 5-minute drive from our house, but also because the late afternoon sunlight there is pretty magical.

We celebrated Shane’s Birthday on the 19th without much fanfare, but with a whole lotta love.  We breakfasted on donuts from 9th and Hennepin, the new (to us) neighborhood shop that bakes seasonal goodies like quince fritters and butternut squash cake.

And then ate dinner at…home!  But there was fried chicken and cheesecake with candles and a rousing mother-daughter rendition of Happy Birthday to You.

WE LOVE YOU, SHANE.

We’ve had a handful of spectacular sunsets, like this one that put my dinner prep on pause so that Juliette and I could dart down to the water and take it all in.

Bellevue Botanical Gardens is a fall fave and while there was still more green than gold there when we visited, it was a welcome change of scenery.

Juliette likes a walk in the woods, but loves a game of tag on a wide-open lawn.

We spent a Sunday dusting off Shane’s and Jason’s discs for a round of frisbee golf down in SeaTac.

And Schmitz!  Another West Seattle gem…  Shane runs through this park several times a week and one day found his path blocked by a giant tree that had fallen during the previous weekend’s wind storm.  Seattle Parks had cleared the trail by the time Juliette and I made it down there to check out the damage, but the trunk still made for an excellent climbing feature.  Shane attempted to count the tree’s rings but lost count somewhere near 150.

We met up with La Verne and Nico one morning for a spectacular walk through the arboretum, and it was PEAK.

Juliette is completely smitten with Astro the pup and Shane is suddenly wondering aloud if maybe we should get a dog?

Kids in the time of COVID…

A lawn!  She’s off!

And then…Halloween!  I wasn’t sure what to make of Halloween this year – we skipped the pumpkin patch and didn’t know what trick-or-treating would look like, but we grabbed a few pumpkins from the grocery store and ordered a costume from Amazon just in case we were feeling festive.  Turns out, except for Juliette’s extreme aversion to the feel of pumpkin guts between her fingers, we were feeling very festive.

The gross work behind her, look how happy she is, spit-shining that thing clean!  She’s my kid, through and through.

Juliette’s teacher told the kids they were welcome to wear costumes to school on the Friday before Halloween, so at 8 am I was painting on a fox nose and fluffing fox ears.

My office held a virtual Halloween party at noon and at 11:30 I decided I should really make an effort to be part of the fun.  I popped the lenses out of a pair of sunglasses, dug a scrap of lace out of my fabric stash, and payed tribute to the Notorious RGB, God rest her soul.

Juliette eventually commandeered my RGB glasses and spent the rest of the afternoon wearing them.  This girl looks so good in specs!

Juliette rocked her costume the whole day, wanting to leave it on even for a backyard game of catch with Dad.

The Rusts came over that evening for pumpkin-carving and hot cider.

Well-done, Juliette…

And then, on Saturday, the main event!  We’d heard that several neighbors were finding ways to offer safe, socially-distanced trick-or-treating, so Juliette popped her fox ears back on and we set out to see what kind of loot she could find.

This guy sent candy down to the kids from his upstairs balcony via a bucket on a zip line…

I loved this!  So simple, so creative.

A lot of people left bowls of candy on their front porches and waved from their windows as the kids helped themselves.

Rice Krispie Treat garlands!

I saw so much effort, so much creativity and generosity on display in our neighborhood that evening.  Corona can’t keep us down.

We set up our own help-yourself station before heading out to hit just a few more houses.

We called it a night once Juliette’s bucket was full and headed home for candy-sorting and a family viewing of E.T.  October ended with the three of us packed together on the sofa, pounding mini-Snickers while tensely hoping that E.T. would somehow find a way to phone home.  This October was different than any other, a little too quiet at times, but in scrolling back through these photos I’m comforted by the beauty found close to home and Juliette’s ever-generous joy.  We’re keepin’ on.

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 when 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 was extra-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.

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.

Juliette and I have put In November by Cynthia Rylant into our recent reading rotation, flipping pages that speak to the quiet and coziness of this month.  In November, mice burrow into little barn nests and dogs curl up by fires and families share pies while sitting by crackling woodstoves. In November, in this book, all is well.

In reality, though, this month has been tough.  In November, the sun started setting well before 5 pm, which zapped me of my evening energy.  In November, my mom underwent her first round of chemo to treat her recent cancer diagnosis.  In November, I endured one of the busiest, most stressful seasons I’ve ever had at work while Shane struggled to find his footing in his new job.  In November, Juliette proudly presented me with a card she’d written out all by herself at school that said, “Dear Mommy, I wish you did not have to go to San Diego all the time.  In November, all did not feel well.

So I’m self-medicating with Vitamin D capsules and lots of water.  Some nights I’m allowing myself to fall asleep in Juliette’s bed with her at 8 pm.  And I’m getting outside.

I literally headed for the hills at the end of a particularly busy week and spent a Friday morning hiking up to Mason Lake.

The terrain was so diverse, alternating from closed-in woods to panoramic views.

I sat lakeside for a bit and savored every bite of my granola bar, recuperating from the steep 3.5-mile uphill climb.

I made it.  And it was good.

 

Even on gray days, I’ve been trying to rally and do a loop down by the water.  There’s solace in fog, like the weather is saying, “I know how you feel…”

 

The ultimate solace continues to be a walk through the leaves with Shane and Juliette – we spent a Sunday at Ravenna Park strolling and crunching.  Juliette insisted on wearing this rubber finger that someone gave her while trick-or-treating.  She’s so weird.  I love her.

(Juliette does not seem to be one for November blues.)

This grove is one of my favorite Fall spots.

 

We arrived in Idaho this afternoon for a few mellow days with my parents (my mom is doing phenomenal, by the way!), so it looks like we’ll be rounding out November with pie and fireside chatter after all.  In November…there’s still plenty to be thankful for.