We spent last weekend in Portland, convening with my parents at my brother’s house for an early Thanksgiving / birthday celebration for my mom / general cousin love-fest – the whole family typically gets together only at Christmas, so this was a happy bonus. The weekend was wet and chilly, though Mitch and Kathryn’s hot tub and fireplace offered much solace as we eased into winter.

It seems like the age gap between Morgan and Juliette lessens with each visit – these two were thick as thieves, happily bouncing from one activity to another together. Coloring! Dolls! House! Shopkins!

The age gap between Elise and Jules, though, is bigger than ever… This kid would be content to spend an entire day quietly cuddled under a blanket with a book. Kindred spirits, Elise and I.

Despite Saturday morning’s drizzle, we found ourselves itching to get outside. We warmed ourselves with lattes and vanilla steamers and then headed to Mount Tabor Park for a playground romp.

Northwest kids ain’t gonna let a little rain keep them down!

Post-playground, the girls set up a cozy den of sleeping bags and kicked back with a couple of bowls of popcorn and a movie.

And then the moment the credits started rolling on Trolls, the kids were raring to go again.  Back out we went, this time to Westmoreland Park.

We’ve been coming to this playground for the past couple of years, and it’s been fun to see Juliette become a bit bolder with each subsequent visit.  I’ve held her hand as she’s traversed this log a dozen times or more.  Now, though, “Let me do it, Mama!”

Morgan and Juliette deemed me the “bad witch” and banished me from their fort with their imaginary wands.

In the end, though, we all made up.

A sitter came over on Saturday evening to stay with the kids and the grown-ups went out to toast to my mom’s birthday with burgers and beer.  Ahhhh, a table free from coloring sheets and back-up snacks!  What a luxury!  Happy Birthday, Mom.

I woke up on Sunday morning to find that Elise and Juliette had renewed their affection for one another.

Post-breakfast was, of course, PARK TIME.

My heart gets a little ooey-gooey when I see these three put their arms around each other.  I’ve held each of these girls as babies, felt my world rocked with abounding love as I looked into their eyes.  And now, golly, they’re so big.  So different from one another.  And all so beautiful.

Thanksgiving most definitely started early this year – I’m feeling mucho gratitude for this family of mine.

When Juliette and I started talking about Halloween costumes this year, she instantly declared that she wanted to be MOANA.  I told her that it’s a little too cold in Seattle to trick-or-treat in a tube top and a wrap skirt and asked her to pick something else, to she replied, “Ok, Mama…I guess I’ll be…MAUI!”  Maui is Moana’s cohort, a big guy who sports nothing more than a bunch of tattoos and a leaf skirt, so we were hardly heading in the right direction.  I tried to sell her on an adorable parrot costume, and then Wonder Woman, and then Minnie Mouse, but it was no, no, no.  We browsed and browsed the costume boards on Pinterest and when Juliette spotted a poofy pink unicorn outfit, the deal was sealed.  We headed to the fabric store, stocked up on felt and tulle, and got to work cutting and sewing and hot-gluing.  200 strips of tulle later, Juliette took her unicorn for a spin around the house, asking to sport her pink sunglasses too, because, well, PINK.

The Halloween festivities began on Sunday, when we headed over to a neighborhood garden for a nearby preschool’s Fall Carnival.  Juliette was eager to get her trick-or-treat on, and I was eager to watch this adorable pink poof make the rounds.  She looks good, huh?

The carnival was great, though different from your typical Halloween sugar-fest – “goodie” baskets were filled with pine cones and seashells and painted rocks.  Only in Seattle…

Still, Juliette loved it all and was perfectly content with a sparkly purple rock and the bag of kettle corn I bought her from the bake sale table.

The tail and main came out a bit…fuller than I meant for them to, but wow, that glow!

Tuesday was full-on party day at Juliette’s school – all of her buddies donned their get-ups and they trick-or-treated at all the classrooms, dancing off their sugar rush in the afternoon.

We’ve made a tradition of trick-or-treating with the Rust clan, so we headed over to West Seattle after school and joined this crazy crew for the neighborhood rounds.

Juliette was a bit timid at first, but followed the cues of the big kids and crowded in at each door with her bucket held out.

So many houses brought their Halloween A-game, with intricately carved pumpkins or strings upon strings of lights.

And some houses bordered on too spooky…  I feel like this picture needs a thought bubble over Juliette’s head, reading, “Help me, Mama!”

We headed back to the house loaded down with chocolate and Starbursts and the boys got to work sorting and trading their loot.  This girl was zonked after a full day of fun, her horn a little crumpled and her eyes a little glazed, but she had rocked that costume to its full potential.  You’re a magical creature indeed, Jules.

And the autumnal glory continues!  A few more highlights…

We spent a sunny Sunday up in Snohomish at Bob’s Pumpkin Patch, scouring the fields for the perfect pumpkin.  The country vibes were strong out there.

We found out when we got there that getting to the actual pumpkin patch required a short hayride, which seemed like a pain, but Juliette ended up loving the bumpy little jaunt out to the fields.  I’m tellin’ you, COUNTRY VIBES!

And thus, the search begins:

We have our first winner!

Photo cred:  Jules!

I’m so glad she wore her rain boots…

Strike a pose, little one:

Despite the fact that our wheelbarrow was full by this point, we kept wandering further and further out, into the dreamy sunlight.  I couldn’t bring myself to turn back!

We found a little patch of little gourds and Juliette plucked one from the ground, calling it her “maraca” and shaking it all the way back to the tractor.

Seriously, so glad she wore her rain boots.

Thanks, Bob’s!  We’ll see you next year.

And then there was that glorious Mama-Jules/Mama-Nico Friday at Volunteer Park.  Nico and Juliette bee-lined for the playground when we got out of our cars, but La Verne and I both had our sights set on this brilliant patch of sunny grass across the street.  Once we’d completed the swing-slide-twirl circuit, we shepherded the kids to the lawn, promising them magic tree tunnels and a game of chase.

On our third lap we discovered that someone had left us a gift, in the form of a big fluffy pile of Fall leaves…

…and I got shutter-happy.  Keep scrolling!

Ahhhh, sweet, sweet serenity.

Soak it up, kids – winter is coming!

Juliette and I capped off our fun-fest with a climb to the top of the water tower, where we spotted Daddy’s office and Lake Washington and a billion more beautiful trees.

We have made a tradition of visiting Ravenna Park every Fall and Juliette and I headed out there last Sunday, as we found ourselves with several hours to fill while Shane did some work.  It was a little gray that day and the trails were especially quiet.

I spy…two blue eyes.

Just as we were heading back to our car, the sun came out and this grove of trees turned into an Autumn wonderland.  Juliette did a few laps to celebrate!

And then, as Juliette and I were out running errands a couple of days ago, the wind picked up and the rain turned all white and fluffy…it was snowing in Seattle!  One week after our jacket-less romp through Volunteer Park, we were donning our puffy coats and catching snowflakes on our tongues.  It seems winter is here.  Kudos to this girl for greeting its arrival with such glee….I’m gonna need a little time to get on board.


And now that Paris is in the books, we return to our regularly scheduled programming, because it is FALL in Seattle and this city is stunning.  We’ve been doing our October circuit these past couple of weeks, playing in leaves and picking pumpkins, oohing and ahhing over the yellows and oranges and reds.

Juliette and I made an impromptu visit to Lincoln Park the Friday after I got back from France, because we were in West Seattle anyway and the sun was shining and we needed to lift our spirits after an especially traumatic doctor’s visit (those four-year-old shots are a  doozy!).

I’m adding this yellow tree to our list of annual October must-see’s…

It felt so good to see this kid smiling again!  There was a moment that morning, as I was holding her down on the doctor’s table while she shrieked and squirmed, when I wondered if she’d ever forgive me.

(She forgave me.)

We made a follow-up bonus trip to Lincoln Park the very next day because Gryff and Isaiah had a soccer game there and Juliette and I were eager to see their fancy footwork.

We made our annual Autumn pilgrimage to Kubota Gardens a couple of weeks ago.  It’s always a little tough to sell Juliette on a visit to a park that doesn’t have a playground, but I kept reminding her that this place has the prettiest trees!

And the best bridges!

And the most magical patch of grass for playing soccer…

Were the sun not setting at what felt like lightning speed, we could have played here for hours…

Shane had Friday off a week and a half ago, so the three of us declared it a day-late celebration for Dad’s birthday and chowed down on soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung for lunch.

Bellies full, we took a crisp afternoon stroll through the Arboretum for more tree-gazing.

Every year, this place takes my breath away.

It just…glows.

Up next:  pumpkins, a rainbow unicorn, and a leaf-jumping marathon.  October rules.

Sunday was our last full day in Paris and the agenda was simple: art, eat, walk, eat.  And maybe drink something bubbly somewhere in between…

La Verne and I had decided to bypass our favorite museums on this trip, as we didn’t want to spend our precious time in the city standing in line, but it hardly felt right to visit Paris without seeing some sort of art , so we settled on checking out the big Christian Dior exhibition at the Musee des Arts.  We had heard the show was huge and amazing and we asked ourselves, “When are we ever going to have another chance like this?”.

Once we made it through the line and past the masses crowded into the first couple of rooms, I was totally swept up in the detail and creativity and evolution of the fashion on display –  some of these dresses are total masterpieces.

I could almost feel the boundaries being pushed, each decade’s norms being broken.

We left the museum hungry and in need of fresh air, so we walked the couple of blocks to Le Fumoir for a terrace lunch.  Our healthy, crisp salads were followed by a couple of steaming mugs of ultra-thick chocolat chaud.  It’s the dessert of champions.

We decided to spend our final afternoon in Paris wandering through gardens and along the river, savoring the flowers and the fountains and the waterfront paths that are so good on an October afternoon.  We started at the courtyard of the Palais Royale and then strolled through its meticulously manicured garden.

From there, we sauntered west through the courtyard of the Louvre into the Jardin des Tuileries, which seems to stretch on forever with its golden trees and bright flowers and crowds of lounging Parisians in those lovely painted green chairs.

We crossed the Seine at Pont de la Concorde, pausing for a final look at the Tour Eiffel.  So long, old friend…

And then we walked and walked and walked, past the Musee d’Orsay and the Institut de France and one big beautiful building after another.


At Notre Dame we crossed the river back into our ‘hood, where we grabbed a couple of beautiful eclairs and a bottle of champagne for a happy hour snack.  We ate and drank our treats back at our apartment – with windows like these, it was as ideal a place as any to toast to our last night in Paris!

It looks like La V is about to chow down on a mustard-covered hot dog, but that’s actually a passionfruit eclair sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberries!  And it was AMAZING.

Once the champagne had run dry and we’d licked the last of the passionfruit icing off our fingers, we headed out for dinner.  First though, a stop at Pierre Herme for macarons.  For the kiddos, of course.

We were craving a quintessentially French meal and found it at Boucherie Rouliere in Saint-Germain-des-Pres.  A Kir aperitif, French onion soup, steak frites, wine…  Ohhhh.  La.  La.

We rolled out of the restaurant buzzed on wine and beef and walked a little around Saint-Germain before heading back to our apartment.  Gosh, I was going to miss being out after dark, breezing by dramatic centuries-old cathedrals and brightly lit cobblestoned alleys and the glittering river Seine.  Truly, there’s no place like Paris at night.

I fell asleep with the curtains wide open, wanting to relish every last minute with this view.

La Verne and I rallied hard to pull ourselves out of bed early-ish on Monday, so that we could enjoy a couple of hours out in the city before heading to the airport in the late morning.  We walked past Bastille and down rue Cremieux, hailed as “Paris’ Notting Hill”.

One final cafe creme…

And then a quick loop past some of the greatest hits.

I knew I needed to get back to the apartment and prepare for takeoff, but I couldn’t resist one more trip across the Seine to Ile Saint-Louis.  I popped into Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile and sat for just a moment in one of those chairs, saying a prayer of gratitude for the wonders of the previous few days.

And then, it was go-time.  Farewell, sweet Paris.  Farewell, windows of my dreams.

I sighed a few sad sighs as we headed to the airport, but once we were up in the air, I couldn’t wait to get back to Seattle and wrap my arms around Shane and Juliette.  I needed a hug.  And the minute I got off that Sea-Tac escalator, I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes.  Paris has Notre Dame, but Seattle has this kid.  Seattle wins!

That Monday happened to be my 36th birthday.  I woke up in my favorite place in the world and ended my day at home with my favorite two people in the world.  Happy Birthday to me.

I got up a bit earlier than La V on Saturday morning and slipped out for a couple of solo hours in the neighborhood.  Golly, I could get used to waking up to this view…

The Marais was so uncharacteristically mellow at 9 am – shops were closed, terrace tables were empty, there was no sound of French chatter or clinking coffee cups.  Walking these quiet streets was a perfect way to ease into the day.

Yesterday’s 12-mike trek and series of leisurely detours had reassured me that Paris was better done without a four-year-old in tow, but when I saw this mom strolling down the street with her darling pea-coated daughter, I missed my girl somethin’ fierce.  Someday, Jules, we will take on this city together.

My beloved Pompidou!  This museum is where I met Giacometti and Dubuffet and Yves Klein – I bought an annual pass to the museum during my year abroad and would pop in every couple of weeks to check in on my favorites.  La Verne and I decided to pass on going in this time around due to the long wait times, but still, it felt good just to experience the place for a moment from the outside.

My walk took me past Saint-Eustache and since I was free to choose my own adventure, I went in and spent a few minutes wandering its hallowed halls.

Someone was playing the organ while I was there, and while I’d much prefer a nice quiet acoustic guitar, there’s no denying the sheer magnificence of this instrument.

From the cathedral, I walked a block over to Rue Montorgueil and browsed the markets and boulangeries and cafes.  I bought a buttery, crispy Kouign-Amann and munched on it as I took in all the colors and smells and sounds of the city as it came to life at 10 am.  This is Paris…

It felt like every street I walked down was even more perfect than the one before it.

I was only a couple of blocks from my old apartment, so I briefly zipped down Rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth to take a look at my old stomping grounds.  It’s still lovely.

La Verne and I rendezvous’ed at a cafe and sipped a couple of cafe cremes while solidifying our plans for the day.  It was pretty straight-forward, really:  shop, eat, walk, eat, walk!

We spent much of the day in the Marais, strolling through the Marche des Enfants Rouges and then popping into several boutiques in search of the perfect trinkets to bring home for our kiddos (and ourselves).

We each bought a box of precious chocolates Jacques Genin, which felt more like a jewelry store than a chocolate shop, with its glass cases of gilded goodies.

I mean, these are almost too pretty to eat!

Satisfied with our purchases, we lunched at Bar du Marche, toasting to a very productive afternoon.

We grabbed a little shut-eye back at the apartment and then set out for an evening in Montmartre.  We had 8 pm dinner reservations and spent the couple of hours prior to that wandering the neighborhood’s hilly, winding streets.

We ended up at Sacre Couer and went inside for a quick loop.

When we came out, the sky had turned dusky and lights had begun to glimmer across the city.

We sat on the steps over-looking the city for a few minutes and then moved farther down when we saw the huge crowds gathered around a man playing his guitar.

Next thing we knew, we were singing along with hundreds of other people to a cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall as nighttime set upon Paris.  It was weird and silly and completely touristy, but in that moment, pretty extraordinary.

Since we’d been waylaid by Mr. Magical Guitar-Man, we had to book it to make it to our dinner reservation and zipped through Montmartre to land at ASPIC by 8 pm.

La Verne had found this little tucked-away gem of a restaurant online and booked this as our one “fancy” meal, though the vibe was actually cozy and casual, and the seven-course menu was really reasonably priced.  The food was beautiful and fresh and surprising, and in between courses La Verne and I got swept up in one of the most honest conversations we’ve had in years.  We laughed, we cried, we ate, we drank.  It was a meal to remember, in so many ways.

We caught the Metro after dinner and hopped off a couple of stops west of our apartment so that we could do a little sight-seeing on the way home.

THIS PLACE!  The Louvre at night is magnificent.

We walked further down Rivoli and milled about for a few minutes with the crowds that had gathered at Hotel de Ville to clebrate Nuit Blanche.

Eventually our feet could carry us no farther and we wearily climbed the two flights of stairs to our apartment.  My perfect evening ended perfectly in a happy chat with Juliette, who apparently was having a fabulous time with her dad in my absence.  It felt so good to see Juliette (and Shane) smile, to know that they were up to their own sorts of fun shenanigans, biking across Vashon Island and decorating pumpkins with friends.  This Parisian ladies trip had felt a bit crazy when I first proposed it, but gosh, it was working out splendidly!

Friday morning in Paris was crisp and sunny – perfect weather for trekking across the city in search of the perfect pain au chocolat.  Our mission took us through Bastille to the charming  storefront of Boulangerie Bo, where we ordered up a pain au chocolat, a raspberry croissant, and a beautiful lemon tart.

In the name of research, we carried our goodies the few blocks to Ble Sucre, where we asked for a plain croissant and a kouign amann and taste-tested our treats at a little table out front.  The standout was Ble Sucre’s plain croissant, which validated our initial hypothesis that more butter = more better.

After downing all those pastries we felt compelled to get some steps in, so we opted to walk rather than Metro to Jardin des Plantes.  I have the fondest memories of visiting this place in the spring, when poppies dot the pathways with red and orange – turns out it’s just as beautiful in October, when sunflowers and dahlias shine in all their early-autumn glory.

We spent a few minutes wandering through the steamy greenhouses…

And then popped back out ready to hit the streets again!  Off we went to Place Monge to wander the stalls and pick up a market lunch.

Armed with bread, cheese, meat, and fruit, we made our way toward Jardin du Luxembourg, weaving our way through some of Paris’ quaintest streets.

And then found a couple of sunny seats at Luxembourg where we could catch some rays and spread out our feast.

When in Paris…!

My chunk of baguette smeared with salty, stinky cheese perfectly hit the spot.  La Verne was pretty enamored with her ripe, jammy fig.

I’ve spent quite a few hours in these green chairs over the years.  I love these chairs.

Autumn in Paris for the win!

We left the park and walked toward the Metro, happening upon Saint-Sulpice on our way.  So we popped in, because WHEN IN PARIS…

We left the church in search of coffee and a sunny cafe terrace but again were sidetracked, this time by a couple of chocolate shops and this little alley.  Really, our few days in Paris were one lovely detour after another…

Eventually, though, the need for a caffeine kick drove us to Cafe Mabillon, where we settled in with a couple of cafe cremes.

The forecast told us that Friday would be our sunniest day in Paris and we couldn’t bear to let that perfect Fall weather go to waste, so we boarded the Metro and headed north to Pere Lachaise for a cobble-stoned stroll, despite the fact that our Nikes had already logged about eight miles by this point.  Some things are just worth pressing on for.  Pere Lachaise is one of them.

This cemetery ranks in my top-three Parisian places, and it was in particularly fine form that day, golden and green and serene.

I mean, WOWSERS!

We spent a couple of hours chilling out back at the apartment in the evening but then figured, “why not rest our feet someplace scenic?”.  Like on a boat!  On the Seine!

We caught the last cruise of the day, which began near Notre Dame and floated west toward the Eiffel Tower.  We heard jazz music in the distance and spotted this crowd of dancers practicing their moves.

Then it was one beautiful bridge after another…

And another…

There she is!  As lovely and lacy as ever.

The full moon shone extra-bright that night, making the Seine extra-sparkly.

Post-cruise, we warmed ourselves with galettes and cider at Cafe Briezh.

I loved these nighttime walks through the Marais back to our apartment, making me feel as if we were ending the day on the highest of notes.

Looking back over these pictures, I can’t believe all that we packed into a single day.  So much beauty!  So many steps!  (And so many carbs!)  That’s the Paris buzz, though – you forget your fatigue in the midst of so much magic.  This city is enchanting.

Oh, Paris. Paris. PARIS. Let’s talk for a minute about Paris.

Paris is where I fell in love with art and cafés and with pointy toed shoes.  It’s where I learned that I can do hard things, like set up a back account and a phone line and a student visa, all in a language I barely understood at the time.  It’s where I gained so much of the confidence and independence and wanderlust that I still carry with me today.  And gosh, I’ve missed the hell out of that city since the moment my year abroad ended in 2004.  Shane and I went back for a few days in 2009, and then a few more in 2011, but it’s been six years since I’ve walked the Pere-Lachaise’s cobblestone streets, spoken any French, sipped a tiny espresso on a Marais cafe terrace.  I was due for a romp through the City of Lights.  That place was beckoning to me.

Was Jules ready to come along, though?  Probably not…I mean, I have big dreams of roaming the streets of my favorite place with my favorite girl, but the full-day journey and all the walking that an urban trip like this entails just doesn’t feel like her style at this point in time.  We’ll stick to beaches and mountains for a couple more years.

Cue La Verne, who took all of 7 seconds to respond with an emphatic OUI! when I asked her if she’d be up for a Parisian getaway. She booked our flights, I found us a sweet little apartment in the Marais, and then there was nothing left to do but kiss our babies and their good-hearted dads goodbye.  Oh, the goodbyes…the goodbyes were hard.  But we soon got over it.

We left SEA on Wednesday, landed at CDG on Thursday, snaked our way into Paris via RER and Metro and then, like magic, popped out of the stuffy underground into my beloved, bustling, beautiful city.  I was hungry and exhausted and a little foggy-eyed, but the sight of those old stone buildings and the wrought iron railings and the gray zinc roofs breathed so much life into me.  WE WERE IN PARIS!

We walked the few steps to our apartment’s front door and were greeted by our gracious host, who gave us the spiel, handed us our keys, and left us to squeal in delight over our lovely abode. These windows are the stuff of dreams.

We dropped our bags, slapped on a fresh coat of makeup, and headed back out in search of food and drink. We were only a few blocks from my favorite Marais cafe and snagged the last open terrace table at Les Philosophes.  Red wine, chèvre-topped salad, the sound of French being spoken, and the company of a dear friend. I was in my happy place.

Sufficiently wined and dined, we spent the next couple of hours wandering around the Marais, peering into the windows of boutiques and boulangeries. We walked down rue des Rosiers and through the Place des Vosges.  It all felt so wonderfully familiar to me, but was no less magical than the very first time I laid eyes on this place.

We popped back into the apartment for a quick pit-stop and a peek out those lovely windows…

But the night was still young and we were still buzzing with Paris vibes, so we headed back out and walked the few blocks to the Seine.

We wandered around Ile Saint-Louis and Ile de la Cite and saw Notre Dame and the Conciergerie and the Pont Neuf, because that’s what happens in Paris – you head out for a walk and suddenly it’s like you’ve fallen inside the pages of a travel magazine.

I mean, how is this even real?

Once the sun set, jet lag began to tug at our eyelids, so we sauntered past the Hotel de Ville (!!!) and then back to our apartment, where we started talking about the next day’s agenda and suddenly were all amped up again.  WE WERE IN PARIS!

Finally, though, we called it a night and got our much-needed rest.  Bonne nuit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zucchini baby!

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Shane!  Don’t mind if I do…

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

Then, the pedal was put back to the metal.

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

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

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

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

Plus, blackberries for dayyyyyys…

The final marker!  Mission complete.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welp, baby girl has done it again – gotten another year older, gotten braver and funnier and taller and awesomer.

Juliette officially turned four on Thursday, kicking off a veritable birthday bonanza.  I got up early that morning to tie a big balloon on her bed, then hovered outside her room waiting for her to stir.  She rolled over and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, her face slowly cracking open into a huge grin as she discovered the giant pink 4 bobbing just over her head.  I smothered her with kisses and birthday exclamations, telling her how four years ago at that time, she was so close to coming out of my belly, how I was at the hospital with Daddy and Nancy and the doctor excitedly waiting to hold her in my arms.  Feels like forever ago…

We breakfasted at Juliette’s favorite coffee shop and then I dropped her off at school with 20 mini-cupcakes, to be shared with all her classmates.  She was so proud, felt so all-important, strutting in with all that sugar.  When we picked her up that evening, she was wearing a birthday crown and clutching a gift from her favorite teacher.  Queen for a day!

We had asked her what she wanted for her special birthday dinner and without hesitation she requested meatballs and pizza and ice cream from Tutta Bella, so we met up with the Chens, happy to indulge her (and ourselves).

Happy Birthday to Youuuuuuu!

Juliette opened her gifts from Shane and me back at home and then we put a bow on Day 1 of the birthday bonanza.

On Friday we went to the coffee shop and the park and put together Juliette’s new Moana Lego set and then, magically, she spent nearly an hour quietly doing crafts in her room, happy to have her birthday balloon as her only company.  Dare I hope that we’re entering new realms of independence?!

We ended the day at the Rusts’ for our weekly family dinner, and while I forgot to get any pics of the birthday decorations Nancy had sweetly strung up around the house, I did get this photo of the kids poring over the Zelda manual.  All three of them, obsessed.

Saturday was the big event, the birthday bash that we’d been planning for the previous few weeks.  Juliette really wanted a party where she could play in the water and while I wasn’t sure that beach weather would stick around in Seattle through mid-September, we crossed our fingers and went for it, purchasing sand pails and beach balls and water squirters as party favors, planning a menu of bbq ribs and watermelon and cupcakes.  And Saturday at Gene Coulon was glorious.  A little hazy, but sunny and warm enough to go for a dip.  What a way to bid hello to Four and farewell to Summer.

There were no magicians or princesses or bounce houses, no Pinterest-worthy decorations, but this was everything we wanted.

The kids took a brief break from splashing around to join the grown-ups on the beach blankets for dinner.

So much lovely mayhem, with wet jeans and watermelon slices dropped in the sand and peanut butter and jelly smeared on toddler cheeks…this is our party scene now.

Juliette came down with a bout of shyness when I brought out the cupcakes and everyone gathered around, so we skipped the singing and let Shane blow out her candle.  I get it, kiddo…being the life of the party can be exhausting!

Buoyed by a sugar boost, Juliette wanted to go back in the water, but only to get her hair wet – not her feet.  Think I can pull off this stunt when she’s five?!

Nance wrote the kindest note to Jules and Isaiah read it aloud to her and I just about cried.  “We are so happy that you are part of our life and our chosen family.  You inspire all four of us with your bravery, your spunk, your enthusiasm, and your amazing laugh.  We love you SO much…”

And now, she’s four.  SHE’S FOUR.  And I’m fine.  I’M FINE.  Sweet Jesus, I miss my baby girl, and looking back over the past year’s photos and videos did send me into a tailspin of panic over how fast this growing-up thing is all happening, but there’s no doubt that we’re loving the journey.  Happiest of Birthdays, Juliette Grace.  You have given us so many reasons to celebrate.